by Sharon Chang
Growth—science tells us—delineates
the living and non-living. All living things grow; the non-living do not. A
pebble does not grow up to become a rock and then a mighty boulder. But little
acorns become tender saplings and, in time, great oaks. Newborns become
adolescents, adults, and eventually the aged.
Generally, when physiological
growth is accompanied by intellectual, emotional, or social development, we say
that the person has matured. In particular, parents hope that children do not
just grow, but mature because then, these offspring will make the right choices
to give themselves a good life.
Growth and maturity are just as indispensable
in the spiritual sense. Before we came to know Christ, we were dead in sin. But
the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice has given us life anew. Since we are spiritually
living, then we ought to spiritually grow. And like any anxious parent, the
heavenly Father hopes that we not only grow but attain spiritual maturity for
there is much at stake. The mature will know the right path to take towards
eternal life. The immature are easily led astray and quickly devoured by the
But precociousness is sometimes
mistaken for maturity. A child who dresses like an adult and parrots adult
speech is still not a true adult. So what is true spiritual maturity? How can
we attain it?
The writers in this issue tell us
that the marks of maturity are seen in how we live our lives. The spiritual
infant is self-centered, but the spiritually mature understands God’s will and
willingly submits to God’s higher purpose, even if he has to suffer
disadvantage and loss. Such a true spiritual adult demonstrates his reverence
for God in concrete ways—he lives peaceably with man, showing genuine love
towards all, particularly those who are often overlooked. Importantly, he recognizes
that it is not life on earth but eternal life that is most precious. Hence, he proactively
fulfills Jesus’ commission to preach the gospel of salvation wherever he goes. In
short, the true spiritual adult conforms to the image of Christ, bearing good
fruits to glorify God and edify man.
Attaining spiritual maturity—much
like the physical—takes time, the right conditions, and consistent care. Lifelong
spiritual cultivation is indispensable if we want to grow as a Christian. We
must remove the thorns of complacency and hypocrisy lest these choke our faith.
We must grow deeper roots of faith by studying God’s word and through sincere
prayer and godly living. It is often tempting to judge our closeness to God by
how many miracles He has performed through our hands. We are so focused on the
strong wind, earthquake, and fire that we forget to listen to His still small
voice (cf. 1 Kgs 19:11–12). As an adult, we must seek
not just the height of spiritual experiences but the depth of communion with
God. Connected to and rooted in God, we will never lack in spiritual vitality,
strength, and courage. Instead, we shall mature “… to a perfect man, to the
measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).