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 (Manna 75: Towards Maturity)
Striving Towards Maturity
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Striving Towards Maturity

K.C. Tsai—Toronto, Canada


Chapters Two and Three of the Book of Revelation record the seven epistles that the Lord Jesus had instructed John to write to the churches in Asia. These reveal the different levels of maturity in and key characteristics of each of these churches. Furthermore, the epistles reveal the will of God: He requires the church as a whole to strive towards maturity—to be fully prepared so that she can belong to Him forever.

The church should strive towards perfection—prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2). However, this requires every believer to realize his own spiritual shortcomings and then do his utmost to be mature. Maturity is the goal for the church but the extent to which it can be attained depends on the individual spiritual pursuit of every believer within the congregation (Eph 4:11–16).


Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. (1 Cor 14:20)

We can determine a person’s maturity from his understanding: whether he recognizes his weaknesses, learns God’s word willingly, meditates on His will, and draws near to Him, thereby cultivating his spiritual character. What are the signs of a person who is immature in understanding? These include being jealous of or belittling others, being easily offended, harboring hatred, bearing grudges against fellow workers, and refusing to forgive. It is thus with good reason that Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth to be mature in understanding and in spirituality.

An example of someone who lacked spiritual maturity was King Saul. In the beginning, he was an outstanding young man with a pure and humble heart. That was why God chose him to be the first king of Israel. After taking on the role, he experienced military success and won the hearts of the people.

Unfortunately, such success soon led to the loss of humility, and Saul began to despise even God’s command. When Samuel instructed Saul to proceed to Gilgal and wait seven days for him to arrive to sacrifice the burnt offering and peace offering, Saul lost patience and made the offerings himself (1 Sam 13:5–9). When God helped him to defeat the Amalekites, Saul had become so complacent that he took it upon himself to spare the king of the Amalekites along with much of the spoils of war, all of which should have been destroyed according to God’s command (1 Sam 15:3; cf. 15:9). These repeated acts of disobedience eventually lost him God’s favor and abidance.

Saul’s immaturity was especially obvious in his attitude towards David. After David killed Goliath, Saul became jealous because he felt he was no longer in the limelight (1 Sam 18:8). He became obsessed with the thought of killing David. This incident shows that a spiritually immature person does not understand the will of God and allows himself to be controlled by his own desires and emotions.

Throughout the history of salvation, God has sent countless servants to carry out His work which includes guiding and governing His elect. God’s only requirement is that these servants realize their mandates and work with God. After all, it is God’s work, and only He is able to bring it to completion. What a servant needs to do is to strive towards maturity in the course of serving God.


The Lord forbid that I should do this thing… (1 Sam 24:6)

David was pursued by Saul and faced continual danger. In a cave at En Gedi (1 Sam 24:1–7) and in the wilderness of Ziph (1 Sam 26:6–12), he was presented with opportunities to kill Saul and end the threat to his life; his followers even offered to kill Saul on his behalf.

Yet David chose to fear God; he refused to lay hands on Saul, the anointed one of God. It was not that King Saul did not deserve to die. Rather, David believed in the righteousness of God and chose to obey His will (1 Sam 26:10–11). This chapter in David’s life portrayed genuine maturity.

Rehoboam, David’s grandson, failed to heed the counsel of the elders when he became king, choosing instead to listen to the impetuous and ruthless advice of the young men who had grown up with him. As a result, his words caused the departure of ten tribes, and the division of the kingdom into two (1 Kgs 12:13–14). Had Rehoboam been more mature and possessed greater foresight, the history of the Israelites might have been altogether quite different.

When the word of God is not planted within the heart of man, man can only see what is right before him. He will neither be able to look beyond the obstacles that he faces nor see the purpose of God, who is behind all things. He will make judgments based on his own opinions, like Saul; or rely on the opinions of others, like Rehoboam. Therefore, learning to fear God and obey His commands are the first steps to be taken in the pursuit of spiritual maturity.

A Copy of the Law Book

Before the Israelites entered Canaan, Moses gave them the following instructions from God:

“When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; … when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.”

(Deut 17:14–20)

God was the king of the Israelites (1 Sam 12:12); His people need not have followed the other nations in appointing a king to govern them (1 Sam 8:4–9). Nevertheless, before they entered the Promised Land, God already knew that the Israelites would ask for a king. So He instructed that the king should make a copy of the law for himself and read it all the days of his life. This ensured that the human ruler of God’s people would learn to fear the Lord his God and to observe the law and the statutes. He would be able to use the word of God to examine himself and to discern the counsel of men. He would also be able to use the word of God as his guide so that all his decisions would be pleasing to God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10)

Wisdom stems from the knowledge of God and from a God-fearing heart. A person who does not fear God will do things that displease God and thus reveal his immaturity.


Spiritual growth should occur in tandem with physical growth.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9–10)

Paul interceded for the believers in Colossae, asking God to fill them with the knowledge of His will and with spiritual understanding. In this way, they would be able to make decisions according to God’s will. A person with such resolve will seek to please God in all things and to increase in the knowledge of God. To “increase” signifies a process of growth—with a starting point and an ultimate goal. Similarly, spiritual maturity is attained through step-by-step learning.

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature (or: age), and in favor with God and men. (Lk 2:40,52)

After Jesus was born, He grew in wisdom and stature, exemplifying the growth of a person who loves God. Physical maturity can be observed outwardly; spiritual maturity is, however, an inner transformation that can only be gauged by oneself.

Spiritual maturity is not determined by the number of years we have believed in the Lord, but by the effort we put in to learn God’s word and to transform ourselves in accordance with His teachings (Col 2:6–7). Therefore, our chronological age is irrelevant. Instead, maturity is based on how well we use our time to learn to view situations holistically and to comprehend our lowliness before God.

In addition, maturity in our service to God is not just about efficiency at completing a job, but even more importantly, it is the need for foresight, the ability to control our temper, and the ability to curb our impulsiveness (Ex 14:11–14).

Maturity can also be seen from the level of commitment and responsibility we bring to the roles and duties— no matter how small — assigned to us. For example, there are some believers assigned with church work, be it religious education, hymn leading, or church cleaning, who do not turn up for their duties. While there may be genuine reasons for their oversight, such as prior commitments, the responsible thing to do is to inform others in advance or make alternative arrangements. In contrast, there are exemplary believers who carry out every assigned duty faithfully. They need no repeated reminders to carry out their duties; they do their best, endeavor to resolve any issues along the way and do not shirk responsibility. Such workers are a great comfort to the church.


For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

(Heb 5: 12–14)

The author of the book of Hebrews exhorts believers to become of full age in terms of the truth and not stop at the stage of “the first principles of the oracles of God.” The latter refer to the basic faith, which includes repentance, belief in God, the sacraments, resurrection, judgment, and so forth—analogized by “milk for babes.” The author encourages the believers to progress from these teachings and to grow up. Then they will partake of solid food, which is for those who “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).

Those who are of “full age” are skillful in the word of righteousness. A truly mature person meditates on the word of God daily and uses it to make his decisions. With God’s word, he overcomes hardships and trials and remains unshaken in his faith. Therefore, let us strive to join the ranks of such mature Christians.

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Author: K.C. Tsai