From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.Ephesians 4:16
Growth is God's method. That tells us two encouraging things about this matter of becoming mature, not merely mature as a religious person, but mature as a human being: First, maturation is something that does not take place suddenly. It is a process. I know many Christians who are greatly disturbed when, having become Christians, they do not find themselves suddenly, remarkably, completely transformed into angelic creatures. They are greatly disturbed when they find the old life still very much present. They wonder if they are even Christian at all. Of course they are Christian if they have exercised faith in Christ and are resting upon Him, but there is a process of growth that must follow, and it takes time for this to occur. Remember how the writer of Hebrews says,
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again (Hebrews 5:12). That is, they had been Christians long enough to be teachers, but something else had arrested their development. Yet he makes clear that there is need for time. Often this is the way the Christian life works. We come into it as newborn Christians, and for a long time we resist the great principles that make for Christian development. It takes a while for us to really learn that God intends to do something quite different with us than we thought He would when we grew up as natural men and women. We resist these changes. Finally He brings us to the place where we give in and we accept and understand the principles, but then we learn it takes time to practice these principles even once we grasp them. It is like trying to learn how to swim by taking a correspondence course in swimming. You cannot learn it that way. You must get into the water. You have to grow spiritually that way.
Then, as we go along, we discover that growth seems to be so slow. We think we have mastered something, and then, suddenly, something will happen—we will be put with the wrong person and out it all comes again. Then we are discouraged. We go to the Lord and say,
Lord, what's the matter? Why don't you hurry up this process? I'm so tired of being immature. But God has His own time, and sometimes it takes almost a lifetime to grow up fully. After all, it takes God years to grow an oak tree, but He can grow a squash in three months. God is not interested in growing Christian squashes.
Nevertheless, I love to see evidence of eagerness for growth. I remember asking a boy once how old he was. Quick as a flash he said,
I'm twelve, going on thirteen, soon be fourteen. I like that eagerness to grow up. But it is encouraging to us to realize this is a process of time, and we do not need to be discouraged if we do not find we are completely like Christ yet. What we need to ask is, are we moving in this direction?
Father, thank You for this reminder of my need to be patient in this process of growth. Help me to accept this fully and to trust that You will complete the good work that You began in me.
Speaking the truth in love we grow in Christ, but growth is a process that takes time. Are we characterized by our eagerness or our impatience in learning to love others?