When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.1 Corinthians 13:11 NKJV
In a poll of random acquaintances, I asked the question, “When you hear the term manhood, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” I tallied the responses in the hope of identifying characteristics of manhood that are written in hearts, not what has been taught us in school or portrayed by the media. (See Man Alive: What is Manhood?) Responses covered so far include:
The fifth trait identified in our sample was “Maturity.” Some described this as “being a grown-up” or “no longer a boy.” The idea seems to be that there comes a stage of life for a man when he is no longer looked upon as a child and that there are behaviors that go with that status. The dictionary definitions generally say something like, “having completed natural growth and development.”
In the above Scripture from First Corinthians, Paul gives three general categories where grown men are different from children: Speech, understanding, and thinking. Let’s take a few minutes to look at these things more closely.
- Maturity Characteristic #1: Speech
All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body. (3) By putting a bit into the mouth of a horse, we can turn the horse in different directions. (4) It takes strong winds to move a large sailing ship, but the captain uses only a small rudder to make it go in any direction. James 3:2-4 CEV
A grown man recognizes the power of the tongue and takes steps to bring his own tongue under control. Notice James says that the man who does this is mature. Let’s consider 3 important truths concerning the tongue.
- The tongue controls the whole body. Faith is spoken. Paul said that we have the spirit of faith, therefore we speak what we believe (2 Corinthians 4:13). Jesus said that we can speak to mountains in faith and they will move (Mark 11:23). James said that the tongue is like a rudder on a ship or a bit in the horse’s mouth. Just like the bit and the rudder, the tongue can turn the whole body. What you say will impact the health of your body and your ability to control the impulses of your flesh nature. When physical symptoms arise in your body, what comes out of your mouth will determine the trajectory of your health. When temptations of the flesh try to exercise control over you, your mouth can strengthen your resolve or destroy it. Your sell-control will never rise beyond what you say about yourself. When you speak what the Bible says instead of what you feel or what you see, you are not boasting. You are believing what is written and guiding your body to do what it’s designed to do.
- The tongue is a powerful weapon. Jesus gave us a great example of how to resist the devil in Matthew chapter 4. When he was in the wilderness, He responded to Satan’s temptations and deceptions by saying, “It is written…” He took the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), and used it to defeat the enemy. You can do the same. The mature man knows what is written and uses his tongue to resist the enemy. That same power that makes the enemy flee, can also be misused to assault people. Solomon warned about the damage done by a perverse or deceitful tongue. Using your tongue to tell lies and gossip about another person does real damage to them. (Proverbs 15:5; 18:8) In fact, David said that there are people whose tongues are like swords (Psalm 57:4; 64:3). As surely as a grown-up takes great care with firearms, never pointing them at others or leaving them unattended, a mature man takes great care not to do damage to others with his tongue.
- The tongue can be controlled only by filling the heart. James says. “no one can tame the tongue. (James 3:8)” Blessing and cursing flow from the same mouth (James 3:9-10). That makes the situation seem hopeless. No amount of will power can enable me to control my mouth. Thank God, Jesus gives us hope! He said that, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Whatever is in my heart in abundance is what comes out of my mouth in times of stress. The mature man makes the effort to fill his heart with the Word of God, spend time in the presence of God, and pray in the prayer language given by God. This allows the heart to overflow with blessing, not cursing, in times of trouble.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalms 19:14 NKJV
- Listen to yourself today. When life surprises you with pain or difficulty or disappointment, what comes out of your mouth? Are you happy with what you hear? Ecclesiastes 3:12-14
- What are the most persistent temptations in your life? Do you have an, “It is written” scripture ready to use when those moments come? If not, it’s time to find one and get ready to win the next battle. James 4:7 / Revelation 12:11
- Has anyone in your life wounded you with their words? How did you like it? What impact did it have? Have you forgiven them and overcome the damage? Proverbs 18:14
- Have you ever done damage to another person with your tongue? What steps did you, or could you, take to heal the damage? Matthew 5:22-24
- What steps can you take to change what comes out of your mouth? Make a plan to fill your heart with blessing. Proverbs 4:20-27
- Maturity Characteristic #2: Understanding
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Colossians 3:2 NKJV
Paul told us that when he became a man he put away a childish understanding of life. The word translated “understand” has several shades of meaning, but it most often has to do with the things we think on and the way we view the world around us. To understand (gr. Phroneo) means to be mentally disposed in a particular direction or to set the mind on something. It is, in general, an attitude or perspective of mind. Let’s take a look at a few Bible examples of a mature understanding or perspective. A mature man:
- Considers the well-being of others and how they are impacted by his actions. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5 NKJV Paul encouraged the Philippians to take the attitude that Jesus displayed when He set aside His rightful position as God and took the form of a man. He became as one of us so He could live like one of us. This enables Him to understand our plight. Though He never sinned, He was willing to be offered as a sacrifice for our sin so we could be saved. A mature man is willing to understand the perspective of other people and to make sacrifices on behalf of their salvation.
- Can focus on long-term goals, in particular spiritual goals and values. (14) I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Philippians 3:14-15 NKJV In this discussion, Paul describes all the accomplishments and social position he left behind to follow Jesus. He says that the mature man will be willing to put all his old life behind and give his attention, his focus, his effort to knowing Christ and fulfilling the plan of God for his life A mature man puts finding and following the will of God in the center of his sights.
- Thinks of other people as God sees them. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. 1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV A mature man sees himself and other people through the lens of the Word of God. I am forgiven and washed clean, a new creature in Christ, by faith in Him. The Bible says so. If you are a believer in the finished work of Jesus Christ and you have bowed your knee to Him as your Lord, then you are too. If you haven’t yet acknowledged Him, then you are my target audience, not my enemy. Bringing the love of God and the story of redemption to your attention is the reason for my being. You are one for whom Christ died. I beg you, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 / Romans 12:16
- Thinks on heavenly matters. He sets His mind on the things of God rather than the attitudes of the world. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 NKJV This one is key to a successful spiritual life. The world around us seemingly demands our attention. It wants us to think a certain way, to acknowledge its importance. Fear, greed, vengeance, and a drive for power control the ways of the world. The thoughts of the man of the world are consumed with serving those drives. Those who don’t grow up in God and begin to see life through His eyes are a hindrance to the plan of God. When Peter expressed his displeasure with the plan of the Cross, Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. (Matthew 16L23)” A mature man doesn’t want to hear those words. He strives to be mindful of the things of God.
- What does it mean to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus?” Are you there yet? What one thing could you do tomorrow to demonstrate an attitude of empathy and self-sacrifice? Philippians 2:1-16
- Do you have goals and aspirations for your future, or for the future of your family? What are you doing today to make those things possible? Proverbs 6:6-11
- Think of the most irritating person in your life. How do you think God sees that individual? If you saw him the way God sees him, how would that change your attitude and actions? 2 Corinthians 5:14-15
- When you lie down at night, in the quiet moments alone with your thoughts. What do you think about? Is your mind set on heavenly things? What might you do to adjust your default meditations? Psalm 1 / Philippians 4:6-9
- Maturity Characteristic #3: Think.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, (Romans 4:4-5 NKJV)
Paul tells us that a grown man thinks differently than a kid. The word he uses is an accounting term, logizomai. It is most often translated as reason, account, impute, or reckon. It has to do with putting thoughts or ideas together with the mind, doing reckonings or calculations. In the verses above, the words “counted” and “accounted” are both translations of this same word. In verse 5 we see the use of the term in its accounting sense: faith is placed in Abraham’s account as righteousness.
You probably see the similarity to the English word logical. In fact, they both follow from the same idea of reason or ordered thought. The grown man begins to display the capacity to think about life and make decisions based on facts and circumstances. Maturity brings a desire to assemble as many pertinent facts as possible, then make decisions based on principle and priority rather than emotional reaction. Certainly, emotions are part of the mature person’s equation, but they are only one consideration.
We can learn much by comparing maturity to its opposite concept, childishness. While we are encouraged to be childlike in our trust in the Lord (Matthew 18:3) and in our malice toward others (1 Corinthians 14:20), we are warned against the brattiness that defines childishness. The Scripture tells us that a child is prone to selfishness, easily becoming involved in self-centered arguments (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). They are often easily swayed by shifting opinions, especially if those opinions come in attractive wrappers (Ephesians 4:14). Kids are not typically able to stay plugged in to a project – they are easily bored and distracted (Hebrews 5:12-14). The kid wants what he wants when he wants it.
By comparison, a mature man holds his tongue until he has all the facts. When he does disagree, he attempts to discuss ideas rather than personalities. Indeed, the grown-up looks past the packaging to the content. A mature man can entertain two opposing thoughts without becoming angry or confused. Maturity brings the capacity to work toward long-term goals and keep long-term commitments, staying steadfast even when the task is difficult and the road is longer than expected. This may be the most telling of all the characteristics of a grown man: he can see the long-term benefit of discipline and sacrifice today as a means to attain something down the road.
- What does the term “childish” mean to you? Are you ever childish? How do you feel when it happens?
- Do you consider yourself to be a “logical” person? Why or why not? Proverbs 1:1-7
- Are you a finisher? How do you feel when you complete a project or fulfill a commitment? If this is hard for you, what are the obstacles in your character that cause you to quit? Ecclesiastes 7:9 / Psalm 126:5-6
- Do you know someone you would describe as a mature man? What characteristics make you think they are mature? 1 Corinthians 11:1
- During the next week, keep a record of the moments when your emotions drive you to do or say things that you regret. Would you like to change that? How can you learn to better control your emotional responses? Proverbs 17:27-28 / 25:28 /16:32
If you have seen areas of immaturity in yourself that you would like to change, let’s apply the change process from Man Alive: Change Gonna Come
- Admit you need it. You can’t change something you won’t admit. 1 John 1:8-9
- Find scriptures that tell you what God thinks about it. Review these passages daily. Say them out loud. Psalm 19:7-11
- Go to the Lord and ask Him to help you make this change. Psalm 121:1-2
- Commit to a process of learning to listen and obey. God will guide you if you take a moment to listen. There is a place in your heart that knows what to do when you need to do it. Romans 8:14-16
- Address the root, not just the behavior. Trade in your ideas and values and prejudices for the thoughts of God. He is God. He’s always right. Get your mind in line with His. Romans 12:1-8
- Make a very specific plan for change and begin walking in that direction. What are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Write it down! Habakkuk 2:1-4
- Find someone you can trust and talk with them. Share the problem, share the plan, ask for input. Pray together and stay in contact to report your progress. James 5:16
- If you screw up, get up. One step in the right direction is one more than you made before. Process the lesson and take another step. Romans 8:31-37
OK, let’s do this! Time to grow up!!!