Tuesday morning I dropped off my daughter at the elementary school for a morning practice session for the upcoming school play. As she walked away from the vehicle and toward the front door, I noticed that her pants were a little “high water” on her ankle. She was too tall for those pants, even though we checked her height and her pants this summer before school started and they fit fine.
She grew, that is what happened. On human beings height and growth can be measured in how far up the ankle a pair of pants has crept, how tight a shirt might be, or shoes that no longer fit. As we grow in size, we mature physically. It is a measurable growth that is apparent to everyone, even if new clothes are bought. Children get taller, voices get deeper, shoulders get broader, and our precious ones grow up.
What I began to think about, for the rest of the morning, is how this is not as apparently true for spiritual maturity. One cannot always look at two different people and ascertain which one is growing spiritually and which one is not. We have to look a little harder, but I do believe there are some possible signs of physical maturity which can be spotted with the eye.
First, I thought about the Bible. As I said in Sunday’s sermon, if a person is not reading the Bible, then they are not meeting with God. A spiritually mature person will have a Bible that is well read, dog-eared, perhaps marked, and has the obvious signs of use. If you want to measure someone’s spiritual maturity, look at their Bible.
Second, the level of joy a person has is a direct reflection of their spiritual maturity. Currently our small groups are moving through Philippians. It has refreshed my mind in so many ways to consider the way Paul affirms that joy is to be a definite characteristic of the believer. Joy, regardless of circumstances, is our inheritance. People who are living apart from that joy are less mature than those who have it.
Third, people who are growing spiritually are hungry people. Anyone who has ever had to feed a teenager is aware of the physical truth of this concept. Spiritually maturing people are no different. The hunger is for all the things that help us grow: Study, worship, fellowship, and serving. If there is no hunger for these things, then the person has become stunted spiritually.
Finally, (and this list is not exhaustive, for there are a host of possibilities), maturing people change. Not only has my daughter grown taller and outgrown her pants, but she is changing as she gets older. Her personality, intelligence, vocabulary, and physical appearance are all changing. How much more for those of us who are growing in the Lord? Without a constant change in how we act, speak, and use our time there can be no spiritual growth.