Growing Up or Growing Older?

by Pastor Mark Shupe

I remember as a kid many times hearing my parents say those words no kid really wanted to hear: “Why don’t you just grow up?!” Come to think of it, I occasionally still hear those words from my wife. We are reminded every year that we are getting older, but are we really growing up? Are we getting any better? Are we becoming a more mature person? Are we any more like Christ in our motives, thoughts, and actions?

Like it or not, the Bible tells us we are to grow up. “But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Growing up is not an option for the believer in Christ. Our personal, spiritual and relational maturity is what allows us to be a beautiful and radiant reflection of Christ to all those we interact with on a daily basis. But, how do we know if we are really becoming more like Christ?

Birthdays remind us yearly that we are indeed getting older. As we grow older doctors tell us we need certain tests and procedures including yearly check-ups to ensure that we are healthy physically. But, what about the growth and care of our hearts and souls? What can serve as a good spiritual and personal check-up? An appointment with our great spiritual physician – God Himself.

At the beginning of a new calendar year, I take some extended time to meet with God and ask Him to examine my heart and motives and show me areas of my life that are in need of growth and development. That time looks something like this:

  • Reading and reflecting on Scriptures such as Matthew 15:10-20 and Psalm 139:23-24.
  • Asking God to show me “what in my heart is displeasing to Him?”
  • I think back over the past 6-12 months of my life and write down some recurring thoughts, behaviors and struggles that have characterized my life. This can help identify areas of needed attention and growth.
  • I try to focus on one or two areas of growth and development that I believe God wants me to give my attention. In those areas, there might be a skill to develop, a practice to implement in the rhythm of my life, a thought process to tweak or develop, etc.

The beginning of any true change or growth involves awareness. It is easy to look back at our life and think we have not grown spiritually as it seems like we are actually sinning more than we have at previous times in our life. The reality is that we are likely not sinning more, we have just become more aware of how many times we do things that are not pleasing to God and the hurt it causes others and ourselves.

That awareness is growth and can be the beginning of pinpointing those places in our hearts that need to be fine-tuned and/or changed so we can experience the life-giving personal, spiritual and relational maturity God has designed for each of our lives. In so doing, it will ensure that we don’t just grow old, but we actually continue to grow up.

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