Your spiritual maturity level is not like your height. You can do something about it. You can keep growing spiritually all your life, but you have to take an active role.
Each of us lives in our own little mental world. We singles engage in mental debates with ourselves because we spend more time alone. We don't have a spouse to talk with. We also replay conversations and events, often beating ourselves up because we thought we could have behaved better.
But growing up spiritually is an ongoing process. If you observe closely, you'll notice many people mature physically and emotionally but not spiritually. They don't give that aspect of their life enough attention, and that's a shame.
When we're in elementary school, high school, and even older, we approach maturity by trying to fit in with the herd. Peer pressure encourages us to conform. We're so emotionally immature that we ache to be accepted and approved.
In the first level of immaturity, we ask:
"Why can't I be like everybody else?"
In school, you can see children who are struggling with their individuality. They want to be their own person, yet they're afraid of being different from the group. At that age, few things are worse than feeling like an outsider.
If we have self-confidence problems, we may go through our entire life asking, "Why can't I be like everybody else?" We can see it in the workplace. Some people want to be accepted and approved so desperately that they do everything possible to conform. At the extreme end, they become "yes men" and "yes women" because they're afraid to disagree and rock the boat. The more immature the boss, the less they can tolerate someone who asks questions.
Sadly, many people go through their entire life wondering why they can't be like everybody else. No matter how many compromises they make to fit in, they still find areas of their life where they suspect disapproval. They feel devastated when everybody doesn't like them.
Relying on institutions and other people for your worth is a losing battle. You're so anxious about trying to please that your life becomes a nerve-racking popularity contest. Some people are so fragile a single critical comment can drive them to tears.
As far as spiritual maturity goes, this is a stage in which you're clueless about the goal.
There's another level of immaturity that is just the opposite of the first. It can be found in older people and the rigid, narrow-minded.
These people are constantly asking,
"Why can't everybody be like me?"
They don't have much patience with folks who dress differently from them, talk differently from them, and act different from them. A good example is the boss who expects all his employees to be little clones of him or herself. They feel threatened by people who are different.
On the surface, it seems these people have it all together, and if you asked them, they'd probably say they're pretty satisfied with the way they are. Their sense of worth comes not from others or institutions but from their own achievements, possessions, and opinions.
They feel they've arrived. They're proud of who they are and what they've done. On the spiritual maturity scale, they are Pharisees who think they're right and everyone else is wrong.
Oddly, the third level comes very close to maturity but overlooks a vital truth.
These people are getting closer to spiritual maturity because they've started to ask:
"Why can't I be like Jesus?"
They've taken tremendous leaps forward because they finally realize they can't find their worth by pleasing someone else, and they can't find it in themselves.
I was stuck in this stage for decades. It took changing churches before I understood the important truth that I can never be like Jesus, because I have a sinful nature.
Oh, I can imitate Jesus' wonderful qualities, like compassion, forgiveness, integrity, courage, faith, and love. The problem, however, is that I always stumble. I sin. I do bad things that Jesus would never do. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find my worth in my performance, because it always falls short.
For a while, realizing that I would always fall short was a depressing, terrible prospect. Then the gospel that is being preached at my church finally sank in:
Jesus did everything I need to get to heaven. By accepting Jesus as my Savior, his righteousness is credited to me. My true worth comes not from what I can do or can't do. It comes from what Jesus did and continues to do for me.
Talk about a load off! There's a debate whether grace, God's free gift of salvation, can make us "lazy." Some people think there's a danger we may sit around and do nothing because Christ did it all for us.
We don't get lazy because genuine acceptance of Christ produces fruit. We want to do good things, not because we're trying to prove something or measure up, but because the Holy Spirit prompts us to be more Christlike. His job is to conform us to the character of Jesus.
While I feel I've come a long way toward spiritual maturity, I'll never reach the goal in this life, and so it is with every Christian. Thank God I'm not where I was, but I'm far from where I'd like to be.
Again, I can't take any credit for my progress. If we're willing, Jesus moves us along at a pace we can handle. With prayer and surrender, we can move faster.
Don't be discouraged with where you are. Every day you'll see the future more clearly, and as you do, you'll let go of your grip on the past.
As Christian author Warren Wiersbe said, "Remember, your worth is founded in Jesus Christ."
Keep that truth in mind and your spiritual maturity will grow by leaps and bounds.