Progressing Toward Maturity
“Let us press on to maturity.”—Heb. 6:1.
1, 2. Why is maturity properly the goal of every sincere Christian?
HOW long have you been a serious student of the Bible? A few months or a few years? Then you still have wonderful new vistas of learning ahead of you as you progress toward spiritual maturity. Or have you been serving God for several years now? Then you should have read through a number of Bible-study aids in addition to your regular Bible study. You should be able to defend your faith and refute just about any objection a person might raise against the Bible truth. (1 Pet. 3:15) But regardless of whether you have reached Christian maturity or you still have to master your faith, you must be alert to continue making progress, because maturity is progressive.
2 At Hebrews 6:1 “maturity” translates the Greek word teleiótes, which basically means “perfection,” “completeness,” “full growth.” A spiritually mature person, therefore, has reached a state of being fully developed as a Christian. That should be the goal of every sincere Christian.
3. (a) What does it mean to have maturity? (b) Why is maturity the outstanding qualification for Christian overseers?
3 Maturity means to have a true and strong balance and an appreciation of the truth. A mature person has the ability to reason on principles. He will not forever need to be asking someone, “Do you think that I should do this or that?” He is able to use his knowledge of God’s Word in making important decisions rather than trying to put the burden on another person. Maturity, therefore, is the outstanding qualification for Christian overseers, because they must use their knowledge to make decisions. They cannot always be asking someone to solve their problems; they must handle the problems of the congregation.—Titus 1:5; Gal. 6:5.
4. Contrast the difference in attitude of the mature minister and the novice.
4 A mature minister will have a ready willingness to apply counsel. He knows from experience that Jehovah’s blessing will be upon the congregation when the brothers preach and teach together in unity; that all cannot stubbornly have their own way about things. (Ps. 133:1) So he has learned to submit his will to the divine will and to accept counsel, rebuke and chastisement from Jehovah and to get on with the work. He knows that God’s way is better than his way, and he is, therefore, glad to make adjustments to conform thereto. On the contrary, a novice tends to reject counsel and to be fatally wounded by chastisement. He has not learned from experience that Jehovah’s organization knows so much more than he does.—Prov. 13:24.
5. Why are immature persons easily frightened by opponents?
5 Progressing toward maturity is the goal of Christians, because it means efficient, strong organization. Paul recognized this need, as shown at Philippians 1:27, 28: “Standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents.” Immature people run from trouble because they are easily frightened. They do not have sufficient depth to stand firmly for right principles. Furthermore, immature people retreat from trouble simply because they do not know how to wage the fight when an issue arises. But mature people stand their ground; they know how to fight and are not frightened by the enemy.—Eph. 6:12, 14; 2 Ki. 6:15-17.
6. What contentment does maturity bring?
6 We want to be mature, moreover, because it means being happy, contented servants of God, knowing that ‘godly devotion is a means of great gain along with self-sufficiency.’—1 Tim. 6:6.
7. Why is there a need for maturity in the theocratic organization today?
7 There is a very great need for maturity in the Christian congregation today for three basic reasons: (1) the great expansion work yet ahead of us will require many teachers; (2) continued growth of the congregation requires productive ministers; (3) there is a real need for capable overseers. We will consider these needs separately.
8. (a) What is necessary in order to be a good teacher? (b) What deficiency among Hebrew converts did Paul recognize?
8 In regard to the matter of teachers, there are two things about teaching that are absolutely necessary. One is to have an accurate knowledge of the subject; and the other is the ability, coupled with the desire, to impart that accurate knowledge to others. As for the need to acquire accurate knowledge, Paul recognized a deficiency in this regard with our brothers among the Hebrew converts. He wanted to explain a deep point of doctrinal truth to them about Melchizedek, but they were so backward about learning that it delayed him in going into an interpretation. He knew that their knowledge of the truth was so shallow that they would not be able to follow his argument. And so with good reason the apostle wrote: “Concerning him [Melchizedek] we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the first principles of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:11-14.
9, 10. How might a Christian analyze his personal participation in the global teaching program?
9 Where do you stand with regard to the matter of teaching? Do you conduct Bible studies with your neighbors? (Mark 12:31) Have you conducted an average of one such study meeting weekly each month during the last six months? No? Then you are evidently lacking in teaching ability or in the desire to teach, and you need to work hard to acquire a better knowledge of the Bible. You should sharpen your ability to use good teaching methods. What seems to be your problem? Do you make Bible study interesting for people? Do you flavor it with illustrations and examples as Jesus did? (Matt. 13:34) Are you patient in repeating, emphasizing and explaining? Do you show your students the practical value of what they are learning? These are the things a teacher must do in order to hold the interest of his students.
10 In order to be a successful teacher you must want to teach. You must put your heart into it and take an interest in your students. Do you have this desire? Do you find joy in seeing others progress? There is such a great need for teachers today, because so many people are just hungering for the truths of the Bible to be taught to them. Every dedicated Christian has the privilege and responsibility of sharing in this global teaching campaign. Therefore, each one must progress toward maturity in order to become more effective in his teaching.—Eccl. 12:9, 10; Matt. 9:37, 38.
PRODUCTIVITY FOR GROWTH
11. Who are the productive ministers in Jehovah’s organization? Why?
11 The second reason why maturity is needed is that continued growth of the congregation requires productive ministers. It is not reasonable to expect real production to come from immature ones. They are still learning how to carry on the work. They are still asking questions. They have not learned to be teachers. They are babes. They must still be taught. Young children are not producers; they make many mistakes, they are full of questions, often find it necessary to play, and are so easily diverted from their work. They have not learned to be efficient and enduring in their work. Accomplishment comes from mature, steady workers. Are you a mature, steady worker? The mature, steady workers are those who are regular in the ministry, those engaging in the preaching and teaching work every week. These are the ones who get results in the work. They are not easily diverted from their work by enticing recreational pleasures. While they know that there is a time for all things, they also know that the time for Kingdom work is not the time for play. (Eccl. 3:1) Productive ministers are not forever asking questions and never learning the answers. No, they use the answers and demonstrate progress toward maturity.—2 Tim. 3:7; 1 Tim. 4:15.
12. Why will mature people not quit or complain?
12 Children want to quit when their work becomes strenuous or difficult. They look for excuses and cry for sympathy. They are simply not productive! But mature people cannot quit or go around complaining about their work, because they have responsibilities. They must solve problems and get on with the work at hand. Quitting neither solves the problems nor gets the work done, but it could lead to starvation. Whining and complaining might mean the loss of a job. In Jehovah’s work a mature person will not be discouraged but will be able to weather storms of opposition. He understands the issue; he knows that there will be hardships along the way, but that complaining will only bring the disfavor of his great employer, Jehovah, the God of production. (Lam. 3:39, 40; John 5:17) So the mature person accepts responsibility, works steadily and is rewarded with the satisfaction of seeing the congregation grow.—1 Cor. 3:6-9.
NEED FOR OVERSEERS
13. Why cannot Christians look to immature persons for theocratic leadership?
13 The third reason why we need maturity is that there is such a demand for good overseers. Maturity is the outstanding qualification of such Christian overseers, because they must be men of sound judgment and deep knowledge. They must be examples in Christian conduct and service. (Titus 1:5-9) Overseers have the responsibility to keep Jehovah’s organization clean. Christians cannot look to immature, inexperienced persons for such leadership, because such persons are not equipped to handle these matters. For example, in the matter of disfellowshiping the overseer must not be hasty in making decisions, but must be ready to show mercy where possible. In fact, if he is an awake minister, many times he will be able to prevent his brothers from going so far that they actually get into serious difficulty. Galatians 6:1 says: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to restore such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.”
14. Why must members of a congregation service committee have maturity of discernment?
14 When difficulties arise, however, the congregation’s service committee must hear the matter and render a just decision; they must weigh the testimony of witnesses to see if it is creditable; they must determine the degree of guilt, if any, and consider how mercy should be extended in line with Jehovah’s justice and mercy. Where it becomes necessary, they must disfellowship. It is a serious thing to disfellowship a person, because it means that the person is cut off from God’s organization, from life. On the other hand, it is just as serious to fail to disfellowship when it should be done. Why? Because it manifests insubordination on the part of the servants, a failure to respond to the divine decisions recorded in the Bible. It permits further corruption of the organization, endangering the faith of the brothers and vitiating the work of the congregation. Making such decisions requires maturity of discernment. Christian lives can be entrusted, not to novices, but only to mature men!
15. How might one analyze his need for progressing to greater maturity?
15 Stop and analyze yourself. Regardless of whether you have been associated with Jehovah’s work for a few months or a few years, scrutinize yourself and see if you are progressing toward maturity. Are you a teacher? Do you find it possible to start Bible studies and keep them going? Are you a productive minister? Do you share in the ministry each week? Do you have interesting experiences in making return visits on interested persons? Have you been successful in directing another person to the local Christian congregation? Are you qualified to be an overseer? Are you stable, reliable, awake, balanced? Do you have sound judgment and deep Scriptural knowledge? After making this self-analysis, you will probably want to progress toward a higher degree of maturity. But how?
HOW TO PROGRESS
16, 17. (a) Why is it so important to be spiritually-minded? (b) Contrast Jehovah’s feeding program with the Devil’s propaganda campaign.
16 One way is by being spiritually-minded. Today there is a battle for the control of men’s minds. We are bombarded with vying political and economic philosophies, competing religions and commercial advertisers. But who is directing this insidious campaign of propaganda, the billions of words that pour over television, radio and the printed page every day? The Devil! (Rev. 16:13-16) Be on guard against this arch deceiver! (Rev. 12:9) Many of his schemes appear ever so innocent, but they may accomplish his purpose of consuming your time and controlling your mind. His design is to keep people so busy watching trite comedy programs, western movies, and reading newspapers, comics and immoral novels that they do not have time to learn about Armageddon, where he is leading them! Do not let him deceive you. Do not feed your mind on his propaganda! It will only undermine your faith, not build your pattern of integrity-keeping. Do not permit your mind to be fed on the wrong motives of killing, fighting, grudges and revenge, which are glorified in the ever-popular western movies. Do not feed your mind on the disgusting wrestling and boxing matches that television offers! Do you think that men will abuse their bodies in that fashion in God’s new world? Do you think that it was God’s will at creation for man’s body to be punched, jabbed, hooked, gouged and headlocked? Of course not!—Phil. 4:8.
17 So if you want to progress toward maturity, you must begin by not feeding your mind on the wrong motives. Spend your time mastering your Bible study lessons for the week or for the next written review in the theocratic ministry school. This will build your faith, not destroy it. You see, Jehovah too has a feeding program designed to keep people busy in these last days. The point is, we individually must stay awake and continually, daily analyze and make the choice between that which will build our faith and that which will tear it down, between Jehovah’s feeding program and the Devil’s propaganda. There is plenty of material from either Jehovah God or Satan to control your thinking and occupy your time. You must make the choice every day as to whom you will permit to permeate your life.—Rev. 16:15.
18. Why should a person learn to be dependable?
18 Learning to be dependable will also aid growth to maturity. It is so disappointing when people are given assignments and do not perform. For example, a person might be given the job of counting attendance at congregation meetings, but when he is asked for the report he may say that he forgot to take care of his assignment. Another person may volunteer to clean the congregation meeting place, but when the congregation assembles for a meeting it is discovered that he did only a halfhearted job. Such people are not dependable. Others call up the congregation overseer at the last minute and advise him that it will be impossible to care for their part on the program that evening. How inconsiderate! How immature! Others are assigned to work together in a training program; but when asked how they are progressing, they report that they have not even worked together. What a disappointment! What a dim view of Christian privileges! Others make excuses when given the opportunity of working with an experienced minister, such as a circuit servant, for the purpose of receiving expert training in the ministry. The mature attitude would be to work with him at every opportunity. The more a Christian is able to receive expert instruction in the art of preaching and teaching, the quicker he will progress toward maturity and become expert himself. Take advantage of every such opportunity, yes, even seek out such opportunities. Learn to be dependable.—Matt. 25:14-30.
19. How should we have perspective about our work?
19 Mature persons have perspective about their work. They never forget that they must work with a purpose, that service to God is not just a matter of putting in so many hours. For example, when doing house-to-house preaching in rural districts, mature ministers organize matters so that there is a minimum of time spent in traveling and waiting, and a maximum of time actually spent in preaching and teaching. They will not avoid the more populous areas, but will recognize that there is where the most productive witnessing can be done.
20. How can one show the proper mental attitude?
20 Another way to progress toward maturity is to develop a proper mental attitude. Paul had the right attitude as expressed at Philippians 3:14, 15: “I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the calling above and which God extends in Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you.” Can you honestly say that you are pursuing the goal of everlasting life? Or are you pursuing the things of the old-world society? (1 John 2:16) What is your immediate goal? To buy a new automobile, or to buy out opportunities to serve Jehovah? (Eph. 5:16) To spend money on an expensive vacation, seeing the sights of the dying old world, or to become a vacation pioneer, locating new friends, yes, everlasting acquaintances to join with you in the New World society? To retire and settle down in a place where there is a ratio of one witness of Jehovah to less than one thousand of the population, or to serve where the need for Kingdom witnesses is really great? If you are really pursuing everlasting life, then your record of field ministry should indicate that. Do you spend at least ten hours each month preaching and teaching the Bible truth to others? Can you imagine Paul being contented with less than ten hours a month even when he found it necessary to work full time making tents? What do you suppose he was doing on weekends, evenings? Studying God’s Word, doing God’s work, or attending a contest between the gladiators in the local coliseum, saying he had no time for the ministry?—Acts 18:3, 4.
21. What view should those in the New World society take of displays of pride and bad manners?
21 Another indication of maturity is to forsake pride and looking after just your own interests. A proud person shows immaturity. A person that pushes his way past others, who makes disturbances when others are assembled for Christian instruction, or one who refuses to acquire the habit of good manners is a most inconsiderate person. It is to be expected, however, that some persons associated with the New World society will be proud, ill-mannered and inconsiderate, because this is an expanding society. Every year scores of thousands of persons are coming into the New World society from the old-world society where such practices are part of the daily routine. But the point is that such new persons and the rest of us will recognize that they are spiritual babes, immature, and that in time, as they progress toward maturity, they will abandon the practices and attitudes of the old world and progressively ‘make their minds over’ for New World living. (Rom. 12:1, 2) Rather than being stumbled by immature persons, help them to progress toward maturity. You have so many fine examples of Christian living. Think of the many overseers, traveling servants, and others who are mature, who do set the right example in Christian living for the whole congregation. Follow them as they follow Christ.—1 Cor. 13:4-6; 11:1.
22. Why will those in the New World society not become involved in foolish questionings?
22 A mature person does not fight with words over senseless questions. If by research the answer can be obtained, he will make a reasonable effort to find it, but he will not get himself involved trying to find the solution to every problem, such as, ‘When is Armageddon coming?’ or, ‘Do you think man will ever live on Mars?’ Paul said at Second Timothy 2:23: “Further, turn down foolish and speculative questionings, knowing they produce fights.”
23, 24. How is maturity shown in connection with settling disputes and accepting responsibility?
23 Immature people carry grudges, but a mature person will progress to the point that he will be quick about settling disputes. Paul advised: “Be angry, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state.”—Eph. 4:26.
24 Show your progress toward maturity by accepting responsibility. Have you dedicated yourself to Jehovah? Then do not hold back when you are asked to take responsibility. Do not be like Jonah, who tried to flee to Tarshish rather than accepting the responsibility of going to Nineveh, his God-given assignment.—Jonah 1:1-3.
25-27. What are the rewards of maturity?
25 The rewards of maturity are indeed rich. A deep and accurate knowledge brings inner satisfaction that money cannot buy. Such deep knowledge enables you to be an effective teacher. Were you happy when you came to an accurate knowledge of Bible truth? You will be much happier when you will have progressed to maturity and are regularly bringing others this precious truth. Those who have had this experience can testify that there is greater happiness in giving the truth than in receiving it.—Col. 2:2; Acts 20:35.
26 Another reward of maturity is that productivity brings the blessing of Jehovah. Paul said: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6) Imagine the exhilarating satisfaction in knowing that you are God’s fellow worker, as if God needed you! So when you see the work of your hands, yes, someone that you have taught taking his stand in the New World society, you will know that God is pleased with you and is working with you. Jesus said, as recorded at John 6:44: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.”
27 Finally, maturity qualifies one for expanded opportunities of service. Prepare yourself to take on such expanded privileges. Do not dodge the responsibility, but thank God for his undeserved kindness, accept the responsibility, and keep on growing in that undeserved kindness and never miss its purpose. Yes, keep on progressing toward greater maturity.—2 Pet. 3:18.