FARGO -- Let’s continue our discussion on maturity from the book of James in the Bible. There are five chapters in James, and each chapter teaches us a mark of maturity. In chapter one the mark of maturity is “How do I react to problems?” In chapter two, “How do I treat other people?” In chapter three, “Do I control what I say?”
The fourth characteristic, from chapter 4, is that a mature person is a peacemaker in the midst of trouble. When there is trouble and conflict: Do I like to argue? Do I like to gossip? Do I like to "get in on the news" on the latest happenings of people's relationships? How do I respond to trouble at home, on the job, in the church, in the neighborhood, at school?
In chapter 4, verses one and two, James writes, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but you do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight."
What is the cause of conflict? In verse 3, James says conflict comes from people wanting their own way. Is your motivation self-centered or God-centered? The second source of conflict according to James is judging others. The moment I start judging, we will have conflict.
The fourth mark of maturity is being a peacemaker in the midst of trouble; not judgmental, prideful or selfish, but seeking love and a spirit of peace.
The fifth mark of maturity, from chapter 5, is a person who is patient and prayerful about life. In chapter 5, the word patient is used four times and the word prayer, seven times. Prayer and patience go together and they both express an attitude of dependence upon God.
James uses an illustration that we can relate to in the upper Midwest, a farmer! Nobody needs patience like a farmer. James 5:7-8 says, "See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm."
After planting, a farmer has to wait until the crop grows. You don't go out and dig it up every day, saying "Is it growing?” You have to wait. The fifth test of spiritual maturity is, "How long can I wait?" How long can I trust and wait for an answer to prayer? How long can I wait for God to change my situation? Waiting and patience is a mark of maturity.
Perhaps, one of the reasons God has not answered your prayer is he is helping you grow up. If God answered every prayer we prayed instantly, we would not learn patience and would remain immature. A quote I have heard several times is “God is more concerned with your character than your comfort.”
Whether you are a spiritual person or not these marks of maturity are critical to the health of your life and relationships. I thank God that spiritual maturity deals with very practical issues. And that's what the Bible is all about, changing lives. The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, it was given to change the way we live.
God bless you! See you next Sunday.