Pastor Becca Ehrlich
“Oh, grow up!” Whenever my little brother would do something particularly annoying when we were kids, or when one of my friends did something I considered childish, these words would undoubtedly leave my mouth.
At some point in our lives—usually around middle school age—we start to figure out what is and isn’t grown up. It’s part of figuring out adulthood. Whether we DO what we’ve figured out is grown up, well, that’s another story!
Being “grown up” also applies to our Christian faith. We all know someone who is such an amazing Christian, so mature in their faith, that they just ooze confidence and maturity. If we aren’t like that right at this minute, it can make us feel like a child, like we’re in Sunday School, answering “Jesus” to every question.
The thing we don’t see is that even mature Christians don’t usually feel grown-up in their faith. They still feel like they have a lot of growing up to do when it comes to God and faith and how it all works. It’s like what Peter says to Jesse in the movie Liberal Arts: “Nobody feels like an adult. That’s the world’s dirty secret.”
And yet, all of us are called to have a mature faith. God doesn’t want us to have the same faith, the same way of thinking about God we had when we were five. This mature faith is always growing, always looking to learn more. And it’s available to all of us.
In the reading we just heard from the letter to the Ephesians, we hear about different spiritual gifts (we will talk more about those in a minute!) and then it says: “…until all of us come to a unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” God wants us to be mature in our faith, to be more like Christ, to grow up in how we see God and see the world through our faith.
So what does this mature faith look like? And how can we grow towards it? I’m so glad you asked! Actually our reading from Ephesians tells us a lot about what mature faith looks like, so we are going to dive into the text together. Feel free to pull out the Bibles that are in the pew racks in front of you and follow along in Ephesians 4:1-16. Everyone ready?
We start with verse 1 and go to verse 5: “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
So all of us are in this together. We have the same God, and are called to serve that God, together. We all are called by God to work together towards our common goal—to serve God by loving God and loving others. I think I’ve heard that somewhere…. Oh yeah, our Mission Statement here at Zion. Anyone know it…? “Love God. Love Your Neighbor. Nothing Else Matters.” That’s what God wants us to do with our lives. Ever wonder about what your purpose is on this earth? It’s that simple. Love God. Love others. And God calls us to work together to do just that.
The problem can be the working together part. We are all special, unique people created by God. That’s awesome! But because we are all different, we sometimes come across difficulties when we work together. We looks at things differently, solve things differently, speak and act differently.
But what can help us when those difficulties arise is knowing that God is the one calling us together to work for our common goal of loving God and loving others. God is the one working through us and in us. God is the one helping us through, even when our human differences sometimes get in the way.
A mature faith is one that is able to recognize that we are all in this together. We are unified in God’s purpose for us. Even when we disagree, we still stand together in our common purpose. We are still able to work together in the name of Jesus, regardless. THAT is being grown up in our faith. Recognizing that there is no “us vs. them” but just one goal, to serve God and serve others, together.
Our reading in Ephesians continues with verse 7: “But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” And then in verses 11-13, we hear about some of these gifts: “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
This is one of the many times in the Bible we hear examples of the spiritual gifts God gives us. Spiritual gifts are special abilities given by Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to each member of the body of Christ, in order to fulfill the mission of the Church.
The thing is, not everyone has the same gifts. We hear in our reading that everyone has different gifts. Not everyone is called to be a pastor—otherwise, all of you would be up here with me, and we’d all be talking over each other. Then where would we be??
That’s why everyone is given different abilities, different spiritual gifts, so we can serve God in different ways. If everyone had the same gifts, nothing would get done. In God’s infinite wisdom, we were given different abilities so everyone can do a wide range of things in order to serve the world in many, many different ways!
So although we all have a common purpose—loving and serving God and our neighbors—how we are gifted by God to work in that purpose looks very different. As Susan Hylen, professor of New Testament at Emory University puts it, “In Ephesians, unity is not the same as uniformity.”
Someone who has a mature faith is able to recognize what is and isn’t his or her spiritual gifts, and use them accordingly. You will feel energized and feel like you are serving God well if you are using your spiritual gifts. If you do not have the gifts for something and do it anyway, you are setting yourself up for frustration and burnout. God gave us spiritual gifts because God wants us to use them to share Jesus’ love with others. If you aren’t sure of the spiritual gifts God has given you, take a spiritual gifts inventory or try some different things to see where your passion is and where you fit best.
A mature faith is also able to recognize that everyone has different gifts, so not everyone will do something the same way you do. We can’t expect someone else to do something how we would do it ourselves, and that’s OK. In fact, we can learn from someone else with different gifts doing something differently.
For example, you don’t have to know Pastor Randy and I very long to know that he and I have very different spiritual gifts. Some of our gifts are similar—we both have musical gifts, we both are passionate about preaching and teaching about Jesus. But the rest of our gifts are pretty different. Which means that we do things differently.
Now that could be a huge source of stress, having two people working together who are very different. And it’s not always easy, of course. But when God brought me to Zion, God knew that Pastor Randy and I could learn from one another, and actually work well together BECAUSE of our differences. Being from different generations, with different types of life experiences, with different spiritual gifts, means that we are able to achieve much more than what we could do ourselves, or what we could do with someone exactly like us.
God giving us all different spiritual gifts works the same way. Having a mature faith is being able to work with people who are very different and see that God is working through them, too. All of us are given different gifts to serve God together, differently, so we can achieve more than we would individually.
Our reading from Ephesians has more to say, with verses 14-16: “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
So, having a mature faith means trusting only in Jesus. It’s so easy to get side-tracked and taken in by so many things in our world—the pursuits of money or of prestige, the accumulation of material things, the single-mindedness of pushing younger family members to be the best at everything.
But Jesus is the head of our lives—that is most important. He is the head, and we are all different body parts. The head directs the rest of the body where to go. That means Jesus knows where the body is going. And the rest of the body parts—all of us who are Christians in the body of Christ—work together to do what the head, Jesus, is telling them to do. Jesus knows where we are going—we are to listen and follow.
A mature faith is one that realizes that it’s not about me and what I want. It’s about Jesus and what he wants. Jesus is the one who leads us and directs us where to go. He equips us so that we can go where he wants us to go, do what he wants us to do.
And having a mature faith means that we continue to grow in our faith in Jesus while serving him. Reading the Bible, having faith conversations with other Christians, praying, listening for Jesus’ voice in our lives—we are better able to do what he’s calling us to do when we are connected to him and growing in our faith. A body part is useless if it isn’t connected to the head!
So, according to our Ephesians passage, the mature faith is one that is able to work with others towards the common purpose of loving and serving God and neighbors; one that recognizes one’s spiritual gifts and is able to work with people who have different gifts; and one that sees Jesus as the head and connects with Jesus and grows in faith regularly.
We can’t grow into this mature faith on our own. With Jesus as the head leading us, we are able to grow more into his likeness and be more like him. Growing up isn’t easy, but with our heavenly parent guiding us, we will stay on the right track and grow into maturity in our Christian faith.
How is God nudging you personally to grow more mature in your faith? God has been telling you ways to do that, for a long time, probably. Listen to those nudges, and then act on them! A mature faith is what God is calling us to have. Amen.