“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Growing Pains, by Randall D. Kittle


Having been to a number of different churches across the United States over the years, I can tell you that if I had to pick a theme song for a good portion of the church, it wouldn’t be any current worship song or classic hymn. It would be the jingle from Toys ‘R’ Us, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid …” Far too many believers are not only immature; they seem to like it that way. They truly “don’t want to grow up,” which is evidenced by their unwillingness to make any real effort to mature. As long as their immediate needs are taken care of — as long as they are spoon-fed the Word of God, and their diaper is changed (meaning any messes they make are conveniently and comfortably cleaned up) — they are quite content to stay just as they are.

But we must remember that when the old hymn “Just as I Am” is sung, it is talking about God’s willingness to accept us, today, just as we are. This hymn does not promise God is going to leave us just as we are. Beloved, never forget that God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you just the way you are! He has so much more for us.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the number of believers who don’t want to grow up (or at least seem indifferent toward the calling to mature), when we think about the culture in which we live. Society not only generally despises maturity and fears growing old; it gladly embraces childishness. Most Americans like the self-focus, self-satisfaction, and self-attainment that immaturity epitomizes. Unfortunately, the church has not been immune to this penchant for youth at the degradation of growing up to maturity.

Growing Pains
There is, however, more to the childishness seen amongst believers than just the society that surrounds us. Growing up not only takes work and involves putting away selfishness — growing up is painful! While I may not be the world’s top authority on this topic, it is one subject on which I do claim to be a bit of an expert. Since I am 6’ 8” tall, I know first hand the truth about growing pains.

When most people refer to “growing pains,” they mean it metaphorically referring to the uncomfortable time of change from childhood to adulthood. However, I want you to know that when you are growing quickly, it is not a metaphor or an analogy … there is real, physical pain involved. When I was 13–15 years old, I grew four to five inches per year. If this had occurred evenly over the course of the year, it might have been all right. But as most parents of a middle-schooler can tell you, it usually comes in a number of growth spurts. At times, I grew so quickly my mother would only buy me two pairs of pants at a time. Otherwise, I would outgrow them before they had been worn half-a-dozen times. In those days, my shoes were usually outgrown before they even became fully broken in.

While that part of growing quickly is somewhat humorous, other parts were not nearly as much fun. I remember the pain behind my knees and in my shins as they ached at night. Sometimes they were so sore I had to take aspirin to try to reduce the pain because it was keeping me awake. I still recall when the sides of my waist started itching. I felt like I had chigger or mosquito bites on both sides. When I checked my skin for signs of bites, I was surprised to find stretch marks on both sides of my waist. I had grown so fast my skin was permanently stretched!

Emotional Growing Pains
These physical changes of course led to other changes that were more emotionally hurtful than physically painful. Growing quickly caused me to be much less coordinated. My feet were too big for my legs; my legs were to long for my body, etc. Although I had always been athletic, I now felt clumsy and unable to control my own body. My deepening voice cracked and popped like a worn-out record album on an old stereo. I became taller than my dad and my brothers, but still had not filled in. Worse than that, no matter where I was I didn’t seem to “fit in.” While I certainly wasn’t just a boy anymore, I also was not yet a man.

Maturity-wise things were much the same. It seemed like what I wanted responsibility for I never got to do, and what I got responsibility for I never quite managed as well as I should have. One moment I wanted to just play like a kid, but a few minutes later I was upset about not being treated like an adult. Growing up was painful; both physically and emotionally!

Spiritual Growing Pains or Status Quo
Whether we realize it or not, spiritually it is much the same. First Corinthians 13:11 tells us that “… when I became a man, I put away childish things,” but, just as in the physical, this does not happen all at once. It is a process that can be very frustrating, uncomfortable, and painful. Just as in the natural, when we begin to grow in God, we often feel like we no longer fit in. We are no longer what we were, but not yet what we will be. How many of us have been hurt and have hurt others as we have tried to “grow into” our spiritual gifts? Often as we start to assume more responsibility in the body of Christ, we either fall short in our attempt or fail to be given the chance. Growing up to maturity for Christians is a difficult, painful process.

Over the years, I have ministered to hundreds who have been wounded, faced rejection, become afraid, or developed bitterness because of their struggles to grow up in the Church. Often, they have ended up discouraged, despairing, and despondent. The solution many of these wounded ones have chosen is to seek safety in the status quo. They have learned to function the way things are and have no interest in “growing” in any area of their lives. For them, growth and maturity mean pain and everything remaining as it is means safety.

As immensely comfortable as your status quo might be right now, the biggest problem is that it doesn’t leave room for growth. None of us have arrived at possessing the full-stature of Jesus Christ. None of us is sufficiently Christ-like. We still need to progress and mature. The New Testament shows a constant push to go beyond the status quo. Listen to the apostle Paul exhorting the Philippian believers to grow beyond the status quo toward what they still need. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12–14). As much as we may have come to enjoy and embrace the status quo, these verses should challenge us. Though we might want to stay in the cozy comfort of our routine, you and I need to say good-bye to the status quo in order to grow into the fullness of Christ.

Parental Growing Pains
The last type of growing pain we need to look at is one I have only come to understand in the last few years. I call it the growing pain of parenting. This is pain in a parent’s heart as they release their children to grow up. Obviously our hearts ache when we see our children make wrong choices, choose poor alliances, or get involved with things they shouldn’t. The failures of our children bring a pain of disappointment because we know that they were meant to live for so much more.

That is only the smaller part of the pain of parenting. The larger component is our concern for them becoming all that they can be … wanting their full potential to be realized. The pain of parenting is holding in your heart the hopes you know your child can attain until they grow up enough to hold these hopes themselves.

This is the kind of growing pain God has for each of us. He knows the plans that He has for us; plans He made for us before the world began. How God longs for us to come out of the comfort zone of the status quo and grow up to be all He created us to be … to become the true sons and daughters of God. It is time for us to embrace the growing pains it takes to mature in the faith so that we can be changed more completely into the image of Christ. The only way through the growing pains is to grow! So let us choose to grow up so our loving Heavenly Father will have many sons and daughters of God revealed upon the earth.

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