“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question we all heard when we were young. If someone asked us today, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” — what kind of response would we give? How would we answer the question?
Since most of us are fully-grown and mature, some may say, “Why ask me this question now?” Remember, from the Lord’s viewpoint we all are little children, for a thousand years are just like a day to him. Using this scale, none of us has ever lived long enough to see even 3 AM on the first of those days. James observes, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” John repeatedly refers to those to whom he writes as little children: “My little children, these things I write unto you that ye sin not,” and “Now, little children, abide in him.” Jesus calls the eleven apostles little children at the last supper after Judas leaves the upper room, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you.”
Paul extends the idea that we are very young spiritually even further when he says, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” Paul describes the believers as little children in the process of being born, not fully formed because they need to develop the spirit of Christ within themselves.
How mature are we spiritually? Can we claim that we are already full of the spirit of Christ and live our lives accordingly? It must be apparent then that most of us still have some growing up to do, and so the question remains, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Just as growing up in life involves a change in the way we look and think, so also growing up in Christ requires change. Paul describes himself, saying, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The process takes a long time, and requires prayerful dedication and effort. Even after the apostle Peter had followed Jesus throughout his ministry, he still needed to be converted, for Jesus says to him, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
Paul makes it clear to the Ephesians what we should be like when we grow up. He says, “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.” We have to progress from where we may have started out, somewhat unstable and uncertain of our beliefs, to having a solid understanding and commitment to the Truth in Christ, ready to speak up and help others along the road to salvation.
So the answer to what we want to be is, “We want to grow up to be like Christ who is our head. If we are like him and follow his example, like him we will speak the truth in love.”
It is important to learn how to speak the truth in love. Jesus was very fond of the apostle John, an apostle who was loving and knew the importance of love, as can be seen by what he wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God.” There was a time, however, when John was young, rash and not very loving. John and his brother James, who then were known as “sons of thunder”, wanted to burn up those who were rejecting their Lord. They felt that they were on solid ground for, after all, Elijah burned up a group of those who were disrespectful to him. Luke records the incident for us, “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.’”
At this time, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified. Even though he knew the Jews would reject him, Jesus never forgot his mission was not one of destruction but salvation. Jesus, in rebuking his two apostles, is telling them, “Grow up. You are here to save people, not kill them.”
What kind of people do we want to be when we grow up? We want to be actively trying to save others, and to do this we need to care for them, just as the Lord cares for us, after having given his life for us. We want to be more like Jesus, who came to save and went about doing good.
Paul told Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts (that is, ‘Grow up!’)… pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart… A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”
Now that we know what we want to be when we grow up — full of the spirit of Christ — then let us get going and pursue our goal. We need to nourish our growth daily by filling our minds with the Word of life. Then we must try to seek and to save those who are lost, and to go about doing good. Let us not delay, for now “it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
Robert J. Lloyd