Towards the end of the New Testament of the Bible there is a fascinating book full of practical wisdom; the book of James. I highly recommend reading through James at least once a year. In most Bibles it is only several pages as it contains five short chapters. But, it is not a book to read through quickly. I recommend a chapter a day and reading the same chapter several days in a row. This is an intentional way to put yourself in position to receive wisdom from God.

James is very “uncomfortable” reading as it is action-oriented and direct, forcing an authentic reader to evaluate our actions in light of our faith in Christ. James does not leave a lot of “wiggle room” for those wanting to live a life that reflects the character of Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite themes in the book of James is maturity; specifically spiritual maturity. The Greek word for maturity, “teleios,” is used five times in James. Teleios means "to be complete, to be perfect for the task, to be mature."

Maturity is not a matter of age. Not everybody that grows old, grows up. Growing older is not a choice, growing up is. And let’s be honest, maturity is hard work; it’s a matter of attitude and character.

James describes five marks of spiritual maturity. In chapter one he writes that the first mark of maturity is a person who is positive under pressure. “How do I react to problems?” is a visible test of my maturity level. James writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Maturity comes through trials! Isn’t that great news? When the next problem comes along, if I persist with a negative, grumpy attitude, James says that's a sign, I need some maturing.

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James goes on to share with us the long-term picture, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." If we stand firm in our trials and grow through our trials, if we become better rather than bitter, we are maturing. And ultimately, there is a crown of life, representing maturity, we will receive.

The only difference between bitter and better, is the letter I. I make the difference through the attitude I choose. Every problem in my life can either be a stepping stone to further maturity or a stumbling block which holds me to immaturity. That is the choice we will make.

I am so thankful that God cares enough about us that He has a maturity plan for each of us. It isn’t a matter of if we will have a problem, it is only a matter of when. And when that problem hits I want to “welcome” it as an opportunity to grow mature. I don’t want my character, my leadership, or my legacy to lack maturity. If problems are God’s pathway to better reflecting his character to those around me, count me in! God bless you. See you next Sunday!

Hauser is the founding and senior pastor at Prairie Heights Community Church in Fargo-Moorhead and can be reached at www.jonhauser.com.