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<< Then & Now for Teens, with Dan Darling

Then & Now - Week of November 9

  • 2009 Nov 09

The Big "M" Word
1 Timothy 4:12

What is the one indispensable character trait that separates successful Christian young people from the rest?

A good family? Sure, being born into a good Christian family is a huge, huge blessing, but I've even seen kids raised in this environment get into loads of trouble.

A good education? Education is vitally important to your God-given calling in life. I encourage young people to be serious about going to college, whether it's for ministry or for their chosen vocation. But there are a lot of educated fools in this world.

Great talent? Talent doesn't hurt. Nobody wishes they had less talent. But talent will only get you so far in life. Ask Samson. Samson's biggest blessing and biggest curse was his potential. Potential is really cool when you're 17. When you're 70 and you've wasted it, its stops being cool.

Money? No question, money is huge. It takes money to go to college, to begin a career, to support a family, to do ministry. But money can also be a curse, enabling people to think as if they are above God's laws. And I've also seen people with no money accomplish extraordinary things.

Friends? Who you hang with is huge, no question. You become like your friends. Friends are probably the single biggest influence on a young person's life. But your friends, good or bad, can't live your life for you.

So what is it? What is the indispensable trait that separates successful teens from those who aren't?

It's a word that most young people loathe to hear. Maturity. What does maturity mean? Well, if go back to the original Greek, it is a combination of two words, "grow" and "up." Grow up!

Just kidding on that last one, but maturity is about growing up, seeing life through sober, watchful, God-influenced eyes.

Here is what maturity is not. It doesn't mean you always play it safe and never take risks that might advance God's kingdom. It doesn't mean you lose your sense of humor. It doesn't mean you have to stop cheering for the Chicago Cubs. Well, maybe that last one shows I still have some major maturing to do.

Maturity is growing. It's taking seriously what God says in his word about life. It's applying the wisdom of Proverbs to your situation. It's the decision to stop playing around and acting as if life is one big game. It's the decision to earnestly follow Christ.

The maturing process is different for everyone. And every mature person is not the same. But let me tell you something, as a pastor, as someone who works with people of all stripes, I can tell you, I know maturity when I see it.

Maturity is saying that you've got a plan for your life beyond playing Madden in your parent's basement until your 45.

Maturity is saying that you're going to treat people with respect and put their needs above your own.

Maturity is choosing to pursue God's plan for your life rather than continuing destructive cycles of behavior.

Maturity is stepping up and leading in your relationships with the opposite sex. Guys, it means treating your girlfriends with respect and loving them enough to guard their purity. Girls, it means having the courage to only date men who do the above.

Maturity is getting off the couch, filling out applications and resumes and finding yourself a job, any job that rewards hard work with money which you can use to pay your own bills instead of whining to your parents for money.

Maturity is limiting your time on the internet and actually developing real-life, flesh and blood relationships.

Maturity is the discipline to walk with God every day in prayer and through the Word.

Maturity is also the commitment to attending, giving to, and helping to build a Bible-believing local church.

Now, I must say this about maturity. Maturity is not something your friends will encourage you to develop. It's not something your favorite pop stars will display on a regular basis as being "cool." And even many in the church will dismiss maturity and try to act as if you're not old enough to understand.

But I will tell you this. The faster you embrace biblical maturity, spiritual growth, the faster you will succeed in life. Employers, coaches, colleges—they are desperate for young men and young women who act like adults, who can carry out a job and get it done, who can be trusted.

Young people, I challenge you. Embrace maturity. I might not get you more friends, but it will get you farther in life.  

Daniel Darling is an author and pastor with a passion for young people. He is the author of Teen People of the Bible, a 100-day devotional for teens. Visit him on Facebook by clicking here, or at