The ultimate purpose of life on this earth is character development. Life is essentially about growing up and becoming mature, just like fruit about to be picked is rapidly maturing. The issue of fruitfulness is fundamentally linked to the image of maturity. And we don't become fully functional as human beings without becoming relatively mature.
Paul talks much during his prison epistles about maturity; perhaps because that was where his maturity was to be most tested. And James, of course, has a fair bit to say on the subject too.
"Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. " -James 1:4 (NIV).
At the end of the day, “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. " -James 1:12 (TNIV).
Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Life Christian classic says that life is not about our comfort; it's about our character development-that this life is merely the dress rehearsal for the real life to come; the life that worships God full time in Heaven. Warren says about his ‘Purpose No3’ that we're “created to become like Christ. " It's the purpose of discipleship-the process of following Jesus, our Rabbi.
He discusses how becoming mature involves knowing how we grow; that it's about being transformed by truth and trouble, and learning to grow through and defeat temptation. Finally, he says the process of maturation takes time, so we best be patient with ourselves. Certainly God is in no hurry for us to transform; he doesn't care much for shortcuts, and that is why we find ourselves learning the same lessons over again until we do finally learn. 
Becoming committed to the process of transformation, growth and maturation is a very sensible and wise choice in life; I can't think of a worse outcome for someone than for them to arrogantly walk the journey of life ignoring obvious growth opportunities.
Warren quotes reformationist, Martin Luther, “My temptations have been my masters of divinity, " as a way of saying that the worst things that happen to us can in fact be the best things, as far as learning and growing more mature is concerned-provided we see and grasp those opportunities.
Perhaps we could add the word ‘mature’ to three others: truth, love and wisdom. All these endure.
Copyright © 2008, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
 See Ephesians (4:13), Philippians (3:15) and Colossians (4:12) who were written when Paul was kept against his will.
 Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life: What on earth am I here for? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), pp. 171-227.
 Warren, Ibid, p. 219.
Steve Wickham is a safety and health professional (BSc) and a qualified lay Christian minister (GradDipDiv). His key passion is work / life balance and re-creating value for living, and an exploration of the person within us.