Progress

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Some seasons of life bring immense spiritual growth. Your heart burns within you as you learn new things about the Lord, about yourself, and about your place in his kingdom, and you likely will remember the lessons for years afterward. But other seasons of life bring feelings of stagnation and coldness. You desire growth, but you can’t seem to detect any progress in your journey with the Lord. I think I’m currently in the latter season.

As I consider my walk with the Lord, I see the need for work. I’ve slacked off in my spiritual disciplines, and I recognize that laziness as a major contributing factor in my lack of fervency. But I also find myself fighting to feel the truths I affirm when I do make the time for the work that needs to be done. I catch myself studying the Bible more academically than devotionally, pulling out truths and themes with a cold detachment. I pray, but I find my prayers more rote than reverent. I attempt Scripture memory and fasting, but I feel unengaged in both areas. My lack of forward progress is painful and humiliating at times. I think I should be further along the road than I appear to be, especially as one who writes and teaches for the benefit of others.

In such moments, Paul’s words to the Philippians hold incredible comfort.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

No matter how often I stumble and fall in my pursuit of holiness, no matter how weak my will, no matter how feeble my faith, God will not fail to complete the work he began in me. I remember specific times of growth, instances when God led and spoke most clearly, and I recall Paul’s encouragement that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). I then recall his promise only verses later that all whom God predestined, called, and justified he also glorified (Romans 8:30). I may feel like a lost and wandering sheep right now, but I know that I am in the fold. My future is secured.

These reminders are not ends in themselves. I can’t fix my walk simply by remembering that God will one day complete this process of sanctification. The promise of future glory is not a license to coast. Rather, these promises can encourage me to keep pressing forward, to keep reading and praying and seeking his kingdom and righteousness above all else. These truths can undergird my life, reminding me of the true source of strength in my many moments of weakness. And the grace of God in his promise of completion can enable me to see any obstacle to growth, even my own inconsistency, as ultimately overcome by Christ. May the author of Hebrews’ words be a constant charge throughout my life:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2


Photo by Ryan Tauss on Unsplash

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