THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE
IT TAKES TIME
Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. The development of a Christlike character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth like physical growth takes time. God is not concerned how fast we grow, but how strong we grow.
Before Christ comes into our lives He has to work on our hearts by allowing problems to appear that we cannot handle. While some people open up their lives to Christ the first time He knocks on our door, most of us are resistant and defensive. We are born with a rebellious and egotistical nature and we have a tendency to think that we can handle anything by ourselves until we get into serious trouble.
And once you become a follower of Jesus, you may think that you have surrendered all your life to Him, but the truth is that there is a lot of your life that you are not aware of. Once the Holu Spirit lives in you, He begins to take over more and more of your life until all of your life is completely His. There will be struggles and battles, but what God starts in your life, He will continue to work until it is finished.
Sanctification is a process of becoming holy and thus conforming to Christ. Ephesians 4:13 says, “This equipping of God will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Becoming like Christ is your eventual destination, but it will take a lifetime for your journey.
So far we have seen that this journey involves believing (through worship), belonging (through fellowship) and becoming (through sanctification). Every day God wants you to become a little more like Him. Colossians 3:10 says, “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” Real maturity takes time and effort over time.
Today we are obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability. We want a quick fix, a shortcut, and an on-the-spot solution. We want a sermon, a seminar or an experience that will instantly release us from all growing pains. But maturity is never the result of some experience, no matter how powerful and moving. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And the Lord makes us more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.”
Although God could instantly transform us, He has chosen to develop us slowly. Jesus deliberately chose to develop His disciples slowly. We are slow learners, we often have to relearn a lesson many, many times to really get it. The history of Israel illustrates how quickly we forget the lessons God teaches us and how soon we revert back to our old patterns of sinful behavior.
We have a lot to unlearn. Romans 13:12 says, “So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.” Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God, truly righteous and holy.”
Colossians 3:9-10 says, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” While you were given a new nature at the moment of conversion, you still have old habits, patterns and practices that need to be removed and replaced.
Growth is often painful and scary. There is no growth without change; and there is no change without fear or loss, and there is no loss without pain. Every change involves a loss of some kind. You must let go of old ways in order to experience the new. We fear those losses because they were at least comfortable and familiar. And new habits take time to develop. Your habits define your character.
There is only one way to develop Christlike habits, you must practice them often. 1 Timothy 4:15 says, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.” Repetition is the foundation of character building and skill. These character building habits are often called “spiritual disciplines.” If you practice something over time you will surely get good at it.
God is working in your life even when you don’t know it or feel it. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” There are seasons in your spiritual life as well. It might be helpful to keep a journal not of your life events but of lessons learned. Record what God has taught you about Him, about yourself, about spiritual life and everything else you think is important.
Hebrews 2:1 says, “Listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Now God’s time table is not the same as ours. You might feel frustrated with the slow progress you are making in your life, but remember God is always on time. He will use your entire lifespan to prepare you for your role in eternity. The Bible is full of examples of how long it takes to develop a Godly character.
God took eighty years to prepare Moses including forty years as a sheep herder. Great souls are grown through struggles and storms of life and seasons of suffering. James 1:3-4 says, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
And do not get discouraged. When Habakkuk became depressed because he did not think that God was acting quickly enough, God said this in Habakkuk 2:3, “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” A delay does not mean it is a denial from God.
Years ago there was a popular button that people wore on their clothes, it had the letters PBPGINFWMY on it, and what it meant was: “Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet.” As long as you are alive, God is still not finished with you yet. Remember again Philippians 1:6, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”