We all look at life through the lenses of our unique life. Our heritage, life experience, personality and dozens of other inputs shape our interpretation of life. The danger in many areas of life is living with a confidence that is not based on God’s truth. So how do I know when I am on track? The answer is, by letting God’s Word reshape me continually.
One of my greatest personal blessings is the time that I invest in pressing my life through the strainer of God’s truth. It is seldom enjoyable and it does not happen by itself. Yet, the result is a life, even with points of failure, that is continually being transformed. The Apostle Paul encourages us, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2 Corinthians 3:18a) I was recently reminded of this truth in another way from the prophet Isaiah. He revealed the process of spiritual development. “For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”” (Isaiah 28:10)
The privilege of living in a culture that promises and frequently delivers on instant gratification distracts us from the spiritual life process that requires time and sacrifice. Our verses scream the truth, that God’s work in us takes time. The danger is to define our effectiveness as Jesus’ follower from one slice of our life rather than the composite of all the slices up to the present. Let’s say I took a slice of your life from a time you were your absolute best in the past. A time when you acted the way that Jesus would act in a given situation. You could have been demonstrating other-centered love, or maybe it was your patience in a frustrating situation or an act of kindness serving another person. It might be easy to hold onto that slice of life but does it really define who you are today?
Let’s look at it this way. Can you build a sandwich with only one slice of bread? Now, maybe you are thinking yea, I could fold it half to make a sandwich. But I am talking about just a slice of bread. I am pretty sure that for most of us define making a sandwich as much more that a slice or two of bread. A sandwich requires all the stuff in-between! All the ingredients and their preparation actually define our sandwich. It could be a BLT, tuna fish or even PB&J. The same is true of your spiritual life. All the slices, ingredients and preparation will reflect the kind of Christian you currently are now. Now the single slices are key ingredients in the recipe to becoming spiritually effective, but it is the combination of slices up to the present that reveal a growing Christian life.
Our verses remind us that effectiveness for Jesus is developed over time through all the slices of our lives. I believe that these verses speak to the characterization of my life as Jesus’ follower. The picture in each of these verses is progress in the practices of our faith over time. It is this progress that collectively produces an effective follower of Jesus. The Apostle Paul reminds us that even the difficult situations in life are used in God’s recipe for our development. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Romans 5:3–4)
The key to the effective Christian life is in taking off the lenses of my expectations and embracing the process that the Lord is working in me today. He has you where you are today for a reason, to develop you. The next step is to begin to cultivate the spiritual practices that God will use to guide you like reading your Bible, prayer, regular church attendance and plugging into a Bible study. It will be hard at first, but as you work on consistency the characterization of a Godly life will be revealed!
-Pastor Joe Parkinson