I love this image posted by the Clergy Coaching Network. It made me pause and reflect about my growth as a Christian. It takes as long as it takes.
I’m not talking about my salvation. That is a gift graciously given to me through my faith in Jesus Christ. However, becoming more Christ-like this side of heaven is a process and often a struggle. Let me give you an example.
Sunday morning we just finished a wonderful six-week bible study on “How to Neighbor” at church. It was a great study that left me with a greater desire to reach out to my neighbors.
Less than six hours later God brought one of my neighbors to our front door. (That’s what I would call an immediate answer to prayer.) But here’s the problem – he interrupted my Sunday nap to borrow my step ladder. I wasn’t the most cheerful neighbor as I went out to our shed to hand over my ladder. I gave him what he asked for, but my attitude needed some adjusting.
After coming inside, I quickly realized that I’ve got a lot to learn about neighboring. I repented (again) and asked the Lord to give me a better attitude.
It takes as long as it takes, my friends! Be gentle on yourself.
I’m not saying to ignore your failures and deny that they aren’t serious. They are! I’m not making light of our problems and saying they can all be put into the same category as interrupting a nap, but Jesus still understands us when we lose our witness. I’m not saying to beat yourself up whenever you fail. But when we do, confess your sins, repent, and move on. There’s no reason to hold on to guilt or live in shame after we have been forgiven by Jesus.
This “spiritual growth stuff” is a life-long process.
The Bible is not a “how to” manual on how to be a better person. It’s a book of Good News that shows us we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
We don’t become more Christ like by trying to be like Him; it’s learning to surrender and stay attached to Him. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (John 15:4). Jesus is my Vine. Any Christ like fruit that flows from my life comes from staying attached to Him.
Jesus is also my Good Shepherd, and no one can snatch me out of his hand. That’s what He promised (John 10:28). We are loved and safe in His presence and don’t have to fear the devil when we are in our Shepherd’s care. A.W. Tozer says, “The only safe place for a sheep is by the side of their Shepherd, because the devil does not fear sheep; he just fears the Shepherd.” He’s got you and loves you – even when you get in the flesh.
Enjoy your Christian journey. Take it seriously, but don’t try so hard.
When you ask the Lord to be a better neighbor, He may bring you into contact with difficult people, He may stretch your faith with people you want to avoid, or He may just interrupt your nap.
Be gentle on yourself. He’s not done with you yet.