I’ve said many times that I am not a terribly patient man, particularly when I think about my own maturity in the faith. At least I don’t think I am. Maybe I’m getting better in this area. I know that when I was much younger in my faith (back in the far off days of 2005), I had ideas about what a mature believer should be like that were less than realistic. Over time, I’d like to think I’ve become more realistic and gracious, but I’m not always sure. I see progress, but I’m not where I’d like to be.
Which, really, is the story of all our lives. No matter how far we progress, we’re still not there. There is still work to be done. While we still have breath, sanctification is not complete.
One of the men who helped me really come to grips with this is J.C. Ryle, a 19th-century Anglican bishop. In his book, Holiness, he wrote the following:
Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men’s graces are in the blade, some in the ear, and some are like full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning. We must never despise “the day of small things.” And sanctification in the very best is an imperfect work. The history of the brightest saints that ever lived will contain many a “but,” and “howbeit,” and “notwithstanding,” before you reach the end. The gold will never be without some dross—the light will never shine without some clouds, until we reach the heavenly Jerusalem. The sun himself has spots on his face. The holiest men have many a blemish and defect when weighted in the balance of the sanctuary. Their life is a continual warfare with sin, the world, and the devil; and sometimes you will see them not overcoming, but overcome. The flesh is ever lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and “in many things they offend all” (Gal. 5:17; James 3:2).
This is good news to me, in so many ways. But chief among them is that it reminds me that it’s normal for me to feel incomplete. Like I’ve not arrived, and probably never will. But it also encourages me to keep pressing forward. To desire to grow and change. To strive to be what I am not yet, and by God’s grace, occasionally get to see glimpses of occasionally.
Growth in the faith always takes time. It’s never complete. But as long as I have breath, I want to keep going. Lord, give me strength.