Most of us have driven by a business that is in the process of renovation. Usually there is a sign that says, “Please Pardon Our Progress!” The reason? The changes are being made to provide an improved business environment and/or experience for the consumer. But in the interim, the customer is asked to put up with some minor inconveniences like dust and crowded conditions until the work is completed. While people welcome improvements they are often impatient with the rate of progress.
Of course, that is no revelation. Today we’re obsessed with speed. We want the quick fix, the shortcut, the on-the-spot solution. We want a sermon, a seminar, or an experience that will instantly resolve all problems, remove all temptation, and release us from all growing pains. It is easy to forget that God is more interested in strength and stability than how quickly something happens.
This is true of new Christians. They understandably want to be more Christlike and to live their lives in Christ as outlined in Colossians 2:6-7. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” This does not happen overnight. It is a journey.
But, before I talk about that journey let me say this to new Christians. You made the best decision of your life. You are at the beginning of a new relationship–a relationship with God that is possible because of Jesus Christ. As with any relationship, your relationship with God will grow stronger and deeper through communication and experiences. As you learn more about God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, you will grow to love God and trust Him more and more. You will also come to a better understanding of how Jesus is relevant to the details of your life. Your relationship will grow also as you see God’s faithfulness in situations in your life, particularly situations that you have turned over to Him in prayer.
Now back to idea of pardoning our progress. While being like Christ is our eventual destination, the journey will last a lifetime. Every day God wants you to become a little more like him: “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10)
Remember that real maturity is never the result of a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. Growth is gradual. The Bible says, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (2 Corinthians 3:18b, Msg) We simply can’t microwave people into maturity.
Most of you know I like to run. I learned quickly that I couldn’t microwave myself into a runner. It requires patience and perseverance. Smaller, incremental goals are necessary. There is a tendency in running, especially early in the process to get discouraged and want to chuck the process. That’s because I tend to want results overnight. I want to make the jump to light speed and run in marathons after a short period. But it just doesn’t work like this.
The same thing applies in our walk with God. We can’t make the jump to being Christlike overnight. Jesus used the example of the mustard seed in Matthew 13: 31-32 to talk about his kingdom. I’m no expert, but I know that you don’t throw a seed in the ground and then take a nap and then “presto” a redwood is growing out of nowhere. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes persistence.
All of us are works-in-progress. We’re not finished, not glorified, not perfected, not completed. We are all “under new management.” We’re all “under construction.” And construction is long, loud, noisy, and very messy. That’s why most of us can hear the sound of hammering and sawing on the inside. God never stops his work because there is so much work that needs to be done.
But don’t worry, God will finish the job. It’s almost like God is a sculptor working with a rough, imperfect piece of marble. The end sculpture is going to be Marty Martin. It’s a hard job because the chunk is badly marred, discolored, and cracked in odd places. It’s about the worst piece of marble a sculptor could ever find. But God is undeterred and He patiently plies His craft, chipping away the bad parts, chiseling an image into the hard stone, stopping occasionally to polish here and there. One day he finally finishes one small section of the statue. The next morning, He discovers part of what He finished has been messed up.
But our God is faithful. He patiently picks up his chisel and goes back to work. He won’t quit half-way through a project. What God starts, he finishes. And although it will take time, we can become more Christlike.