Our Problem With Progress
The Struggle Is Real
As growing Christians, we tend to get frustrated with our “spiritual” shortcomings. It seems a lot easier to hang our head in shame than lift our eyes in victory.
We don’t wake up as early as we need to in order to spend quality time in God’s Word.
I’m so lazy!
We can’t bring ourselves to share the gospel with our friend who doesn’t know Jesus.
I’m so scared!
We determine our actions and appearances based on what others think.
I care so much!
When we get stuck in these cycles, we tend to wonder if we’re even a Christian. But there are countless examples of questions like these that bombard our worried minds; questions we ask because we think that after following Jesus for a minute or a month we should be past these common struggles and onto to mature battles. I’ve asked myself questions of this nature all the time.
Why am I still struggling with certain weaknesses that seem so out-of-date? I’ve pleaded with the Lord, with friends, and with pastors:
“Please God take away these weaknesses so I can get on to advancing your Kingdom and grow into a ‘better’ Christian!”
Little By Little
If you’re anything like me, there’s a strong dose of encouragement and hope for you in Deuteronomy 7. I stumbled upon this verse as I was behind in my Bible reading plan, which prompted the immediate question before reading,
God why do I always get so far behind when I do reading plans?
God knew my heart and he knew exactly what I needed. Take a look at verses 21 and 22.
“You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little.
A bit of context: the Israelites are waiting on the plains of Moab to enter Canaan, the promised land. God is speaking through Moses, telling them that God himself will give the peoples of the land of Canaan into the hands of the Israelites. When they enter the land, he will “clear away” the nations before them. But how does he say he will do this? God’s going to accomplish his plan for Israel “little by little.” What is that about? Let’s continue in chapter 8 verses 11-17 to see what God is up to:
“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”
What if God had not said “little by little?” What if he would have destroyed everybody in Israel’s way immediately? What if God desolated every city and army that stood in opposition to Israel all at once?
God designed spiritual growth to take seasons, not seconds.
I believe the “little by little” detail is there because of the reality of chapter 8:11-17. The Israelites were already prone to worship lesser things. They quickly wandered from their worship of God. How quickly would they have starting worshipping themselves for their military prowess and agricultural acumen if every obstacle that came their way was immediately removed? However, in a “little by little” circumstance, one must trust God each step of the way. When we’re in situations that require “little by little” faith, our adversaries look us in the eyes and we must fight to believe in a God who is bigger and stronger than what stands toe-to-toe with us at the moment.
Our Fight With Faith
Living in the “little by little” requires faith and trust that living in the “right now” doesn’t. When God promises to bring about change little by little, we must admit our dependency on Him and our own insufficiency. For Israel, God sovereignly acts little by little in order to make for himself a people that completely and fully trust and love him above all else. This is what God does for all his children; he clears obstacles little by little to build, shape, strengthen, and love his people.
From Israel’s example, we learn valuable truth for our own circumstances when we wonder why God is taking so long to do a work in us or a work through us. Maybe God is clearing away, little by little, the immaturities of your walk with him to show you that you are powerless to bring spiritual maturity by your own will. This is the process of sanctification, a process that takes a lifetime of walking, falling, stumbling, crawling, and running with God.
Don’t be deceived. We don’t become Christians one week and become pillars of godliness the next. Scripture shows this truth by looking to the reality of the harvest. Healthy growth requires planting, watering, and laboring. It’s because what is true in the ecological realm is true in the spiritual realm. Growth isn’t immediate. Growth comes in seasons, not seconds. God takes his time, even if we don’t like that about our journey with Him. But he gets us there by clearing away our obstacles and our sin little by little.
Sanctification is the process of walking, falling, stumbling, crawling, and running with God.
If we are faithful to trust our Father, He will be faithful to clear away the obstacles in our minds and hearts. As we trust Him, our trust will grow deeper. As we seek Him, our vision of Him will become clearer and clearer. As we proclaim the gospel, he will give our voice more and more volume.
So when we ask,
Why won’t God make me the boldest, wisest, most compassionate Christian right now?
Simply put, I believe God, in his sovereign wisdom, is divinely protecting us from self worship. He is protecting you and me from thinking that we know exactly the right words to say instead of depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. He is saving you and me from reading His Word for the sole purpose of gaining knowledge to use over others. He is graciously saving you and me from worshipping ourselves, the false idol that we are. His love is steadfast, weathering whatever storm we find ourselves in, no matter if we think we’re going to make it out or not.
When you find yourself frustrated with God, still struggling with the same old issues, don’t be. Don’t let sadness consume you if you’re still too afraid, too ignorant, too unholy, too ___________. Instead of sadness, breathe in hope. Trust him. Love him. Seek and love Christ with all you have and let everything else fall into its own place. It’s when we seek Him and love Him for the sole reason to experience Him that everything else fades away. It’s then that God will mightily move. Run towards Jesus and just like with Israel God will clear away the cities that stand in your way, little by little.