Someone forgot to tell the folks in my neighborhood that we're in a recession. While the housing market has gone bust in so many locales, not so in our little neck of the woods. In the eighteen months since we moved in, the builder has completed and sold over sixty new homes. Three years ago there we no homes on this once desolate rice plantation. Today there's already 200 with another 250 to come.
Every morning we watch as an army of workers arrive shortly after sunrise and swarm over a particular site like a legion of ants. This daily phenomena is both fascinating and illuminating. The skill and speed with which they work amazes the technologically challenged like me. Yet, there is a theological lesson to be learned as well.
As we sweep the previous day's dust from our front porch, we are reminded that our neighborhood is a work in progress. While our corner of the world is finished and neatly manicured lawns, just around the corner the work goes on. Weeds grow in vacant lots. Port-a-johns dot the landscape. Our neighborhood won't be truly complete until the last house goes up and the last worker goes home.
The same blueprint holds true for the Christian life. We want so much more from our spiritual life. We expect neatly manicured lives. Yet, when we bash our thumbs with the hammers of everyday living we are painfully reminded that things aren't always the way we wish they were. So long as we live, we are a work in progress.
The realization that we're not all that we're going to be unsettles many Christians. They're disappointed with themselves. They beat themselves up. They regroup. They revise. They redouble their efforts. And, then, they repeat their mistakes again. Around and around they go on the carousel of life wanting to get off but have nowhere to go.
Such disappointment is natural. We long to please our Savior. We desperately want to be like him. We regret every failure. Worse, we play it over and over again in our minds like an instant replay of the missed opportunity that cost us the big game. We hang our heads and wonder why we should ever try again.
Take heart, Christians. Defeat is temporary. Glory is forever. And, God isn't done with you, yet.
I find great encouragement in Paul's words to the Philippians. "[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Php 1:6).
Three things should buoy our hopes:
God starts this work. The God who created the universe out of nothing, the God who created Adam out of dirt is the God who began the process of remodeling our spiritual lives. It's his plan. He can handle the job.
God continues this work. While Christians bear great responsibility for their spiritual walk, God, through the Holy Spirit, is the one who ultimately doing the work. We're his workmanship (Eph 2:10). He knows what he is doing.
God completes this work. He will sanctify us. He will perfect us. He will ultimately glorify us. We don't have to worry about the end result because unlike many handymen, God always finishes what he starts.
So, the next time you mishit the nail, the next time you spill the paint, the next time you cut the spiritual boards of your life too short, don't give up hope. Admit your weakness. Confess your sins. And, lean upon the master builder.
In the meantime, remember, he's not done with you yet.
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About Peter Beck
Peter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
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