“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on” (Philippians 3:12).
WHEN MUCH-DESIRED CHARACTER CHANGE DOESN’T HAPPEN VERY QUICKLY, WE TEND TO GIVE UP HOPE THAT WE CAN EVER REALLY CHANGE AT ALL. But worthwhile journeys aren’t usually accomplished all at once, and we shouldn’t think that we’ve not gone anywhere, just because our journey toward God is not complete. Good things often take time.
The apostle Peter affirmed that real, significant character change can be a reality for those who are in Jesus Christ. In exhorting his readers to live reverently before God, he reminded them of the fundamental difference Christ had made in their lives: “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct . . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:13–19).
But as we gain confidence in the possibility of change, we also need to develop patience in the process of change. In this life, not even the most faithfully obedient Christian can claim to be anything more than a work in progress. In the ongoing renovation of our character, there is much damage yet to be repaired, and quick fixes will simply not suffice. In our hurried-up culture, we’ve gotten into the habit of demanding immediate results. But despite the appeal of an instant and effortless makeover, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to go for something greater, a real renewal that runs deeper than the surface? The unavoidable truth is that our hearts need an inside-out transformation. This is the goal God has in mind for us, and there is no shortcut to it. We should make sure that any impatience we have with our present imperfection does not turn into impatience with God Himself.
“A slow cure is best. Have courage and patience. The work of cleansing your soul will go on for a lifetime. Our perfection consists of struggling against our imperfection . . . Think of the possibilities God has placed in you” (Francis de Sales).