“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).
IT IS NOT FROM THINKING ALONE THAT WE MAKE SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, BUT RATHER FROM THINKING, DOING, AND THEN LEARNING FROM WHAT WE’VE DONE. Whoever makes an honest attempt to do what God’s word has taught him to do, that person, James says, “will be blessed in what he does.” We get to higher ground not by meditation alone, but by movement.
Our conscience is a cautionary faculty that warns us when we’re about to violate our principles. It was given to restrain us. But sometimes we need to be stimulated, and our conscience should do that also. It should move us to act in ways that are consistent with our principles. Often, however, we fail to act. Afraid of making a mistake, we do nothing. And consequently, we learn nothing. By failing to act on the best of our present understanding, we forfeit the opportunity to grow in that understanding.
Improvement is the result of examining what we’ve done. The more we do, the more we have a chance to improve. But if we wait to do anything until we can get it exactly right, we’ll probably do very little. Perfect conditions for action rarely present themselves, and the person who waits for them is wasting valuable time. “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). In the real world, we have to go ahead and do the best we can.
Spiritual growth has more than one dimension. On the one hand, it requires that we eschew evil. But on the other, it requires that we do the good we know to do, and then learn to do even better. “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . .” (2 Peter 3:17,18). Maturity comes from actions carefully considered beforehand and then carefully evaluated afterward.
“Renewal is the principle — and the process — that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement . . . Moving along the upward spiral requires us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher planes” (Stephen R. Covey).