Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was a textbook that my high school students became familiar with at Red Lion. Yet, as their Bible teacher, one phrase has stuck with me the past twenty years, “success is the process of arrival.” Like the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14, Christians don’t arrive in heaven on earth. Rather, the sanctification process of God’s grace takes a lifetime to complete. Therefore, embrace progress over perfection in 2023 as success is a process, not actually arriving.
The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. 24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him, Psalm 37:23-24.
I guess you can say King David learned this lesson the hard way following his affair with Bathsheba. After being rebuked by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-11, David’s imperfections turned into a generational sin. Perhaps, the words in the passage above are David’s attempt to embrace small steps of spiritual progress. Whenever anyone stumbles in life due to acts of disobedience, you have to learn all over again how to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you, Philippians 1:6.
The apostle Paul touches on embracing progress over perfection. Paul understood that Jesus calls his followers to strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, but faith is a lifelong process. Therefore, while you will have periods of backsliding, idleness or rebellion like the prodigal son in Luke 15, God still has a plan for your life. Just as the prophet Jonah didn’t go to Nineveh the route God intended, embrace progress over perfection so that God will finish the work that He began in you this year.
by Jay Mankus