Some times I think we have an all or nothing, hit or miss view of sanctification.
I want to be a more patient mother. I know when I’m patient, and I know when I’m not. But I’m feel like an abject failure every time I am impatient.
Or, I want to be wise. I see wise older women, and I like what I see. But when I try to be wise, I fall short. Failure again.
Is this really failure?
After all, sin is serious. And of course impatience is always a sin, since patience is a fruit of the spirit, right? And perhaps wisdom is more a personality trait than spiritual discipline.
Was Jesus ever impatient? Hmmm, let’s save that for another day.
It doesn’t matter what spiritual goal I’m striving for, it seems that I expect myself to be suddenly mature. If I’m not, I feel miserable and want to give up. Some want to help those who are overwhelmed by failure, and strangely advocate simply throwing off the idea that the Christian life comes with obligations. For them, it’s all about grace and the gospel.
Why not a more biblical approach to sanctification?
Let’s say I recognize I am a spiritual baby when it comes to patience. Fine. How am I going to get to maturity? The Bible has something to say about this– practice. Of course I fail. That’s part of growing up. I sometimes remind myself of my children when they were younger, crying because they couldn’t draw a certain animal like an older sibling. You’re three! I would say. Just keep practicing, and your birds will start to look like birds.
Just keep practicing, and you’ll be patient. You will grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18). You will add to your faith gradually (II Peter 1:5ff). It won’t happen in a week, but it will happen. Don’t lose hope, or stop striving when you stumble (Proverbs 24:16; Psalm 37:24)
This is why it’s so important to get back up and start fresh. That’s why the new year can be so much fun. Or a new month! Or a new day! Or… a new hour. Or have you never had to reset your attitude in the middle of the day? I have, on many occasions.
Spiritual maturity isn’t all or nothing. It is not inconsistent with the Christian life to struggle with sin. It’s inconsistent not to struggle, but even here- the biblical authors command Christians to wake up, grow up, and act worthy of their calling. See Ephesians 4:1, or 5:14 or Colossians 2:6. It is not at all unbiblical to throw ourselves on the mercy of God when we fail. God gives grace to the humble.