I passed her in the hall during her morning walk. She was moving a bit slower than usual, though, so I paused to check on her.
“I’m pacing myself.” She then interrupted her reply with her endearing chuckle. “The faster I move, the sooner I get tired. I don’t want to wear out too soon.”
Now I know you’ve heard it said that this life of faith is not a sprint but, rather, a marathon.
But don’t we want to reach our goals NOW? We get disappointed, frustrated even, when we haven’t attained our desired level of maturity—unrealistically demanding it to get here all at once and in a hurry. But isn’t it a life long process? And, even after years of growing in grace, no matter how much God has transformed us, isn’t there always room for improvement?
So why do we beat ourselves up when we don’t meet our own unrealistic expectations? (Or maybe the discouragement is a weapon in the hand of our enemy to get us to stop trying—but that’s a topic for another day!)
We can have a contentment, however, that comes from the New Testament. There are several encouraging verses on the matter. Here's but a snapshot—so that a certain assurance can be ours:
We can be ok with our current level of maturity . . .
When we know we are training ourselves by the Word
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14 emph mine).
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God” (Heb 6:1 emph mine).
When we pray for one another
“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col 4:12 emph mine).
When you are persevering
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
When we don’t let the worries of this world choke out the Word of God
“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14 emph mine).
If you are pressing on
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things” (Philippians 3:14-15a emph mine).
Finally, and most importantly, you don’t have to question your progress in maturity when…
You are being humble and gentle; showing patience, bearing with one another in love. And if you are “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” you can feel confident that you are growing in spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:1 emph mine).
Keep straining toward the goal . . . until the end of the race, Christian. Keep in step with the Spirit so as not to tire out, burn out, or give out too soon. And be realistic in your expectations—being gracious with your pace of progress.
Quite simply, if we remain
connected to God;
connected to the Word;
connected to the Body;
and committed to discipleship
assurance of progress in maturity can be ours.
I’m happy to report that I saw Mrs. Jean walking a few times over the course of the day. And her words of wisdom entertained my thoughts throughout.
At days end I came upon her once again, “I see you paced yourself. I love what you said earlier. I may have to quote you on that!” A gentle chuckle was her only reply—as she kept a strong and steady pace, never missing a step.