Tag Archives: Spiritual Journey

Should We Seek Perfection, Progress, or Neither?

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The following blog was first posted on LiftUpYourDay.com. Click over to their site for more encouragement!


 

For years, the media has sold us an image of perfection. We idolize celebrities and models in movies, TV shows, and print ads. We envy their photo-shopped looks and overflowing bank accounts, all the while feeling totally inadequate in comparison. In response to this, the following advice has become commonplace: “Seek progress, not perfection.” Apparently, Hollywood can be perfect, but we common folk should settle for progress.

However, lately I’ve been hearing a new message: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” So, now it doesn’t matter what we say or do; we just have to wake up in the morning to be perfect. And since everyone is perfect, no one has to feel pressured to seek progress.

Each of these messages can be used to justify our actions (or lack thereof). So, what’s the truth? Do we seek perfection, progress, or neither? As Christians, we should look to the Bible for our answer.

 

Be Perfect

One of the grandest statements in Scripture is found in Matthew 5. After admonishing the disciples to love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NAS).

If we can’t even compare to celebrities, how can we be perfect as God is perfect? How should we interpret this today?

First, note that Jesus was NOT talking about heaven. He simply said the disciples would be perfect if they loved and obeyed God and loved their fellow man. As Jesus’ disciples today, this applies to us, too.

Second, the word “perfect” here is derived from the Greek word teleios, meaning “complete” or “having reached its end.” This does NOT mean that we’ll gain special powers, that we’ll stop making mistakes, or that we’ll never need to ask for forgiveness again. I will NOT become Super Woman, and you will NOT become Anne Hathaway.

However, this Scripture DOES mean that we’ll become complete, mature versions of ourselves—the epitome of what God intended us to be when He created us. I’ll be the perfect me, and you’ll be the perfect you.

 

Make Progress

I’ve heard parents say they wish their children could remain babies forever, but they don’t really mean that. Instead, they want what is best for their children: for them to grow and mature until they realize their full potential as adults. As our Heavenly Father, God wants the same thing for us!

Paul explained that we must “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS). He then said that we should use our talents and the roles God gives us within the Church Body “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NAS, emphasis mine).

The word “mature” here is the same word teleios meaning, “perfect, complete, having reached its end.” In other words, we should strive toward righteousness, obedience, and unity, growing in the knowledge of the Lord until the whole Church Body is where it should be.

This act of maturing, of perfecting, is not a one-time activity! It is not relegated to the point of salvation, baptism, or confirmation. Instead, it covers a lifelong pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives.

And God expects us to make progress.

 

Progress in the Pursuit of Perfection

God is not concerned with the world’s definition of perfection, and neither should we. The media’s messages might tickle the ears, but they are empty of real truth. God’s message is much more meaningful and valuable! His Word says that we should seek Him first, and that we should strive to be what He made us to be so we can do what He’s called us to do.

In other words, we should make progress in the pursuit of God’s perfection.

If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on their meaning. If you feel convicted to make progress in your spiritual life, ask the Lord what steps you should take. Then, stand in faith that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b NAS).


I’d love to know your thoughts on this post! Have you struggled with the concept of perfection? Is the idea of progressing in your journey a new one for you? Please leave a comment or send me a private message. Thanks for reading BigSisterKnows!

A Race Worth Running

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I don’t run. Ever. When it comes to fight or flight, my natural response is to stand my ground. And as far as exercise goes…well, let’s just say I don’t own a pair of jogging shorts.

In fact, if you ever do catch me running, something really horrible must be chasing me—like a homicidal snow beast wielding a basket full of spiders. In that case, I suggest that we all run until we reach the next town.

 

What are We Running From?

Some people are born to run, and I’m beginning to think the apostle Paul was one of them. Throughout his pastoral letters in the New Testament, he references running or fleeing several times, and yet none of those situations involve snow beasts. So, what exactly are we supposed to be running from?

Paul specifically mentions the following:

  • Sexual immorality (1 Cor 6:18)
  • Idolatry (1 Cor 10:14)
  • Love of money (1 Tim 6:10-11)
  • Youthful desires that cause division in the church (2 Tim 2:22-23)

In other words, we should flee from sin.

And what should we run to?

  • Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11)
  • Peace, kindness, and patience (2 Tim 2:22-26)

Or, as Moses simply put it, we should run to God. (See Deut 4:29.)

 

How Do We Prepare? 

A marathon runner doesn’t simply wake up one day, lace his shoes, and then run 26.2 miles. He has to commit himself to daily discipline for months just so he can compete well and avoid ending up in the hospital.

Paul referenced this need for discipline in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things…I discipline my body and make it my slave…” (1 Corinthians 9:25 and 27a NAS).

Paul is saying here that we should approach our spiritual journey with the same effort and diligence of an athlete training for a competition. However, we can’t develop this level of discipline overnight. Instead, it must be cultivated over time through such spiritual exercises as learning God’s Word, developing a spirit of obedience, and loving others as we love ourselves. Only by stretching these spiritual muscles can we hope to run the race well.

 

What Do We Win?

Nevertheless, discipline should never be developed for its own sake. The runner doesn’t train so he can train some more. He trains so he can run the official race and lay claim to the prize!

“Run in such a way that you may win. … [Those who compete] do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air…”  (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NAS).

Here, Paul says we should run our spiritual race so that we may win. But what is this imperishable prize he’s referring to? Fortunately, he provides some clarification:

  • “I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” (1 Cor 9:23)
  • “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so…I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)
  • “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philip 3:13)

In these verses, Paul isn’t referring to salvation but sanctification—that process where we become more holy, and more like Jesus, as we grow closer to Him. Discipline is an important part of that sanctification process because it enables us to grow closer to the Lord—and that is the ultimate prize.

 

Run With Purpose

Perhaps you’re one of those people who love to jog, sprint, or do the Cliffy shuffle across the country. Or maybe you’re more like me, and just the thought of lacing up those tennis shoes makes you want to take a nap. Either way, we should all seek to discipline ourselves spiritually so that we can run the most important of races—away from sin and toward the One who has forgiven us.

May you run with purpose and lay hold of the Prize.

 

“Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31 NAS).

 

 

 

The Problem with Proverbs 31

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The following blog was posted this week on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


 

The Woman

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’ve probably heard about Proverbs 31. Depending on your Bible translation, you may know this as the chapter describing the “virtuous woman” or the “excellent wife.” (See verse 10.) I used to think of this fictitious person as the Perfect Woman—Mother Theresa, Martha Stewart, and Ivanka Trump rolled into one modern day Super Hero.

Sounds cool, right? Sure, until you read the details.

This woman

  • does good things for her husband every day of her life (with no exception);
  • makes beautiful clothes and linen for her family using exotic raw materials she’s sourced in the marketplace;
  • finds time to make additional items, which she sells through her own clothing line;
  • is also a successful farmer and vine dresser;
  • never sleeps, rests, or is idle (and probably doesn’t blink for that matter);
  • still has the energy to mentor others;
  • is strong, wise, and dignified; and
  • apparently doesn’t have a negative bone in her body. (God bless her heart!)

 

The Frustration

Is it just me, or does this woman give us over-worked, over-stressed, under-paid girls a bad name? Don’t you just hate her? Can we agree to ignore this chapter all together?

Okay, so I was a little mad at the Proverbs 31 woman for a while. I was also frustrated at the preachers and teachers who lifted her up as the standard against which all women are measured. I was doing good to get out of bed on Sunday morning, so this comparison to the Proverbs 31 woman was becoming a stumbling block for me. I began to feel guilt and self-condemnation because I couldn’t measure up. My solution was to ignore that entire chapter as best I could.

 

The Truth

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t let me off that easy. Over a period of years, He kept bringing me back to Proverbs 31. Eventually, I discovered something amazing: this isn’t a to-do list of all the things we have to accomplish daily for God to love us and use us. Instead, this chapter is like a map of our spiritual journey as seen from a 20,000-foot vantage point.

For example, the woman buys a field, plants a garden, sells the produce, and then buys a vineyard with the earnings. Later, she helps the poor and needy. (See Proverbs 31:16-20.) We all recognize that we can’t reap what we don’t sow, and we can’t bless others if we have nothing to give. Even from a spiritual standpoint, we can’t offer the gifts of knowledge and wisdom until we’ve received them ourselves. Proverbs 31 contains many such natural laws, which helps us understand our spiritual journeys and track our progress.

I also realized that Proverbs 31 applies to both men and women. There are numerous Scriptures depicting God as a bridegroom courting His bride, which is the Church. (See Matthew 9:15 and Revelation 21:9-10.) So, when we read figurative Scriptures referring to the marriage relationship, we can usually put ourselves in the wife’s role and Jesus in the husband’s role. Applying this to Proverbs 31 has given me a new outlook on how we, the Church, interact with Jesus.

 

The Encouragement

Over time, I came to see that the problem with Proverbs 31 wasn’t with the Scripture at all—it was with my own misunderstanding of the Word. I encourage you to read this important chapter again with fresh eyes. Notice how the woman grows over time, from faithful servant to wise teacher. Then read the verses again as if the woman is the Church body and the husband is Jesus.

Instead of running from this chapter—like I wanted to—lean into it. Seek God’s guidance and understanding. Let go of the guilt of not being a Super Hero and pursue the greater role of an obedient child of God. May this bless you and encourage you on your journey.

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NAS).


The book I’ve been writing, Girls with Gusto, delves into these topics of perfection and Proverbs 31. As I pull these sections together, I’ll share them here with you. Please give me feedback—what you like or don’t like, what you find encouraging, and what’s difficult for you to live out in your daily life. Thank you!