“And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
“What do you want to be in 10 years?” That is a standard question I ask college students. The answers can be very interesting. One replied, “I’d like to be at least a junior.” That’s really shooting for the stars. What about you? What will your life be like in 10 years?
Let’s change it slightly. Imagine you are at a funeral, your own funeral. Based on who you are right now what do you think people will be saying about you at your funeral? Do you think many people will show up? More importantly what would you like people to say about you at your funeral? I was at a meeting one time in which a colleague made this observation about another minister, “He’s always so affirming. He always has something good to say about another person. I wish I could be like that.”
I believe a real part of the good news in Christ is you can envision a better future and ask God to help you become more of the son or daughter He wants you to be. One key to this growth is to see all of life as an expression of your spiritual commitments. That’s where most of us stumble.
People regularly aim at making improvements in life: personally, vocationally, financially, etc. These are all fine except when we separate any area from life in the Spirit. I want to underscore here that you cannot separate your spiritual life that way as if it were simply one more component of a well-ordered life. Jesus taught us we may gain the whole world but lose our souls, we will serve God or mammon, and we must seek first His kingdom. So, of first importance make living in the Spirit THE priority. All the other things will be added to you.
Now if your primary goal is life in the Spirit then you have a huge advantage because God is very much on your side. He wants you to grow. In many places in scripture we are assured that we are works in progress, and God is directing the construction. That is Paul’s very hopeful point in the verse for this week’s GraceWaves. God is at work in you this very moment, and He will bring to completion His work. You are under construction!
The truly exciting thing about growing in the Spirit is that God invites your participation. Make the commitment regularly to lay your life before God and ask Him to build into you the kind of qualities that are real and eternal. Pray about the kind of person God wants you to be. Let Him lead you to new commitments and give you insight into things you must leave behind. Start now.
I like a story I recently read about William Barclay, a gifted and prolific writer of Bible commentaries and many other books (I’ve wondered if he ever had an unpublished thought). Not long after his funeral in 1978 one of his relatives was going through his papers and found a document, yellowed with age, labeled “An Act of Commitment.” Barclay had written it on his sixteenth birthday, as a student at Glasgow. He had listed several specific Christian commitments he made to God. The last one read: “To Thee, O Lord, I leave the management of all events and say without reserve, not my will, but Thine be done.” What is most notable about the document is the list of signatures, his own signatures. For every year since his sixteenth, on his birthday, he signed it again.
To grow into the sons and daughters God envisioned you need that same kind of repeated and consistent focus. Every day pledge yourself to God’s workmanship, take up your cross daily, and follow the Lord. This consistent consciousness of walking in the Spirit also has the benefit of infusing even mundane tasks with a potentially eternal significance, and making aging a rather exciting venture. I honestly look forward to what I will be in ten years, knowing how much I have learned and grown in the last ten.
So this week, do not neglect the consistent commitment, and do not mourn your lack of progress. Your status, or percentage of completion, this present day does not surprise God. Simply take His hand again, pray to Him your commitment, and be grateful that, though you are not yet completed, you are under construction.
Dr. Terry Ellis
January 31, 2011