Do you ever find yourself frustrated with your pace of spiritual growth? Have you ever promised yourself you’d do something, or stop doing something, or do something differently, only to fall pitifully short of your own expectations?
If you’re like me, or like most Christians, you’ve felt this way—trapped by your own failures, a slave to your own sin.
We live in a limbo as believers. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, God sees us as perfect. He’s removed our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. Yet we still sin.
God has already made us perfect, but we’re still being sanctified. We’re free of our sin, but we don’t always act like it.
Often it’s in this limbo Christians become frustrated.
They’re overwhelmed by their failures, disheartened by their lack of discipline. Like Paul laments, “What I know I should do, I don’t do, and what I don’t want to do, I end up doing.” It’s a tough place to be.
And unfortunately, in this limbo, halfway down the road towards sanctification, many people quit. Frustrated by their inability to get it right, they leave the road altogether. It happens every day.
Robert Clinton did a study in his book “The Making of a Leader” where he discovered that out of 300 major spiritual leaders in the Bible, only 120 of those finished their lives still in the will of God. The other 180 quit, got off track, or gave up halfway through being sanctified.
So why does this happen? Why is it so easy for us to become disheartened, discouraged—to give up?
Here are three lies that keep us from finishing the race.
1. Our strength and endurance can carry us through.
This is a problem right from the start, a recipe for failure. We do not have enough spiritual strength stored up within us to carry us through our lives. If we try to live on our own reserves, we’ll sputter a few feet down the road before we run out of gas. On the contrary, our strength and endurance must come from God. He’s the only one who can sustain us, who can give us the energy and ability to finish the race.
2. Growth is a quick process.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know how this feels.
You’re working out and eating healthy, and after awhile you weigh yourself—hoping to see progress. If you step on that scale and the number hasn’t changed, it’s really hard to keep going.
But real change is never instant. It’s something that takes a lot of work and even more time. This is the same with our spiritual lives. Growth is a slow, steady process. And it’s something we must stick with in order to win the race.
3. This is a sprint, not a marathon.
When it comes to our spiritual lives, it’s easy for us to become so zealous we forget to pace ourselves.
Pastors experience this in ministry. We’re so “on fire” for the Lord and so dedicated to our ministry that we forget to rest. We pour out and pour out and find ourselves halfway to the finish line with nothing left to give.
It’s not that we should reserve our energy—because as long as we’re filling up on God, we’ll never run out.
It’s our mindset that needs to change.
Our spiritual lives are a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a life-long commitment, a marriage relationship, not a fling. And when we go into our Christian walks with this mindset, we’ll have the perspective of longevity necessary to make it to the end.
Our lives as Christians and our paths of sanctification aren’t easy. They require more than we can possibly give on our own—requiring all we have, and complete dependence on God for the rest. But when we stick it out, when we make it to the end, we can’t even imagine the prize waiting for us.