Progress, Not Perfection
For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. Romans 4:9-10
I sometimes get discouraged with my persistent flaws. I still have an appetite for unhealthy food. I can have a short temper and I’m often selfish. When, in following my way, I hurt myself or those around me, I get frustrated, feeling that I should be further along by now. I should be more mature, and I shouldn’t fail anymore.
My error I think, is the same error I made in my addiction. Back then, I assumed that if I just prayed to God, believing in him, that I’d be completely fixed. Growing up, I was appropriately taught that I was saved by faith and that in faith, I became a new creature in Christ. I mistakenly thought then that all my hard work was miraculously done. I assumed that faith meant I no longer had to do anything.
In today’s passage, Paul defines the relationship between faith and works. He explained that Abraham believed and was considered righteous by God. Then, Abraham obediently followed God. Abraham’s actions didn’t save him, but his obedience was the evidence that his faith was real. He was saved by faith, but that faith led to action. Without the subsequent action his faith wouldn’t have been authentic.
This is where a lot of us find ourselves. We believe in God, but we’ve stopped there. That belief has never turned into action. We mistakenly live as if God does everything for us. Then, when we fail in some way, we wonder why God hasn’t removed our flaws.
When I’ve failed, I can usually look back and see that the reason I did so is that I followed me above God, which is my persistent nature. There’s always going to be some part of me that wants to do that. I’m not going to be perfect in this life and I’m always going to struggle with something.
Abraham wasn’t made perfect when he came to faith, but God considered him righteous because of his faith. Abraham followed God, continually making spiritual progress, even though he was never made perfect in this life.
We may be saved by faith, but that’s just the beginning. If our faith is real, we too will follow God, continually seeking spiritual progress.