Progress not Perfection
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12
We’ve always enjoyed watching the Olympics at our house, so, over the last two weeks we’ve sat down every night to cheer on team USA. It’s always amazing to watch the skill of those who’ve dedicated their lives to training for this, the world’s biggest stage. Those athletes have worked for years, nearly perfecting their abilities to do things that I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) imagine even attempting.
Yes, I can snowboard, but I’m never even going to enter a halfpipe. Sure, I can put on ice skates, but what I do with them looks nothing like what these Olympians do with them. They are light years beyond me. As someone who still aspires to be something of an athlete, their skill can have one of two effects on me. It can demoralize me. I’m terrible. I’ll never be as good as they are. What’s the use in trying? I might as well give up. Or, I can be inspired. Look what you can do if you dedicate yourself. I may not ever be as good as that, but I can be better than I am today. I’m going to work hard every day so that a year from now, I can look back and see progress.
This is similar to the effect that today’s passage has on me whenever I read it. The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote that he wasn’t yet made perfect. He was the Olympic athlete of the early church, but still he said that daily, he worked on growing. Like today’s Olympians, this can have one of two effects on me. I can throw my hands up in despair. If Paul hadn’t yet arrived, I’ll never get there! Or, I can be inspired. Even Paul wasn’t perfect, but still, he pressed on. So must I.
None of us will arrive at perfection in this life. That’s OK. We don’t have to be perfect. We can continually grow and change though. We can be better today than we were yesterday. This is the Christian life, to daily abandon the old to follow the new. Like getting into the Olympics however, this doesn’t happen accidentally. Growth is something we must work at every day. We don’t earn our salvation. Jesus has completed the work of redemption. Because he saved us though, our only proper response is to daily do whatever it takes to pursue our new life in him. No, we’re not perfect, but we can strive to be better than we were yesterday.