Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already been made perfect,
Many are satisfied with their progress in the Christian faith. They attend church regularly, and perhaps even participate in a Sunday School class. They may tithe regularly, take part in Bible studies, and serve on church boards. They are well respected in the community as well as in Christian circles. Within their families and occupations they may also have respect and honor. Some may also have a consistent walk with Christ in their daily lives, with a regular quiet time characterized by scripture intake and prayer. They may have memorized scripture faithfully, shared the gospel with others, and been involved in discipling others. Have these people reached their goal in Christian life? Have they, so to speak, arrived? There is a tendency to plateau and to be satisfied with a certain level of attainment in the spiritual realm. The Apostle Paul, however, despite all that he had accomplished and to which was committed, recognized that he had not yet obtained, and was not already made perfect.
In the athletic world we do not find complacency. No one says, “I am as good as I can be.” They all strive for improvement, even in a sport in which they will participate for only a few years. They have a daily commitment to physical exercise, training and conditioning. They do not accept mediocrity, or merely being able to “get by” in their sport. Any imperfection is rigorously addressed with regard to its removal.
Three months ago, I had an accident with a mountain bike while in Colorado. Some of the injuries included trauma to the right wrist and hand. A tendon in the small finger was ruptured by a stone which penetrated the middle joint of the finger. Surgery was required and I was required to wear a splint for four weeks until the tendon was healed. In the last two months, two hours a day have been spent in finger, hand and wrist therapy. Gradually, the two joints of the little finger have become more flexible. In my visits to the orthopedic surgeon and the hand therapist, they have told me that the finger will stop improving and become fixed at whatever point I stop the therapy. Initially, I started with only 18 degrees of flexion of the joint tip of the finger, compared to over 90 degrees in a normal finger. It has now improved to 44 degrees, and I have recovered about 80% of the function of the hand and finger. There is still functional disability, however; and I am left with a weak grip in the right hand. The therapy continues to be time consuming, involves some discomfort, and there is discouragement with either slow progress or what I see at times as lack of progress. If I choose to stop the treatments, however, I will be left with permanent disability.
Do our attempts to progress in the spiritual realm seem arduous at times? Do we regard it as too time consuming? Does it involve discomfort? Are we discouraged with a seeming lack of progress? To the measure that these decrease our commitment to pursue growth in the spiritual realm we are left with some degree of spiritual disability and a weakened spiritual grip on all that we possess in Christ.
Paul’s goal for the body of Christ is stated in Ephesians 4:13. “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” His response to his recognition of not having already obtained and the lack of perfection in his own life was clearly stated in verse 14 of Philippians 3. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” To press indicates the presence of opposition and resistance. We will experience opposition rendered by discouragement over seeming lack of progress, by discomfort, and by the demands on our time. Our goal, however, is the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. It is my prayer for you that you let nothing hinder your progress toward that prize.