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Unmet Goals and the Spirit's Gracious Work




Unmet Goals and the Spirit's Gracious Work

Jessalyn Hutto

“We must not suppose that the measure of our understanding or experience is the measure of the Spirit’s working.” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray)

As a young, ambitious Christian, my teen self had big plans for my future super-spiritual adult self. By this time in my life I planned to have a certain (large) amount of Bible passages memorized, have read through my Bible a certain (large)amount of times, and have gotten this prayer discipline down pat. I saw myself brimming with anticipation each morning as my alarm clock went off, practically singing my way out of bed for morning devotions (coffee? who needs that?!). Oh, and did I mention that on top of all that I was hoping to be able to read Greek by now?

Needless to say, my younger self would be very disappointed by a peek into her future. When it comes to the spiritual disciplines–the joyful work of daily accepting the the gifts of God’s grace–they still require, well, a lot of work. And Greek? Heh, I memorized the alphabet before having children, and haven’t had time to think about it since. It seems reading the New Testament in its original language will have to wait for a later day–a much later day!

But all is not lost.

The spiritual check list I created for myself might be lacking in victorious check marks and at times I may be tempted to feel defeated in this Christian life of mine, but through the grace of God my love for Christ is greater today than it was yesterday. More importantly, my understanding of his love for me is so much deeper than I could have ever imagined back in those early years as a Christian. God has taken the earnest, and yet feeble, desires of a young girl who barely knew him and given her so much more.

As I have endeavored to see the Lord through his revealed Word and sought to have my will more aligned the his through prayer, he has not left me wanting. Though I am not the “spiritual giant” that I once hoped to be, my view of God is indeed giant when compared to what I knew of him when I set my eyes on spiritual maturity. And how is this possible? How is it that my frail efforts toward holiness have been rewarded with greater fellowship with our Holy God?

Through the power of the Spirit who is working to mold me into the image of Christ!

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)

A close friend and I recently marveled at the goodness of God to continually draw us nearer to him, to continually reveal himself through his word, through prayer, through trials, through friendships–through his providence. We laughed at how naive we had been as new believers thinking we had things all figured out. I used to hear older saints speak about their relationships with Jesus as getting sweeter and sweeter as time went on and brush it off as sentimentalism. And yet, here I am today confidently able to say that I’m beginning to see what they meant.

No, I haven’t memorized as many Bible passages as I had hoped to by now, and yes, I still have to drag myself out of bed each morning in order to spend time in prayer, but the time I have spent pressing into the Lord through these disciplines has been time well spent.

It has given me the opportunity to understand and know this God who has lavished his grace upon me better. It has taught me to come to him as a child in need of the daily care of her loving, compassionate Father. It has been used by the Holy Spirit to transform me from one degree of glory to another!

Do you feel as though you are not making any progress in your spiritual walk? Do you feel defeated by goals you have made in the past and failed to live up to? Have you made one too many New Year’s Resolutions that have fallen flat by the end of February? Do not fear dear sister. If you have trusted in the finished work of Christ for salvation, then you are already counted righteous. You are perfect in Christ. What’s more? His Spirit is daily working in you to conform you to his image. You may not see it happening from moment to moment, and it may not be by the specific means you thought it would, but you can count on his desire for and ability to bring about growth in holiness in your life.