A couple years ago, I attended a local conference organized by an undergraduate chapter of a global non-profit, whose mission I had admired for a while. I have beautiful memories from the trip and I learnt a valuable life lesson from the keynote speaker, the president of the non-profit, who we’ll call MJN for the purpose of this piece. After MJN concluded the keynote address, someone from the audience asked him if he ever feels discouraged by the magnitude of the task at hand, especially because the problem seems to be stubbornly persistent. As someone who earnestly desires to start my own nonprofit when I’m older, I valued the question and waited eagerly for a response. He calmly explained that whenever one tries to solve a mountainous problem, progress will always feel slow and sometimes, it will appear as though there is no progress at all. Yet, if one retraces one’s steps, perhaps in his case, looks at reports and statistics, one would see that there is indeed some progress.
Weeks back, I remembered MJN’s words and my Spirit illuminated his words so that they ministered to me in the context of my faith. I felt that there are two groups of people who are currently dissatisfied with their relationship with God and the first group could potentially learn from MJN. For some of us, we are frustrated by what seems to be a lack of progress in our walk with God. We still struggle with many of the things that we had said we would relinquish for the sake of our faith and we find ourselves in cycles of heavy self-condemnation. There’s a Bible Verse in Romans where the writer, Paul, laments his life of contradictions, “where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7:25, MSG). I love that Paul was so honest in his documentation about his “life of contradictions” because he has shown us that trying to live for God can be a battle. I feel the need to encourage someone to keep fighting; God sees you and honours your battle. It seems like there is no progress in your walk with God because you have a long way to go. Yet, like the non-profit leader implied, if you look back carefully, you will see that there has been growth. If you retrace your steps, you will see God’s footprints; He has carried you through different stages and there is a gulley between where you once were and where you are right now. If you really need some encouragement, pray that God reveals snippets of the progress so far. Progress, grace, over perfection.
While this piece is mainly directed to the first group of people that are unhappy with their relationship with God, those who don’t see any progress, some of us are experiencing a different kind of dissatisfaction. We have heard about God and desire a relationship with God but we have let the desire remain a desire. We don’t know where to start from, or we are caught up in the ephemeral things of life and so, we don’t pursue our desire with as much fire as it requires. There is a Biblical story that comes to mind, one of the many testimonies of healing performed by Jesus. Jesus encountered a man in Jerusalem who had been bed-ridden for 38 years. When Jesus saw him, he said “Do you want to get well?” The man did not answer the question but instead, began talking about how his illness limits him, to which Jesus replied, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” The man got well immediately and began walking. I love this story because, healing was already his, he just had to claim it. There is so much we could say about why we have not run after this precious thing that we profess our desire for, ranging from time constraints to distractions, but the reply is simple: we need to get up and begin to walk.
A relationship with God is not beyond our reach but as with everything else in life, it takes work and intentionality to get it. For example, if you desire to get into law school, you will block out the necessary distractions from going off social media to creating study timetables and sticking to them, in order to achieve that goal. I acknowledge the supernatural element to a spiritual goal and how it differs greatly from working towards a more bodily goal such as getting to the gym. Yet, while the struggle will be different, the same principles of prioritization and discipline apply here. I remind myself often that I have some way to go in my walk with God and in that reminder, I question my Spirit: “So how are we going to get there? What is the strategy?” We should not ask perfection of ourselves, we should give ourselves grace. At the same time, we must tell ourselves the truth, there needs to be progress, however little. As the maxim goes, “Little by little becomes a lot.”
Don’t ask God to order your footsteps if you’re not willing to walk. -Natalie Manuel Lee.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not vain.-1 Corinthians 15:58.
Progress over perfection.-Mike Todd.
We are praying for everyone who feels broken by grief in this season, especially for the family of Sylvester Oromoni, the 12 year-old boy who was bullied to death in his highschool in Lagos, Nigeria. We pray for restoration of their joy and that Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit,” will be their truth.