February 1, 2021
By Gina Padilla
Practice makes progress was the phrase I kept hearing as I huffed, puffed, and sweated my way through a YouTube workout. I watched the perfectly-toned woman on my big-screen TV moving effortlessly through each exercise without breaking a sweat, while I fell out of plank pose that she wanted me to hold for “just a bit longer.” As I took a drink of water wanting to hurl it at the screen, I realized I had held the plank for a longer time than when I had done the workout previously. I didn’t have the non-sweat genes, flexibility or strength that the instructor did, but I knew I was making progress.
As I pondered “practice makes progress” in my quest to get more physically fit, I also began to ponder it in my quest to be more spiritually fit.
Being saved through Christ does not mean that we are perfect people who will never sin again. The urge toward sin doesn’t automatically go away once we are believers. We live in a fallen world and our sinful nature is going to fight to be heard. The only way to combat that urge is to run to the Father, not from Him, when we mess up.
Despite being a follower of Christ, I continue to mess up.
I can have a beautiful morning quiet time and then curse at the first person who cuts me off in traffic. I can enjoy a Sunday service and lose my patience with my husband on the drive home. I can experience an insightful Bible study and then find myself participating in gossip.
As the Spirit makes me aware of these sins there are times I feel ashamed and unworthy to be in His presence. This is exactly what the enemy wants us to feel. We can’t be messengers of God’s love if we are constantly feeling unworthy. We don’t need to be perfect to be in God’s presence, the blood of Jesus took care of that.
If we are in a constant state of self-condemnation for “not being good enough” we fall into despair and helplessness and we can’t grow God’s kingdom. The enemy wants nothing more than to stop us from spreading the joy of Jesus by keeping us feeling unworthy.
Living under the grace of Jesus doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. We shouldn’t be cavalier about sin and ask for forgiveness if we have no intention of trying to stay out of that sin. Just as we improve our physical strength with exercise, we improve our spiritual strength by sincere repentance and prayer – not just going through the motions.
If we sincerely ask Jesus to work in us, we will learn to have more compassion, kindness and patience with others and ourselves. And as we continue to seek Him first maybe we won’t curse in traffic at the person who cuts us off, maybe we won’t lose our patience with our spouse and maybe we will stop the gossip before it starts.
Of course, we will never be perfect, but if we pursue our relationship with Jesus we will continue to grow in Him and move forward.
When I did my next workout, I held the plank pose for the entire time. It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. . . . But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:12-14 NIV