Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Phil. 3:12
I am in a hurry. I’ve always been in a hurry. I talk fast, I eat fast, I try to run fast. When a decision is reached about something in our lives, (selling a house, building the next house, adopting a baby, publishing a book, training our children in the Gospel, teaching them to read, etc.), I want to get ‘er done yesterday! In the few years that I took piano lessons as a child, I wanted to practice minimally and play perfectly. That didn’t really happen, of course.
The same is true for the “being made holy” (Heb. 10:14) process between my spiritual adoption and ultimate glorification as God’s Beloved. Since I think I know the goal, I’d like to hurry up and get ‘er done. I assume that if I can just put together a good sanctification strategic plan and commit to longer hours with more diligent effort, I can just speed this process up.
But, based on the history that has already occured between Genesis 3 and now, it doesn’t seem that God is in my same kind of urgent hurry. He is perfectly content with process. He is not anxious to rapidly perfect His people. The Israelites did not realize, as Edmund Clowney noted, that God’s purpose for leading them in what turned out to be a longer journey than required by a map, “was not rapid transportation. It was education.” In the desert, God wanted them to learn who He was and in response, who they were. For the Master Teacher, it is not enough for His people to just have this information, it needs to become part of them.
Paul acknowledges that he has neither obtained all that the Gospel promises him nor been perfected, but he can keep on because the certainty of its realization is the very reason Jesus has taken hold of him! (Note that its not Paul taking hold of Jesus, nor finding Jesus, nor chasing Jesus.) Think of it like Will Call at a concert for which you won tickets. Your tickets are already paid for, the concert is going to be awesome, so you wait in line taking slow steps forward to eventually claim your prize. The prize is certain, nobody is going to steal it and since you didn’t really earn it, you can’t lose it.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58
My hurry to go ahead and attain the perfections of Jesus has so much more to do with my reputation and image than His. I don’t like labor. I don’t like practice. And I surely don’t like people to hear me playing the wrong notes. I want to play my imaging role perfectly now without any mistakes. My impatience with the process is another indication that I somehow think this detour in the desert could be avoided or must be a mistake, but certainly not God’s sovereign script for His glory.
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? Romans 9:22-24
OK, last analogy that few people will know unless you’re a super cool product of the 80’s. The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi, in training the young bullied Daniel, was constantly making him do menial chores like painting, waxing cars and tending a bonsai tree. Daniel grew so impatient with each of these “distractions” because he just wanted to learn karate so he could take on the bullies who had been tormenting him. As it turned out, those seemingly irrelevant chores were the very intentionally designed training regimen of Mr. Miyagi which provided the very karate technique that would make him a champion.
So, perhaps eventually I will calm down, settle down, slow down and trust my Master Teacher even in what seem like the off course, distracted or detoured moments of His story told through my life.
But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. Galatians 5:5