“She stood up!”
I’ll never forget the feeling of wonder and delight when our 8-month-old squirmed around on the floor for a minute, reached out, took my hand, and stood up on her feet for the first time. I started yelling for my wife to come over and see. Watching my excitement, you would have thought she won an Olympic medal.
Yet, all she did was stand, and only for about three seconds before she toppled over. Is that really impressive? I stand up hundreds of times every day, and I (usually) don’t fall down when I do, but I’m not expecting anyone to cheer for me. Why the reaction? Because I’m her father, and every step of her growth and development brings me joy. You can understand that.
So, why is it so hard for us to believe that our Heavenly Father feels the same way about our us?
Is God only pleased with our perfection?
Here’s a serious question: is God only pleased with the perfection of his children, or does he delight in our progress as well? Christians treasure the promise that one day we will stand in glory before our Father and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). We look forward to that moment in our future, but do we believe it’s happening now?
Is God’s “well done” reserved for the day when no stain of sin remains, or does he delight when we stand up and take a step of progress in our faith, even if we topple over again?
I’m concerned that many Christians live with the sneaking suspicion, or the settled conviction, that God is generally displeased with their lives. As if he sees all the shortcomings, all the failures, all the room for growth, and holds back his approval until his sanctifying work is done. But if God is our Father, and in Christ we are his children, doesn’t it make sense that he would take pleasure in our growth as well as our glorification?
God’s Pleasure in the Process
Listen carefully to Paul’s description of Christian growth in Philippians 2:12-13. He writes:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do you see it? God works in you, Christian, for his good pleasure!
Day by day, God is at work in his people. He is affecting our will, giving us new and increasing desires to honor him in all of life. He is affecting our work, empowering Christ-exalting actions by his Holy Spirit. This work of God in our lives will culminate in glory, but God’s delight is not held back until then. He is pleased with the process.
Consider an analogy in creation. God certainly had the power to create the world in an instant. Yet, he chose to take time. Why? Why create over multiple days? Why step back at the end of each day and declare the goodness of it all? Because God takes delight in the creation process itself!
So why would we expect the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) of his people be any different? Surely, God could bring us to full-glory in an instant. Yet, he chooses to take time. He chooses to walk us through a process of transformation over the course of our lives. He does this for his good pleasure, which is not only reserved for the finished product, but the progress we make along the way.
God is our creator, who works to make us grow. And God is our Father, who delights to watch us grow. Knowing this, believing this, and remembering this will make a world of a difference in our lives. Having God as your Father is the antidote to exhaustion, frustration, and despair.
The antidote to exhaustion
Are you feeling weary and worn down in the Christian life? Does the thought of pressing on in the pursuit of holiness sound exhausting to you? Remember that God is your Father.
By his sheer mercy, God has adopted you as one of his own children. He is raising you to live like more and more like your brother Jesus and he will bring this work to completion (Philippians 1:6). So instead of pursuing a white-knuckled morality in an attempt to make yourself worthy of God’s affection, remember that he has warmly welcomed you into his family. Then, keep working to honor your Father, knowing that he is at work in you, for his good pleasure.
The antidote to frustration
Are you frustrated in your Christian life? Are you discouraged by the lack of growth you see? Remember that God is your Father.
You may not feel pleased with the progress you see in your life. You may look at other believers and think, “I’m nowhere near where I wish I was.” That’s not all bad. We do want to keep growing. But, beware of projecting this same attitude on God, as if he were looking down on you with disapproval and disappointment. Like any good father, he is pleased with the process, with every step of growth.
The antidote to despair
Are you in the midst of despair in your Christian life? Has some sin or some misstep left you wondering if you are loved by God at all? Remember that he is your Father.
No good father ceases to love his child when they fail. The truth is we are all spiritual failures, rebels against the living God by nature, and completely undeserving of any of his affection. But God sent his perfect Son to bear the punishment for our failures upon himself at the cross, so that in Christ we might become the children of God (John 1:12). We cannot lose this status, because we did not earn it.
So friend, rest in the wonderful position your Savior has purchased for you. God is your Father. He will be pleased in your perfection on the last day, but he is pleased with the progress he works in you day by day as well.