Here’s what most of us don’t like admitting about sanctification: It’s hard. Yes, it happens TO us, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work on our part. The parallels between sanctification and working out are just a little too painfully true.
I still laugh about the “12-Minute Test.”
Better known as “The Cooper Test,” this endurance exercise was designed to measure maximal oxygen intake. For ten minutes, the athlete warms up. Then for twelve minutes, they run as fast and as far as they can.
I hadn’t gone three minutes on the family treadmill before I had to slow down.
By the end of it, I was sweaty, panting for breath, and (to my dismay) scored in the lowest category, “Poor.” The “everything-less-than” category.
Here’s the thing most of us know and admit about working out: It’s hard.
One reason working out is so hard is because we know it is.
I know that every time I work out I’ll get exhausted. As a result, every time I know I should work out I have to fight against my desire toward ease and comfort.
That battle of motivation – toward work or ease – is a battle fought physically and spiritually. Why aren’t we talking about this more?
I Wrestle… with Obedience
We all fight this battle of motivation when it comes to following God. Just ask yourself: What holds me back from obeying God 100%?
The Bible makes it clear that there’s a battle going on inside every Christian.
Galatians 5:17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
This daily battle to follow the Spirit over the flesh is called sanctification.
I tend toward comfort. If you’re human, so do you. As a result, we may not like sanctification when it shows up because it often looks like work.
I wrestle to live fully for God. It’s funny how the closer I get to Him, the more clearly I see my shortcomings. I think He does it that way for a reason.
The Perfect God of the Imperfect
My pastor once said, “You can’t do anything 100% to the glory of God.”
That’s huge. Do you realize what that means?
That means our perfect God calls us to act on His behalf, knowing we’re imperfect. Yes, perfect obedience is required to fulfill God’s law, but perfect obedience was done for us.
Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Only in Christ can God call us to something we could never achieve and look upon us with acceptance and joy. When God calls us to obedience, He isn’t surprised by our inability, only by our unavailability.
We have incredible freedom to obey God. The only thing we lack is an excuse.
Wrestle in Humility
At the heart of it is obedience – understanding that God doesn’t judge success like we do. He looks at our hearts. He sees our weakness and our double-mindedness. And He gives us the strength to fight, to wrestle, to run.
The painfully beautiful truth about sanctification is that we wrestle in humility. Know that God has called you to obedience, and you can’t do it on your own. Fight passionately to obey, knowing God works in you. The work is finished, and we now have the freedom to run.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Philippians 2:12-13 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.