“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:9,10).
DEEP WITHIN US THERE SEEMS TO BE A NEED TO MAKE PROGRESS. We appear to have a basic, built-in drive to get to higher and higher levels of quality — and we’re unhappiest when our lives have come to a standstill. The word “frustrated” means that we’ve stopped, we’ve been blocked in our effort to move toward something that’s important to us. The things that frustrate us are often obstacles of our own making, but even so, frustrated people are unhappy people. When we’re not getting better and doing better, we don’t like being a human being.
From the standpoint of spiritual realities, sin is obviously the root of the problem. It is the fundamental explanation for both our failure to grow as we need to and the feeling of frustration that inevitably follows. When all has been said and done, it is God our Creator toward whom we must move and in whom we must grow. Apart from a right relationship with Him, no progress we can make will mean anything in the end. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).
Yet even when we acknowledge the primary role God must play in our progress, we sometimes still don’t move ahead. We fail to see the need on our part to take the spiritual steps we could take and to make the progress that is available to us each day. We can’t, in this life, be perfect. But we can make progress. We can improve. We can make each day better than the last. We can make the conscious decision to upgrade something about our character and conduct every day. We can reach forward. We can determine that the grace God has shown us will not have been in vain.
One way to understand the corruption by which sin destroys the human spirit is to think of it as a “stagnation.” When we cease to move toward God, we stagnate. When we’re not improving and making progress, we decay into a motionless death. To be delivered from this stagnation means that we are given God’s help to get up and get going again — toward Him.
“Holiness is not the end of progress, but deliverance from standing still” (G. Campbell Morgan).