Have you ever noticed that Israel has to go through the wilderness before they can inherit the Promised Land? As the story goes, Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt, and the way out of Egypt was through the desert. The final destination was Canaan, the legendary Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, the place of rest.
Isn’t it interesting that we have to go through a wilderness in order to get out of Egypt and into the place of rest? All throughout the Bible, wilderness is symbolic for a transitional period in the life of the believer as they adapt to a new life in God. The Bible is telling us that while the promises of God are immeasurably good, there is a time that we will experience growing pains as we mature in our faith. Some acts of faith are easy and even relieving; others are very difficult and painful.
This makes sense in light of the fact that our natural heart posture is rebellious. Trying to put on a new mindset and new habits of holy behavior is impossibly hard, even with the help of the Holy Spirit!
The technical term that theologians use to describe this dynamic of the Christian pilgrimage of faith is progressive sanctification; meaning the time in which God gradually and incrementally transforms us into the likeness of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Often times we limit our thinking about what it means to be “saved” to what God has done for us (died in our place so that we can escape the final judgment). This is very important! It’s also important, however, it remember that God not only does a work for us, but also in us!
How is God working in you? How is your sanctification coming long? Have you, “put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:24)?
Keep in mind that it is always in the place of our weakness that God is at work. After all, we don’t need to work in areas of our lives that have already been perfected and are strong! It’s the areas of struggle, the areas of great difficulty that we need the most work. Where are your weak areas? God is working in you! Work isn’t easy, or else it wouldn’t be work!
And yes, sometimes you (like me) will feel like a lost cause. The thought of “Really!? I can be holy!?” will run through your mind. To fight this, keep reminding yourself that God is really, really BIG. If anyone can change a person, it’s God. Find comfort in these words of the Apostle Paul: “Am I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
I’d like to add to this one of my favorite blessings in the New Testament, which is in Jude 24–25. It says, “Now all the glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen!