Discipleship is not easy. It is a slow process to grow in your love for Jesus and walk in faith and maturity. The disciples walked with Jesus for three years. And when he was raised from the dead, he found them hiding behind a locked door. Later, after being restored, Peter was more concerned about John’s future than he was about his own path with Jesus. The men who loved him most could not seem to rest in his love for them. It’s like this for us too.
We convince ourselves that because we have known Jesus for some amount of time, we really should have it all figured out. Our relationships should be perfect, our parenting moments should be calm and patient, our prayer should be regular and passionate, our reading of the Word should be daily and meaningful, and mostly, we should have stopped sinning by now.
We convince ourselves that because we have known Jesus for some amount of time, we really should have it all figured out.
But the truth of the matter is that our relationships are far from perfect, our parenting moments are intense and lacking in grace, our prayers are cold and infrequent, many of us struggle to open the Word, and we continue to sin all over the place. We are shocked at our lack of progress.
The encouraging news is that your lack of “progress” is part of the discipleship process. We often feel that when we grow in our faith, we will feel more satisfied about who we are before God. It feels like if we can just take a few more steps, we will reach the plateau of maturity, and we will feel better than we do right now.
However, this is not gospel maturity. Gospel maturity is a growing dissatisfaction with our sin and our idolatries and a deepening rest and trust in Jesus’ love for us, despite our inability to make big strides. It is also the softening of our hearts to others, and it is the opening up of our lives to more of the mission of Jesus. Though maturity means feeling spiritually like you are getting worse, it also means that you are experiencing the Gospel in fresh, deep ways.
Jesus’ disciples are not illustrations of how grace makes you perfect quickly. Instead, his disciples stand as examples, showing us what growth really looks like. They kept stumbling even after they believed in Jesus. They were still selfish, unspiritual, and sinful.
But over the course of their lives, as they kept stumbling in faith and growing in repentance, they found that their hearts were changing. Their individual stories had been caught up in something bigger than themselves. Maturity was not a category of doing lots of good things and avoiding bad things. Maturity was resting in Jesus and longing for more of Him.
As we stumble our way through life, we should not be surprised by our sin. Of course we are still sinful, but he loves us anyway. And over the course of a long, slow road, we will stop waiting to reach the plateau, and we will start resting in his love.