by Peter Feddema

OUR IMPERFECTIONS in the flesh can be a real spoiler of spiritual joy. Our awareness of not perfectly measuring up to the standard set before us by Paul to walk worthily of the calling with which we were called is often overpowering. As a consequence, the peace of God does not always fill our hearts and minds. How do we cope with this? We will give twelve points which we hope will be helpful in "endurance and patience with joy" (Col.1:11).

       1. As long as we are here in our terrestrial tabernacle, we know that God is not finished fashioning and framing us. From Colossians 1:12 we learn that our heavenly Father is making us competent for the allotment awaiting us. Thus, let us not run ahead of Him, but let us be gracious with others and ourselves.

       2. For reasons best known to God, we have been given only an earnest of His holy spirit and not as yet a full measure. But how good and encouraging to know that we also have been sealed with the holy spirit of promise for the day of deliverance (Eph.1:13; 4: 30). Furthermore, we have not been given a full measure of faith, but a limited measure (Rom.12:3). Some receive more than others. That is one reason why we should never compare ourselves with ourselves (2 Cor.10:12), but be as helpful and lenient as can be, without being presumptuous or condescending. We are all objects of God's grace.

       3. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11 that he had learned to be content. This means to us that Paul was not born with that blessing, but that in the "school of God" he had learned it. Some of us may not learn it until the last day in "school." Paul learned a very important lesson spoken of in 2 Corinthians 12:9. We are thankful for the many precious declarations given in this administration of grace, but we should be especially grateful for the one given to Paul when he had earnestly prayed for the removal of an infirmity (imperfection). Paul simply was told, "Sufficient for you is My grace." This might be called one of the understatements of the eons. What more and what better can be granted us in our infirmities than knowing that we have been saved by grace and in grace (that is into the sphere of grace). As a fish in the ocean encounters water always, in all its movements, so we, in all our experiences in "school," encounter God's grace in Christ Jesus no matter how many imperfections we still have.

       4. Since we will never come in this life to that degree of perfection that will allow us to say with honesty that we practice flawlessly the standard set before us, it is very helpful to consider what Peter, as a disciple, experienced when he was granted permission to walk on the water toward Jesus (Matt.14:27- 33). As long as he kept his eyes focused on His Lord, he was successful. When he looked at the billowing waves, he became afraid and began to sink. Of course, Jesus saved him. One important lesson to learn from Peter's experience is to keep our focus on the truth as it was revealed to Paul by our glorified Lord and Saviour. The truth will be making us free, also from the frustrations of our imperfections.

       5. Yes, as we walk on the stormy sea of life (perhaps too many times with a sinking feeling), we would heed Paul's entreaty, "Do not worry about anything" (Phil.4:6). That includes, not worrying about the fact that we are not as yet perfect. How may we accomplish this? Simply by keeping in mind that because of the death of Christ we will be presented holy and flawless and unimpeachable in His sight (Col.1:21,22). This is a powerful way to cope with such shortcomings as fear and worry, or anything else that tends to make us aware of our imperfections.

       6. Someone has said that we must never look back "when trying to plow a straight furrow." For spiritual maturity it is very important not to look back on any successes or any failures we have experienced. This does not mean to be dishonest and to pretend that we are capable through mental acrobatics to remove from our memory past experiences, good and bad. No, it simply means not to live by our experiences and feelings; but to let God's declarations concerning His grace in Christ and His operation in this administration of grace determine our daily walk and feelings.

       7. While we are in this tabernacle of flesh, we need to comprehend the meaning of what Paul says when he uses the word "reckoning" in Romans 6:11. "Thus you also, be reckoning yourselves to be dead, indeed, to Sin, yet living to God in Christ Jesus, our Lord." Now, since "sin" means "missing the mark:' then we have here a basis for not looking at our failures. The standing, or position we have with God is secure in Christ Jesus, and since nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom.8:31-35), we have very much to encourage us to live by God's success in Christ Jesus.

       8. Sometimes we wonder what would happen if God granted us complete maturity, and mastery over the flesh at this time. Would it not make us difficult to live with? Just suppose that, for instance, we could tell another that we never worry about anything anymore. Would that not sound conceited and unreal? Would that not make us walk about with an air of self-righteousness? How wonderful and humbling to realize that we are given God's righteousness in Christ Jesus in Whom we are instructed to boast (1 Cor.1:31).

       9. It is more realistic to pursue joyfully that for which we have been grasped. Paul said it so well in Philippians 3:12- 14. "Not that I already obtained, or am already perfected. Yet I am pursuing, if I may be grasping also that for which I was grasped also by Christ Jesus. Brethren, not as yet am I reckoning myself to have grasped, yet one thing -- forgetting, indeed, those things which are behind, yet stretching out to those in front -- toward the goal am I pursuing for the prize of God's calling above in Christ Jesus."

       In this passage Paul plainly acknowledges that he does not consider himself to be perfect. He also states that he is not dwelling on those things that are behind him. And is it not interesting that (as mentioned above under #3) Paul, nevertheless, has learned to be content. He is content because he revels in the truths of justification, conciliation and glorification (in spirit he -- and we as well -- have already been given every spiritual blessing among the celestials in Christ Eph.1:3). He does not allow his imperfections to make him "uptight." Instead, he is living by the perfection he has in Christ Jesus. This gives him a great amount of energy in the pursuit of grasping and laying hold on eonian life. The marvelous truths he was commissioned to proclaim, plus his constant contact in prayer with the God of all power, wisdom and love, enabled him to live by faith and to cast out frustration. He encouraged us to imitate him.

       10. The physical conditions of life can at times be very trying. We are not asked to become unnatural, but the Scripture says that we do not sorrow as the world does (1 Thess.4:13). We do groan, yet our groaning is different from the groaning and moaning that goes on in society. We are entreated to do all without murmurings and reasonings (Phil.2:14), yet the difficulties of life often cause us tears and sadness while we rejoice in the truth that all is out of, through, and for God! We are fully persuaded that all things that are taking place in our lives and in the billions of other human lives, contribute to the universal goal so succinctly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:28 -- "that God may be All in all." This must mean that we, as creatures, through the experience of good and evil, have to become nothing in ourselves. Creatures can only find true fulfillment and perfect satisfaction by having the Creator as their all, the Creator Who has revealed Himself as Father, and has told us that we belong to His family (Eph.2:19). How good to know that God is establishing a family relationship with His creatures; not a cold business-like relationship, but a relationship of intimacy and love!

       11. It is very interesting to read in Hebrews that Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered. We do not have to learn obedience but we may learn contentment. And this while we suffer from many imperfections. It is a great relief that we are complete in Christ (Col.2:10), and live by His faith (Gal.2:20). This indeed, is more than enough to help us forget our own short comings, and to be invigorated for positive living. This positive living is to be understood not merely as being free from worry (although that is very important), but to rejoice in serving the Lord and to remember that the Lord is always near. The more we rejoice in the Lord the less we worry in our imperfections. That it is important to rejoice is clearly indicated in Philippians 4:4, "Be rejoicing in the Lord always! Again, I will declare, be rejoicing!"; as well as in Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of expectation be filling you with all joy and peace in believing, for you to be superabounding in expectation, in the power of holy spirit."

       12. We feel that it is very important to keep in mind that the Great Potter is ultimately the One Who will achieve all these commendable qualities in us. In Ephesians 2:10 it says that we are His achievement. and in Philippians 2:13 it clearly states that God is "operating in us to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight." Isn't it marvelous to know that it all depends upon Him to what degree we succeed? This knowledge is invigorating and of tremendous importance in terms of worthy walk. This helps us to avoid indulging in too much introspection or "navel-gazing." Let us look up, for our deliverance is drawing near!

       May these twelve points help us to cope victoriously with the "painful" awareness of not always being able to perfectly walk worthily, to banish worrying, and to bask in the peace of God. These points, of course, are not given as an excuse for our imperfections. On the contrary, we hope that a proper reading of these may be of great help in becoming more involved in pursuing the goal of walking worthily, in the spirit of contentment and true rejoicing in full appreciation of the perfection we have in Christ Jesus our Saviour and Lord.

©Concordant Publishing Concern

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