Perfection or Perseverance?

by Ken Green

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress" (I Timothy 4:12–15 ESV).

The standard that Paul set for the young disciple, Timothy, wasn’t perfection; it was perseverance. “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.

It is a training regimen that he provides. He includes both personal and public practices as part of the training. It’s a mindset Paul had stated earlier: “train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (I Timothy 4:7–8).

If we expect perfection, we fall short. But if we persevere at making genuine progress, letting God work on us as long as it takes, good things happen. We won’t ever arrive at perfection this side of heaven, but we are growing and moving forward. God delights in such progress.

The Christian life is often compared to a long race. Seeing the end of his own life, Paul told Timothy, “I have finished the race” (II Timothy 4:7). The writer of Hebrews urged his readers to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1–2). How we run today reflects how much we have benefited from the training we have received.

Like Timothy, we haven’t yet finished our race, so today is another opportunity to persevere. Following Jesus is the ultimate marathon. The more we incorporate the reality of spiritual endurance in our lives, the more we will find ourselves successfully approaching the finish line.

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