What the Lord Requires
You can track everything these days. Calories, steps, BMI, books you’ve read (down to the page number), hours of screen time, hours of productivity, REM cycles of sleep, Instagram likes, and anything else you never cared to know before technology enabled us to become obsessed about our output, performance, and achievements. If our inherent value is in our imago Dei, how did our days become important only if we achieved our goals (or surpassed someone else’s)?
Our culture values instant, recognizable results. We enjoy before and after pictures of weight loss or makeovers. We admire rags-to-riches and uneducated-to-Ivy-League stories. We want to see people “be all that you can be” and then a little extra. We love to watch people improve, but only if the results are quick, measurable, and easily reproducible. If we can track it, improve it, and display it, then it must be worth our pursuit.
But spiritual growth isn’t like that. We can’t track it with an app, measure it for robustness, or display it with a graph to show others how we’ve improved. Our goal in the Christian life isn’t measurable results or instantaneous growth. The Lord never requires us to be successful. What he does require is faithfulness. Ordinary, unremarkable, love-Jesus-every-day faithfulness.
Spiritual growth is proof that we’ve “tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:3), and it grows over days, months, and years of seeking Christ daily. If we really know him and belong to him, we will labor to know him better through his word, prayer, and the gift of the church. And when we know him better, we will become more like him.
You Have Everything You Need
Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. You don’t need a tracking app or expensive software. You don’t need a college degree or a six-figure paycheck. You have everything you need in Christ to become more like him.
His divine power grants to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Peter goes on to say that we should make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These are not glamorous qualities. They are qualities that we are commanded to pursue through ordinary obedience. And we are thoroughly equipped to do so no matter our age or stage in life. Our backgrounds and bank accounts don’t add to or take away from Peter’s call here. Our education level or work experience don’t make us more or less able to obey. Anyone who is in Christ can obey with ordinary faithfulness.
Equipped with Scripture, the church, prayer, and the indwelling of the Spirit, we are prepared to live the lives God has ordained for us in obedience to his commands. This doesn’t require us to be famous, to have large followings, to amass wealth, or make straight A’s. We’re not required to be the thinnest, most beautiful, smartest, or most talented. It simply requires that we respond to Jesus’s commands with obedience. Over time, we will look more like Jesus because we have spent much time looking at Jesus. When we fix our gaze on him, our faithfulness flourishes.
Feed Your Faithfulness
Consider the “blessed” man in Psalm 1. He is compared to a tree that is planted by a river and receives regular sustenance as its roots feed off a continuous stream of water. The psalmist tells us up front that the word of the Lord is what brings about delight and fruitfulness (see Ps. 1:2). The tree didn’t go from sapling to fully-grown overnight, but it did bear fruit regularly in every season—even droughts—because it drank from the river regularly. Our spiritual growth is like that. It takes time, and it requires daily doses of nourishment. When we feed our faithfulness by delighting in God’s word, maturity blossoms over time.
Feeding your faithfulness is an unremarkable practice in real-time. It’s unglamorous by the world’s standards, yet it is precious as it contributes to a life of holding fast to Christ. Feeding your ordinary faithfulness is as simple as getting up tomorrow and opening your Bible to read. It’s daily prayer to the Father, taking advantage of the access Jesus purchased for us at the cross (see. Heb. 10:19-22). Feeding your faithfulness means showing up at church to hear the word proclaimed, to worship with your spiritual family, to minister to one another through song, Scripture, prayer, and fellowship at the Lord’s table. When we feed our faithfulness by delighting in God’s word, maturity blossoms over time.
These are simple, everyday practices for Christians, but they aren’t ones you can plot on a graph and measure for effectiveness in the way we track weight loss or accrued interest. The rewards aren’t documented in before-and-after photos, but the joy of knowing Jesus more today than you did yesterday far outlasts and outweighs the approval of man. The benefits are eternal!
We’ll never feel that we’ve arrived at faithfulness this side of heaven, but the beauty of the Christian life is that we can keep pressing forward to know Christ more than we did. Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Jesus Christ has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-13). What a joy it is to persevere in ordinary faithfulness for Christ has made us his own!
We stand in a long line of saints whose names we’ll never know until heaven. If Paul hadn’t named so many saints in his letters, we wouldn’t know any of them. Their devotion to Christ would be completely anonymous. But the faithfulness of Silas, Barnabas, Junia, Phoebe, and Epaphras would have mattered, even if the church throughout history never knew about them. Most believers throughout church history were only known to the Lord for their faithfulness to him. The kingdom of God belongs to people from all over the globe, and most will live out their ordinary faithfulness in complete anonymity. In a culture that values extraordinary results and achievements, you have nothing to prove. You only have to look to Christ.
The cumulative effect of daily, ordinary faithfulness will produce gradual but real growth in your life. When you are rooted in Christ like a tree by a river, your fruitfulness will be obvious to those around you. No, you won’t have a quick before-and-after post to share online, but you’ll bear fruit in every season even when you can’t see or feel it. And ten or twenty years from now, you’ll look back at your life and see the growth. You’ll see that the Lord never required instantaneous, measurable results. He required obedience and dependence upon his steadfast hand holding on to you.
Your ordinary faithfulness leans hard on his extraordinary faithfulness, and it is more than enough.
This is a guest article by Glenna Marshall, author of Everyday Faithfulness: The Beauty of Ordinary Perseverance in a Demanding World. This post originally appeared on crossway.org; used with permission.
Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She is the author of The Promise Is His Presence and Everyday Faithfulness, and writes regularly at GlennaMarshall.com on biblical literacy, suffering, and the faithfulness of God. She is a member of Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston, Missouri.