It is very satisfying when you are actually able to see and measure progress, isn’t it? Whether it is an assignment at work, cleaning out your closet, or simply a knitting project, there is something about watching the changes that brings a sense of accomplishment. The process of moving toward the completion of a project brings a sense of well-being and gratification. Knowing that it will be finished someday is the ultimate goal.
If you look up the word “progress” in the dictionary, you will find that it means “movement toward a goal, steady improvement or advancement”. It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the goal is something tangible or visible, there are a great number of possible deterrents that often come along. There are times when you might get distracted or an unexpected interruption comes along. It may be that you do not have the right tools or enough information to continue to accomplish the next step. Can you think of other obstacles that limit or even stop progress?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul explains to them that he wants to be with them so that he can continue to encourage each one of them to make progress in their faith journey. He has already told them that the goal will not be reached until the “day of Jesus Christ” – the day when Jesus returns again, but he also longs for them to experience the deep joy that comes with a faith that is growing deeper and stronger, day by day and year by year. Would you agree that very few goals are reached miraculously? Almost all of them are reached through small and deliberate and realistic steps.
So how do you measure your personal progress? Too often we compare ourselves to others or hold up the standard of perfection. The result is a discouraging sense of failure or a depressing feeling that what you desire is impossible to achieve. Paul does not do that, does he? Instead he reminds them at the very beginning of this letter that it is God who will be at work in them. It’s all about trusting Him rather than trying harder! How could this truth impact your progress and joy?
I’m reading The Message Bible again, and what stood out for me is this portion: “Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition.” This is my prayer for us as sisters-in-Christ. Paul goes on to say: “Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you–and both because of God.”
What a promise! I have seen this happening in my life already. My unbelieving family members are in awe of how we are sticking together as brothers and sisters-in-Christ during these difficult times. My husband’s Mom received Jesus as her Savior this weekend. Yippee!
What wonderful news and such an encouragement for your family.
So glad you are sharing it with us.
This passage encourages me in my progress and joy that no matter what my circumstances, I can continue to rely on Jesus for all things, to keep moving forward. It’s so easy for me to become discouraged when life throws me curves and I get overwhelmed. When I take the focus off of me and encourage others, or help those in need, it makes all the difference in my attitude. Attitude is key. Paul showed the hope there was in living for Christ, even if it was in chains in prison and dying for Christ, eternity with Him. Paul expressed no fear in what he was going through. He expressed so much joy in spreading the gospel wherever he was. He was so focused on his mission that nothing or no one could turn him away from that mission. I can learn a lot from that especially in a time when it is so easy to get distracted.
I love how Paul gives some very practical advice on how to make progress in living a Christian life. He realized his current situation wasn’t as important as what he did with it. Nowdays, an often used word to describe this process is to “reframe”…..a circumstance, problem or set of ideas. It’s also taught as a cognitive tool for fighting depression.
I pray that I’ll be content with the situations of my life and that I’ll havethe wisdom to see the positive aspects surrounding them. May the Lord give me the fullness of His joy and allow me the discernment to live according to his will. May all progress in my spiritual life reflect his glory.