No matter what the endeavor, you can always do better. In school, you move on from your high school diploma to your Bachelors, Masters, and maybe PhD. Most people begin a job at an “entry level” but then move on to manager and maybe even CEO. And in the world of sports there are rookies who later become professionals. Reading about the various degrees in Isshinryu Karate illustrates this nicely. Under white belt it reads “Everyone starts here.” Under 10th Degree Black Belt it says, “Has furthered the teachings of Isshinryu Karate to a level of unquestionable accomplishments and recognition.” A world of difference.
But irrespective of the endeavor — academics, employment, or sports — each one of us desperately needs God to do a work in our life. God’s “endgame” is for the believer “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). No small feat.
To accomplish this goal, God must simultaneously push against what makes me “me” while also teasing out those attributes that can make me more like Christ. A painful process.
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis seeks to clue the reader in to what lies ahead in his Christian journey. He writes,
“This is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along — illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation — he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, that he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.”1
To get from “Everyone starts here” to “Has furthered the teachings to a level of unquestionable accomplishments and recognition” is not easy. It takes time, training, and a lot of bruising along the way. So does being conformed to the image of his Son.
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” – Hebrews 6:1.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 174.