by Alexa Hess
Recently, my husband and I decided to try becoming outdoor plant people. We took a trip to our local grocery store, perused the plant selection, and chose some plants that seemed bright and easy to maintain. When we returned, we excitedly planted our new plants into the soil. After some time, the excitement began to wear off when it appeared as if our plants weren’t growing. Even worse, weeds would pop up in what seemed to us as a blink of an eye. While my husband maintained a positive spirit, it was easy for me to feel discouraged. Why weren’t our plants growing?
After contemplating our new endeavor, I realized our plant situation reminded me of sanctification. Sanctification is a gift for the believer in Christ. It is an incredible joy to know that daily you are growing in Christlikeness. However, sanctification is a process. Like a plant, it takes time for believers to grow. What often makes sanctification discouraging is when “weeds” pop up. These are sins that we wish we have conquered that easily spring up time and time again. It can be extremely frustrating to want to grow in Christlikeness, to only find yourself struggling with certain sins.
Just like my impatience in our lack of plant growth, it is easy for me to grow impatient over my own personal growth as a believer. Do you find yourself in the same dilemma? Is there a certain area in your walk with Christ that you are struggling in? Do you find yourself discouraged when sanctification feels slow? Here are three truths about sanctification to help foster patience.
- Sanctification is painful but necessary
A plant grows through warm sunshine and rain, but it also needs the pruning hands of its gardener to grow. Dead parts need to be removed so a plant can flourish. In John 15, believers are compared to branches, God is compared to a vinedresser, and Jesus is compared to a vine. John 15:2 says, [God] prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. Sanctification often feels hard because we are undergoing God’s pruning hands. We experience His discipline as He takes away sinful habits in our life that are stunting our growth. But sanctification also involves putting sins to death. For God to shape us in Christlikeness, we must put to death the desires of our flesh (Colossians 3:5). Often, we grow impatient in our sanctification because putting the desires of our flesh to death is a struggle. But while the process of putting sin to death may be hard, it yields the gift of Christlikeness. Instead of getting defeated by our sin struggles, we can see our sin struggles as part of the process. Patience in sanctification comes by surrendering to God’s pruning hands. As He prunes us and helps us put sin to death, we will flourish in our sanctification. Let us trust the painful but necessary process.
2. Slow growth is still growth
If we only considered the outside of a plant, it would be easy for us to believe it wasn’t growing. But there is more to growth than what we see on the outside. Growth for a plant involves putting down roots and taking in nutrients. Unlike pesky weeds, plants grow over a period of time. Sanctification may seem like a slow process, but there is daily growth occurring that we cannot always see. We must remember that while sanctification is a process, slow growth is still growth. Instead of getting frustrated over the major areas we have not grown in yet, let’s not forget the small areas of growth.
God is using absolutely everything to mold and shape us into Christlikeness. Often, these are in ways that go unnoticed by us. It is when we look back or take time to evaluate our life that we see how God has grown us. Instead of growing discouraged by your sanctification, take some time to stop and think about how God has grown you. Identify some areas of your life that you have seen growth and praise God for shaping you. There is joy to be found in slow growth.
3. Our sanctification will be complete
When we find ourselves growing impatient with our sanctification, we must remember that our sanctification will one day be complete. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Sanctification is God’s work. When we fall into a works-based mentality, we will grow discouraged thinking that we are not doing enough to help our sanctification. But Paul reminds us that God started the work of sanctification in us, and He will see this work through. How freeing is it to know that there is nothing we can do to keep our sanctification from being complete? Even when we fail in our obedience or struggle in our sin.
While our sanctification does involve us being active in spiritual disciplines and mortification (which means putting sin to death), it is the work and power of the Holy Spirit who is accomplishing our sanctification. In times of impatience and discouragement, may we remember that our sanctification is not for nothing. One day we will stand before Jesus fully sanctified. Our full sanctification is called our glorification. Glorification is when believers will be free from the presence of sin and will eternally and perfectly reflect Christ’s image. Until that day, let us lean on our God, who will accomplish His sanctifying work.
As followers of Christ, may we not be discouraged but be cheered over our sanctification. Who we are becoming is worth the process. So let us be patient, and allow God to do His sanctifying work in us.
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