I’m a perfectionist. I want to be perfect, especially when it comes to living like a Christian. And I want to be perfect now. I want my attitude to be like these guys described in Acts…
After being flogged, imprisoned and released the Apostles were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Act 5:41).
After they had been severely flogged…thrown into prison…feet in the stocks…Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…. (Acts 16:23-25)
My hardships don’t compare with these godly people. In fact, I get upset just with life’s inconveniences! I don’t want to be this way. How about you?
I used to assume these godly people had this amazing attitude as soon as they got saved. I am so glad I was wrong—God doesn’t expect overnight perfection!
So what does God expect of us?
He expects us—with His help—to work toward being like His perfect Son, of having His attitude (Phil 2:5). He also knows that we will never be perfect this side of heaven.
Becoming like Jesus (sanctification) is a day in and day out process that takes time and continual effort. It isn’t automatic.
Paul for example:
- Had to learn to be content. There were many trials and tests through which God brought him before he got to that place where he could say, “I have learned to be content in every circumstance” (Phil 4:11).
- Experienced fear on occasion (Acts 18:9-11; 2 Cor 1:8-10)
- Asked for prayer to remain faithful, implying that he too struggled (Eph 6:19-20).
Think this through with me.
Were the Apostles in Acts 5 rejoicing while being flogged? I have no idea, but I suspect not immediately. I imagine that they had to speak truth to their soul—emphatically. Perhaps they remembered Christ’s whipping and thought, “Lord Jesus, if You withstood flogging for me, I can endure it for You. Enable me!” Perhaps Peter remembered his denial of Christ (Lk 22:34) and was so glad for another chance to be faithful.
And don’t forget, these godly men had already experienced much. The Apostles had been with Jesus, observed His many miracles, seen His unjust suffering and persecution, witnessed the resurrected Christ, received the great commission and “power from on high,” and had performed many miraculous signs and wonders (Lk 24:49; Acts 5:12).
When Paul and Silas were suffering in the dungeon, were they saying “yippee!”? Do you think they weren’t distressed in their excruciating pain and imprisonment? These are human beings!
However, they had come to know and trust their God. This was not their first missionary trip. They had seen their faithful God do many miraculous things by the time of this event.
I imagine they might have had this encouraging conversation between them:
“Silas, I don’t understand all this, but God has allowed it for some good reason. Let’s remember how much He has suffered for us and choose to praise His name.”
“Yeah, you’re right, Paul! Let’s sing that song we sang on Sunday.”
These godly people went through many difficulties to develop this attitude. They didn’t achieve it overnight. And they had to continually exert the effort to apply the freeing truths they knew.
God doesn’t expect us to immediately have a Christ-like attitude upon our salvation, but to work toward it.
God doesn’t place such unrealistic demands upon us. He knows how weak we are (Ps 78:39). He knows it takes time—lots of time, testing, and yielding.
And it is the work of God. We cannot develop a Christ-like attitude without Him! We just need to cooperate.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Phil 2:13 emphasis added)
So my friends, the next time you fail to be like the Perfect One, don’t beat yourself up or try to justify your shortcomings. Instead, remember that what God expects of you is to confess, repent, and allow Him to transform your heart and mind.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil 1:6 NLT)