For the conscientious Christian, weaknesses and failures can be particularly vexing. To put it bluntly and personally, I hate it when I fail to live up to God’s standard. It irritates me. I know that when it comes to sinners, the apostle Paul staked a claim to the moniker, “chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). But he died centuries ago, and there are days when I believe I can make a compelling case that I now deserve chieftain status in the tribe of the sinful. Yet I know that I’m not alone. The world swells with folks who sin, and I suspect quite a few of them are as haunted by their shortcomings as I am by my own.
The Philippian church was acquainted with failure, too. It was a wonderful body of Christians, but not a perfect one. Lest they become discouraged and despondent in their efforts to improve, Paul encouraged them with these words:
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
To any individual or church family striving to become more and more like Jesus, but keenly aware of their many stumbles, these are refreshing words. One of the characteristics of our God that boggles the mind is His wonderful and incredible patience. Indeed, He “is longsuffering toward us” (2 Pet. 3:9, NKJV) as He molds our character through our life events (Phil. 2:12-13). Through each experience, each decision made, each Bible verse read, each prayer uttered, each person served, each trial faced, each victory enjoyed, and each defeat endured, God is working on us. And He will continue to work on us until the day of Christ’s return.
When you discover personal sin, remind yourself that you are a work in progress. Don’t ever justify your sin on that basis. Deal with it and seek forgiveness according to God’s will. Then thank Him for His amazing patience and forgive yourself. Then evaluate your sins. How could you have beaten the temptation? What could you do to avoid that temptation again? Committing this particular sin shows a weakness in what part of your character? How can you strengthen it?
God desires that you mature in the faith (2 Pet. 3:18) and that you become increasingly holy (1 Thess. 4:3). Through His amazing patience, He helps us not to be overcome by our weaknesses and sins, but gives us the necessary room to learn from them.