January 27, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Galatians 3:3 (NKJV)
A survey given to 240 fourth graders asked them to define the word "perfect". Their answers reflect how their young, forming minds continually soak up the ways of the world. My heart sank as I read the survey results.
The majority of the boys responded with, "Perfect means doing everything exactly right". These boys are already constructing their impossible measurement for success.
One little girl's response summed up the thoughts of almost every fourth grade girl, "Perfect means to be a saint, to never have anything wrong with their looks and to get and do everything right". If these young girls use this recipe for success, they are setting themselves up for failure.
Occasionally, I joke that I am a recovering perfectionist. I thought I was supposed to be the perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect housekeeper, perfect employee, perfect cook, perfect friend... are you tired yet? I certainly was. By God's grace, I have been released from those impossible standards I tried to achieve. But at the time, my life was no joking matter. I was coming apart at the seams.
The world's view of perfect is "having no defect or flaw". Clearly the world is wrapping its definition of perfect around us, which will eventually mature into strongholds of bondage.
When perfectionism creeps its way into our faith, we begin to draw from our shallow pools of strength and turn our eyes away from The One who is full of grace and love. As we try to "measure-up" to be a perfect Christian, we become like the Pharisees of Jesus' day. We dismiss our own sins and failures and point our fingers at others.
We have mistakenly believed that excellence = perfection. Coming to the end of our strength and accepting His grace for our sins and failures, we dismantle perfect standards and begin striving toward excellence. As we experience His immeasurable love for us, we can love others with the same grace.
The Apostle Paul teaches us the Christian view of perfect in his letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians. It means to be complete, whole. It is the grace of our Lord that makes us whole and complete, perfected in Him. That holy and supernatural perfection calls us up higher, to His excellence in spite of our failures.
Many give up the Christian walk because they believe they must live up to perfect standards. Frustration and dissatisfaction are the result of trying to be perfect. The Christian walk is a life-long process in which we learn to grow to be more like Jesus. We accomplish this growth by a desire to excel and please Him. This desire is born out of a true love for who Jesus is.
Are you tired and worn out from trying to cross every "t" and dot every "i"? Are you ready to abandon "perfect" and invite "grace" and "excellence" to be your companions in your walk with Christ? Don't believe the lie that you must be a perfect Christian for one more minute. Continue daily in the grace you accepted when you received Christ into your heart. Spend time daily in His word and prayer and you will kindle a love in your heart for Jesus that will make you want to please Him and do your best for Him. And when you fall, His grace will pick you up.
One fourth grader who took the survey already has the right idea about perfection, "Perfect doesn't mean anything to me because nobody is perfect."
My prayer for today:
Jesus, forgive me for the times when I have thrown away your grace and tried to live up to impossible standards. Help me set aside time daily to read the Bible and to be in prayer. Help me receive your grace when I fail and lead me to be more and more like You. Amen.
Set aside a specific time daily to read and pray. Ask God to help you abandon perfection in your life and be patient as He leads you.
In what areas of my life am I a perfectionist?
Am I willing to allow God to lead me from perfection into excellence?
How can I arrange my schedule to spend time daily in His Word and in prayer?
What definition of perfect am I teaching my children?
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 NASB
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 NASB
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. Romans 12:2 NLT
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
The Power of a Simple Life by Mary Southerland
Originally published Tuesday, 27 January 2004.