Would you say that God is happy with the progress we have made over the years since we were called and baptized? This is as good a time as any for us to examine ourselves even more diligently as we approach Christ’s return and the dawn of His and our rule over this earth in the “Millennium.” We must do this to be certain that our spiritual progress is not falling behind, because, most importantly, it is on the basis of that progress we shall be judged and rewarded accordingly.
When we first took up a job in the early years of our working career, the manager would occasionally check up on us to see if we were making any progress. A word of encouragement, and some extra help now and then in getting over any problems we may have encountered would eventually secure our position. Conversely, if we neglected our responsibilities or settled back into a lackadaisical mood we would most likely have found ourselves without that job. And so it is with our spiritual endeavors. We cannot afford to become lethargic.
There are, of course, a number of areas where we are expected to make progress. What about “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16)? And we can say that again! “Redeeming the time” might include, perhaps, restoring lost effort as a result of our inaction or neglect in serving the Work of God and in our relationship with the brethren.
What about daily prayer? Have we been remiss in this most vital area? And are we keeping the Ten Commandments—all of them? We understand, of course, that it is impossible for any one of us to keep consistently all of the Ten Commandments, even though we eagerly desire to do so, without the help of the Holy Spirit. And certainly I speak from experience. You won’t see a halo over my head! Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, was well aware of this enigma when he told us that what he should not do, he did, and what he should have done, he didn’t. We all have that sort of problem from time to time, for none of us is perfect. But being less than perfect is no excuse for being less than enthusiastic in following through with our baptismal commitment, and that entails consistent spiritual progress in keeping God’s Law more and more perfectly.
This term “progress” in our case can be directly related to “bearing fruit,” and Christ warns us that those who do not bear fruit, He takes away; and that those who do bear fruit, He prunes (compare John 15:2). Sometimes that pruning takes the form of Godly chastisement or correction. Most of us have experienced that over the years.
Another facet of making progress in our spiritual life is to examine ourselves whether we are [still] in the faith unless we become disqualified (compare 2 Corinthians 13:5). That faith, of course, comes through Jesus Christ. In fact, it is the faith OF Christ that must dwell in us. To be “in the faith” is to give ourselves over completely to the way God wants us to be.
There is no other acceptable alternative for us than to “stick with it”—to progress spiritually, if we hope to make it into the Kingdom. And we cannot—must not—afford to be sanctimonious in the sense that “we’ve made it and we can just sit back and wait for Christ’s return.” Some have fallen into that trap and they are no longer members of God’s Church–the Body of Christ.
We are all expected by God, and rightfully so, to make the effort to grow spiritually in the process of acquiring holy righteous character—the supreme purpose of God calling us. Otherwise, why are we here in the Body of Christ? God has tremendous blessings in mind for each one of us who “endure to the end” through the trials which confront us from time to time–trials that test our spiritual progress as well as the genuineness of our faith.
As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour [your spiritual progress] is not in vain in the Lord.” The Millennium waits for us, and we owe it to God and to ourselves to manifest that progress while we look forward to an everlasting future as Kings, Priests and Judges in God’s soon-coming Kingdom.