This morning my three-year-old asked to dress herself. I had a pretty good idea of what the results would be, but I told her yes. Several minutes later she emerged from her room. Her pants were on backward. Her shirt was wrong-side-out and backward. Her hair was a little matted and stringy from the work of it all. She also wore a big, cheesy grin.
This was a big step for her. It took a lot of work. She was even a little sweaty from all the effort.
I was delighted with her success. Six months ago she couldn’t have dressed herself. It would not have entered her head to try. She has made progress. She is gradually maturing.
Sisters, do you get frustrated and discouraged in your slowness of spiritual growth? How those same old sins resurface and the same lessons must be repeated? So do I. But God sees our progress and delights in it. This may be hard for some of us to believe deep down, especially if we have come to believe our Father is hard to please.
Obedience ≠ Perfection
It’s true that our obedience to God’s commands will never be perfect, but why do we tend to think He is hard to please? As if He tells us what to do, provides grace to accomplish it, yet He’s just waiting on us to fail so we can remember what losers we are? We equate obedience with perfection, and it simply isn’t true. If walking in a manner worthy of my calling means I never misspeak, I am never lazy, I am always kind, I never doubt, then I am left feeling hopeless and am tempted to throw in the towel.
But God is a gentle and sympathetic Father, full of steadfast love and slow to anger. He is pleased, because of Christ, to accept our sincere yet flawed acts of obedience to His commands. And even the smallest acts of obedience are worth celebrating.
Perhaps we are so slow to recognize the progress in ourselves or other Christians (like our own children!) because we don’t understand how bad we were. Our spiritual lives may seem tiny or slow in growth, and we get frustrated or discouraged about it. But when we consider that these acts of righteousness come from a heart that used to be spiritually dead, we should realize that any works at all are a miracle of God’s grace.
God is pleased with our efforts. Only the imputed righteousness of Christ will save us, but that does not mean our good works don't please Him, imperfect though they be.
- Knowledge and wisdom are pleasing to Him (Col.1:10).
- Meditation on His Word is pleasing to Him (Ps. 104:34).
- Discernment is pleasing to Him (Eph. 5:10).
- Generous giving is pleasing to Him (Phil. 4:18).
- Praying for those in authority over us is pleasing to Him (1 Tim. 2:1–3).
- Providing for your own household is pleasing to Him (1 Tim. 5:4).
- Doing His will is pleasing to Him (Heb. 13:21).
Consider this example: Perhaps we think our effort at hospitality was not pleasing because we let a grumbling thought enter our minds. Or we think that since we became impatient with the kids on Sunday morning that the hard work of getting to church to worship Him wasn't acceptable. Or that because we got our feelings hurt when no one said thank you for the dinner we made that it was a wasted attempt at serving God.
Every one of our acts of obedience to God are pleasing. Even though every single one of them are flawed in some way.
What Kind of Father?
Last weekend my children came together and made a giant card for their daddy. The white poster board was covered in drawings, doodles, and words of love. What kind of father would have rolled his eyes and pointed out that the color scheme was all wrong? What kind of father would have looked at the scribbles and misspelled words and tossed it back at them saying, “What, this old, filthy thing?” No, this small act of love for their dad delighted him. Of course the flaws were there. But he saw the beauty of childlike, simple love that overflowed into effort and actions.
Our works are filthy rags in comparison to the fact that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone and adopted into God’s family. But many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy rags to God, they are precious in His sight.
Often I come before the Lord, weak, weary, and frustrated that the sanctification process seems to grow at a snail's pace. I am so saddened and grieved that I answered unkindly (again) during a stressful moment or my pride discolored some good act I just did. But I can know that any good works I accomplished were accomplished by God’s glorious grace, they are accepted because of God’s glorious grace and—imperfect as they are—they are well pleasing to my heavenly Father.