Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
Philippians 3:13 NKJV
Hands up if you think you have reached perfection and that you have nothing left to improve. If you raised your hand, liar.
We all have something to improve on. Maybe you realize you need to be nicer to the guy who makes your coffee at the local coffee store. Or that you need to spend less thing on “things” – car, video games, sports games on TV, Netflix, and more time with real people.
I am forever indebted to my friend Scott Huelin who gave me the coaching model of sanctification. Forget the big words from seminary that describe whether sanctification is all God’s work or a partnership. From the moment you become a Christian, it’s like being on a sports team. Take baseball. You have pitching coaches, batting coaches, personal trainers to keep you fit, and everything in between. God is the head coach. He wants to see every member of the team succeed. He wants the team to win games and the championship.
The problem is, every athlete has bad habits that the coach needs to work on. In baseball, it could be something basic like holding the bat at the wrong angle or the player’s stance is wrong. It could be his swing – not enough follow through. It reminds me of the time I taught Chinese people how to play baseball in China; because they have no idea how to play or even hit the ball, when they hit, it was usually under powered because they had no follow-through.
And then, the coach moves on to more advanced topics like turning a double play or even a trip play. Which batter against which pitcher based on hand dominance? Using advanced sabremetrics, which player in which position to enhance on base percentages? Yes, I saw Moneyball.
Finally, pressing on. Just because a team wins the championship one year, there is no guarantee that the same team with more or less the same players will win the next. Think of how many teams have won back to back championships. Chances are, these have to be exceptional teams. I googled “back to back championships” – there were quite a few sports dynasties and everyone is constantly looking for the right formula to get three-peats – 3 consecutive championships.
The Christian faith is pretty much the same. God wants you to succeed as His child. He’s not against you. It’s just that you have many bad habits that are holding you back. Anger? Lack of trust? Addictions? Bitterness? Resentment? Procrastination? Still lying? Selfishness? Just like a bad swing can lead to a strikeout, our recurring sins can lead to missing out on great things.
An athlete stays fit: he works out, eats during the season, and tries to stay in shape during the off-season. A trainer keeps him on a schedule. Even if a player is extremely disciplined, it’s still nice to have a dedicated professional keeping you accountable. God wants us to stay spiritually fit too. Even if we are disciplined about reading God’s word and praying and just being in fellowship, it’s still nice to have a dedicated individual keeping you accountable.
The call is upward. I am not perfect. Not by a long shot. All I know is that I press onward. The last two years have been awesome years. This year, I’ve had health problems or professional challenges almost once a month. Those haven’t held me back from praising God all the time.