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Can we better ourselves?

I’m pretty sure we cannot better ourselves. Not really. But I’m so glad we don’t have to. It’s just not our job.

Here’s what set me to thinking on this today. I saw one of those motivational posts online, with this statement:  “The only thing I’m committed to right now is bettering myself.”

Sounds noble. But I beg to differ.

First, the whole commitment-phobia thing has taken on a life of its own in today’s world. Do promises count anymore?

But the larger issue, at least for the person of faith, is a matter of perspective. Who makes us better? Is this a question of mustering up enough gumption (or guilt) to make new goals or resolutions? Do we simply do more good, aim for higher achievements, or work on improved fitness (physical, mental, emotional, or whatever)? Do we sign up for more education, training, or volunteer work?

What does better even mean?

Last night, in our small-group Bible study, the leader raised a related question. “Do you think you have grown towards more sanctification in the past year?”

OK, let’s unpack that question for a moment. He explained what he meant, which was essentially asking if we’d grown closer to God and more Christ-like in the last 12 months.

Almost immediately, someone jumped in and talked about his regular quiet times with God and how much he enjoyed his prayer and devotional pursuits. Another spoke of greater involvement in church ministries. A third pointed to new friendships with solid believers.

I sort of wriggled in my chair. Then I couldn’t stay quiet anymore. I said I thought this was a much harder question to answer than it appeared, primarily because I have found the process to grow ever tougher with time, as one walks with Jesus.

What did I mean? It feels like the Lord takes us deeper over time, working through tougher issues in our hearts and digging out painful areas of attitudes, memories, relationships, and other roadblocks to our growth in Him. Those things are considerably more difficult to measure than our Christianese to-do lists. Sure, we have been taught about the importance of Bible study, prayer, fellowship, and solid teaching. We know those activities help us to grow spiritually.

But tracking that growth can be tough. And celebrating milestones in our Christian walks may become more challenging, especially as God grants us more realistic insights into our own heart conditions and how far He has yet to take us.

So this morning, as I read the online comment about bettering oneself, I cringed. I am fairly certain that all genuine bettering isn’t gonna come from me, no matter how many noble efforts I might try.

Thank God He has promised to do the work in us, if we are willing.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).

So have it, Holy Spirit. Make me better. Better yet, Lord, make me like You.

Adapted by this user
 from Pixabay public domain photo

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