Progress, Jesus-Style

I’m in the process of doing a few renovations to my home.  It’s one of those things that if someone just viewed the before and after photos they might think it seemed simple enough. But if you’ve ever been through the process, you know there are lots of decisions and considerations along the way.   

One of the mental resolutions my wife and I have made is to be content as long as we are doing at least one thing each day to push the project forward, in the midst of our otherwise busy schedule. Be it painting a wall, spackling a hole, installing a sink or putting in some trim, it’s a bunch of small tasks that make up a renovation.  

Students returning to the Institute this week were welcomed to our Volunteer Fair, learning all of the ways they can practical serve those in their direct vicinity, immediately.  Practical opportunities to serve the vulnerable are a practical way to see progress. 

Students returning to the Institute this week were welcomed to our Volunteer Fair, learning all of the ways they can practical serve those in their direct vicinity, immediately.  Practical opportunities to serve the vulnerable are a practical way to see progress. 

The whole project has me thinking about progress, how we gauge it and how content we are as it takes place slowly. What do we make of the idea of progress from a biblical perspective?  

Striving forward, gaining, succeeding, or any term associated with progress according to Jesus is generally coupled with living a life of self-denial (Matthew 6:24-25, Philippians 2:1-11). The idea of progress presented in Scripture is  counter-intuitive to the measure of progress commonly thought of.

Consider the words of Jesus: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 6:24-25.  So we see, progress according to Jesus is characterized by self-denial.  

The Bible also seems to highlight intentionality as a necessary component of progress.  We must be reflective as we experience the various trials of life if we hope to grow from them.

Offering youth a consistent, loving adult presence after school is a major way in which we see people choosing to deny themselves for the sake of another. Every time we find Jesus' words to be true -- losing your life, you'll find it. 

Offering youth a consistent, loving adult presence after school is a major way in which we see people choosing to deny themselves for the sake of another. Every time we find Jesus' words to be true -- losing your life, you'll find it. 

“My brothers and sisters, when you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” - James 1:2-4

Progress happens as we choose faith, as we stretch ourselves to make decisions beyond what we thought were our limits, make daily decisions to deny ourselves, and live sacrificially inspired by the life of Jesus. That’s progress towards the goal of becoming like him.

Be it becoming a better student of God’s word, a better spouse or parent, learning how to give more energy and time to serving others, faith should drive our progress of not just doing well, but doing these things in imitation of Jesus.

So here’s to progress, Jesus-style, when our minds are transformed to know the good and acceptable and perfect will of God and we carry it out as living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1-2).