Paths of Progress
Guest post by Amy Pentimone
From time to time, we inevitably look at our lives and question whether we’re getting where we want to go. That is certainly a discouraging feeling since we spend so much time trying to get things done, meet our goals, and progress – whatever that means for each person.
If things are feeling difficult, and you can’t sense whether you’re making progress, remember that our senses cannot always be trusted. We need to base our lives on something stronger than mere feelings.
Consider instead how God’s Word presents the reality that every single person is progressing down a path in life—even the ones who don’t feel like they are getting anywhere.
That fact is worthy of examination, especially because not all paths are created equal. While everyone in life is progressing, they aren’t all arriving at the same place. A brief look at the world around us is plenty of evidence that not everyone is heading in the same direction.
What are these paths of progress that people are traveling? We can find two laid out clearly in the book of James.
Progression 1: An individual is lured and enticed by desire. → Their desire turns into sin. → Sin grows into death. (James 1:13-15)
The first progression James offers us is the most natural path of progress in the world. It takes no thought and no effort. If you’re worn out and this seems easy, wait a moment. The catch is that no one wants to find themselves at the end of this path. The world gorges itself and meets death. This death is death on so many levels: death to the conscience, death to light and goodness, death to the body, and death to the soul.
Progression 2: An individual is met by trials. → They “count it all joy”. → The trials produce steadfastness in their character. → That steadfastness produces perfection and completion. (James 1:2-4)
The second path of progress isn’t so simple at first glance. It’s difficult: there are trials to be met. It looks like you’re just losing out: you must rejoice in the trials that assault you. Who wants such a hard life?
Of course, everyone wants to arrive at the destination of glory, but very few want the path that takes them there. It was once written, “Jesus has many who love His Kingdom in Heaven, but few who bear His Cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake.”
Those who gladly choose the second path are the ones who realize with the Apostle Paul that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). These are the people who are willing to resist the world and set their hope far beyond instant gratification. They have the assurance that something breathtaking lies past the horizon.
The startling similarity about both paths is that neither one looks like it is heading toward its respective destination. Those who cling to their seemingly beautiful desires end up with death. The ones who follow their Savior carrying ugly crosses will have final perfection.
The next time we feel a need to reevaluate whether we’re making progress, it would be wise to think on James’ words. As contrary as it is to our culture, productivity isn’t just about accomplishing visible successes. The Kingdom of God places infinitely more weight on our spiritual progress than the physical progress. Are you counting your trials as joy, looking to God through Christ to handle them the way His Word prescribes? There are beautiful promises for everyone who is willing to follow the Lord in this way. We will be blessed as we dwell in the presence of God with full and complete joy!
“You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” –Psalm 16:11
Amy Pentimone blogs at www.ArtOfThisLife.wordpress.com. She enjoys living “normal life” in the context of a small local church, creating art, and sharing theological conversations over coffee.