A while back the Lord impressed on me a need to have a more gentle spirit. I sense that I’ve come a long way from the hot-headedness of my younger days. Most of the time now my more tempramental outbursts are reserved for household projects. I realize that the transformation is all the Holy Spirit’s work within me, however this morning I found myself contemplating how, lately, it seems I have had a gentler spirit. In that thought was just enough self-congratulation that I should have known I was in trouble. When we try to judge our own spiritual success, we lose sight of the Lord. Once that happens we’re bound to fall flat on our face.
Fast forward twenty minutes or so, to me sitting drinking my morning coffee, unprepared for my fun-loving daughter to suddenly decide to climb up into my lap. There went my coffee, all over her back, my front, and the chair. Thankfully it wasn’t hot, but I was. While stopping short of outright yelling, the way I voiced my displeasure could never be categorized as having a gentle spirit. In that moment, I was a failure. After the shirts had been changed and the coffee sopped up, I realized the irony of the circumstances. Moments after mentally patting myself on the back for my spiritual growth, I failed in the very thing I had felt so good about.
It’s okay to recognize God’s work in our lives. I know He has been giving me a gentler spirit. But when it comes to spiritual growth, only God can truly judge how far we’ve really come. It’s not up to us to gauge how we’re doing in the areas of our lives where God wants to transform us. We can reflect back on our day and note times where maybe we reacted how He would want us to, where we might not have previously. Proper reflection is helpful in showing us the dark corners that still need His light as we seek to “kill our old man.” After that, though, our immediate reaction needs to be to thank the Lord, and ask for Him to continue working in us. Any sense that we had a hand in it just sets us up for failure like my spilled coffee incident.
It’s our human nature to judge ourselves. We constantly self-evaluate against whatever standards we set. As Christians, the standard is always Christ. But we need to realize two things: First, only God should judge us. Judging ourselves takes our eyes off of Jesus, and once we do that, we’re bound to fail. It’s God working in us that brings about our spiritual growth. Only He truly knows how far we’ve come. We can sense the change, and be excited about His work in us, but measuring our growth is His place, not ours.
That brings us to the second reality: we’re never going to measure up. At least not until we are home in His Kingdom. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, there will be plenty of victories to be sure. But there will still always be defeats. I categorized my own reaction to the spilled coffee as a failure, and maybe it was. But the truth is, if that hadn’t happened, something else would have at some point. We’re only human, and we will never be perfect. By leaving it to God to judge, we don’t have to worry so much about it. Our failures are left at the foot of the cross.
Jesus yoke is easy and his burden is light. Let’s not make it harder and heavier by trying to judge on our own how well we’re doing at following Him. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit be the judge.