Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)
In this life — in the Christian’s sojourn in this world — we will never reach perfect conformity to the image of Jesus. We will not be fully glorified here in this age. As satisfying and wonderful as God’s grace is, we’ll always be longing for more. There is yet a fuller, deeper, more glorious experience to come.
But that doesn’t mean we put on the breaks. Just because there is something yet to come — that there is a reality we can only know partially here — we don’t ease up in our quest. We don’t settle down our desire for more of Jesus or drop the bar of our passion.
On this point, John Calvin writes, “It is not lawful for you to divide things with God in such a manner that you undertake part of those things which are enjoined upon you by his Word but omit parts according to your own judgment.” In other words, we shouldn’t go lax on those things we think are less profitable. We don’t pick and choose the aspects of holiness we prefer — or the pursuit of God that best fits our low expectations.
To be sure, oftentimes it feels like the distance is very great between what we desire in our relationship with God and what we experience. And it feels that our progress, Holy-Spirit helped as it is, is very slow. We tend to find ourselves limping, crawling at a feeble speed toward the feast that God has for us. But we can take heart. We can keep crawling, as Calvin tenderly encourages us:
Let each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out upon the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal; not fondly flattering ourselves, nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, which through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body, and are received into full fellowship with him. (Institutes, 689)
Dear Christian, we will be like Jesus one day (1 John 3:2). The perishable will be overcome by the imperishable and we will bear his image with untarnished glory (1 Corinthians 15:53). He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). As sure as God is God, he will finish his work and welcome us into his presence.
And until that day comes, we don’t twiddle our thumbs and opt out of the journey. We have found it all — he has found us! — and therefore we press on. We know that soon we will never feel a lack in God’s nearness. We will never struggle with a nagging thirst for his grace. His love is unending, and with utter satisfaction, we will bask in that love forever.