After trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, far too many new believers are given the impression they’re at the finish line instead of the starting gate. Somehow nobody teaches them that once they’re saved, they are to begin growing in the Christian life. And that growth is into Christlikeness. God intends to live through His children so that people see Christ in us. They listen to our speech and pick up on allusions to Him. In our presence, they sense something special within us. And that something is the very living presence of Jesus Christ.
—Charles F. Stanley, “Living the Extraordinary Life: The Characteristics”
Few things strike fear into an employee’s heart like the phrase performance review. It is daunting to know someone is evaluating your skills and function in the workplace, deciding whether you’ve measured up to expectations and are officially “worth your salt,” as the saying goes.
Believers may feel a similar sort of appraisal is happening as they live out their Christian life. Jesus established a formidable example for us to follow: total perfection. And though we know our loving Father is both merciful and just, many Christians harbor a secret fear of the moment after death when they meet Him face-to-face. They imagine every poor decision and sinful failure played out on a movie screen for the entire host of heaven to see: a literal performance review of their entire life. After all, “it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Anticipating this, we put pressure on ourselves, working hard to be Christlike and do the Christlike thing.
But in the quote above, Dr. Stanley reminds us of something vital. God, instead of comparing our actions and attitudes with an endless checklist, recognizes the spiritual growth He worked in us incrementally throughout our life. He sees each instance when we displayed the fruit of the Spirit, traits only He could inspire (Gal. 5:22-23). He understands every moment we longed to love Him more and know Him better. And most importantly, He sees our mistakes, imperfections, and sins wholly covered by the blood of His perfect Son.
God sees each instance when we displayed the fruit of the Spirit, traits only He could inspire. He understands every moment we longed to love Him more and know Him better.
I’m not downplaying our need to do the things we know contribute to our spiritual growth and maturity—disciplines like prayer, corporate worship, and the study of God’s Word. But our Father, more than anyone else, knows such things don’t always come easily to us. They take time, effort, and intention. And though essential, these aren’t actions we must force ourselves to attempt in our own strength; rather, they are ones He will call and empower us to accomplish. What’s more, they shouldn’t be attempted because we dread some impossible, eternal performance review, but because we love our heavenly Father. And because these actions ultimately cultivate joy in us—both in our lifetime and beyond.