I’ve known a man for many years who from what I’ve seen is full of natural grace. I’ve never seen him angry or anxious, he’s naturally very calm. He has a child, and I’ve seen his child get out of hand and I watched as he disciplined his child with much grace and without anger. He’s very generous – he doesn’t have much, but whatever he has he’s always quickly willing to share. He has a humble, caring attitude and I’ve seen him go out of his way to help people he didn’t even know. The odd thing about this situation is that this man is not a believer!
Sometimes it would to be pretty discouraging to me that a man who never even sought God would have so many godly qualities that I desired for myself, and he had them (what seemed like) without even trying. Why do I (who love God) struggle with sins that some unbelievers seem to deal with so naturally? Then I realized that God had a lesson for me about pleasing Him that I learned through knowing this man.
The lesson is that God is glorified more when we (by the power of the Holy Spirit) work to overcome sins that are in us than He would be if we never struggled with them at all. For example, if I was born with a temper and I by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit live in victory over my anger, God will be glorified much more than if I was never born with a temper at all!
This is like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. To some people He’s given 1 talent, to others He’s given 2, and to others He’s given 5. A man that starts life with 5 talents and ends with 5 will bring no pleasure to the Lord in the end. But to the man who comes back with more than what he started with, God will be pleased – even if he ended with less than someone else! If I started out with 2 talents of ‘natural peace and patience’, and by the grace of God work hard to attain rest in Him and to overcome anxiousness, and then I end my life with 4 talents of peace and patience, what a testimony that will be for God on the last day! It will be an even better testimony than a man who started with 5 and ended with 5. But it would be tragic if I started my life anxious and ended it just as anxious and untrusting of God.
We all have our own sins and have more or less natural ability in certain areas than others. Don’t be discouraged when you struggle with a particular sin. The fact that you are in the struggle (and haven’t resigned yourself to just giving up, or chosen to ignore it) is itself pleasing to God. The fact that you don’t say “I was born like this, it’s just how I am” is an indicator of faith! Remember that God has a purpose for allowing this, and His purpose is that you would by His grace and power put your sin to death. It will turn out to be such a beautiful testimony as you make progress in it. Just don’t bury your talent, keep pressing on and gaining talents one by one!
When we strive to do this until the end of our life we will find ourselves far closer to the image of Christ than we were than when we first started out (we will have gained many more talents). I sometimes feel a voice hounding me "You'll never be 100% in the image of Christ while you are here on this earth." I've come to understand that as the voice of the devil trying to lower my aim in godliness and trying to prevent me from making progress. I must never lower my aim. I once heard a saying "If you don't aim for the stars, you'll never get to the moon." Lowering my aim is the equivalent of lowering my faith and it will hinder my progress into the image of Jesus. I should never, ever resign my aim to anything less than the perfect image of Jesus. Jesus said: "Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Mat 5:48). In other words, I must keep pressing on to perfection (Heb 6:1), and leave the success of my progress in God's hands. God has given me a certain number of talents, and for my whole lifetime I must be diligent to gain as many as possible without worrying how quickly or slowly they are increasing.
Remember what God says to the people who do this with their talents:
Matt 25:23 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'