Have you ever had a project before you that was so intimidating, so daunting, that you keep putting it off? You had doubts about your ability to do it well, or even at all? And even though you had plenty of time to accomplish it, if you would just work on it a little at a time, you find yourself sweating bullets to get the job done at the last minute. I certainly have. In fact, I’m hesitant to start a lot of things, in part because I fear that I won’t be able to do it well, and in part because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do it at all.
I’m mildly OCD… legitimately. And when I take something on, I can hardly think of anything else. I will read all of the latest research about accomplishing the task effectively and efficiently. I will learn as much as I can before I ever actually begin. And here’s my problem: there’s always more that I could learn.
I’m reminded of a parable I once heard:
Suppose you want to build a dog house. So you go to the hardware store and tell the employee what you want to accomplish. She’s super helpful and quickly loads a cart with everything you’re going to need. She starts to wheel the pile of materials toward checkout when you stop her. “Um… just one problem. I don’t know how to build a doghouse!” A look of understanding comes across her face, and she directs you to a display of How-To books. You grab the one that says, “How to Build a Dog House for Dummies.”
You check out and bring your purchase home, where you immediately start reading. When you’ve gone cover-to-cover you decide to read it once more, just to make sure that you understand it. By the time you finish your second reading you’re thinking, “This looks pretty easy!” And maybe you could build dog houses for sale and make a little extra money on the side, so you read it again.
How long do you suppose it will take you to build that dog house at the rate you’re going? It’s obvious that you will NEVER get even a single dog house built if you never START to build it!
This post isn’t about OCD or dog houses.
As Christians, we have an immense task before us; we know that God desires for us to be holy, and to live holy. “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44, ESV). We’re not saved because we are holy; we’re saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we are supposed to live holy lives BECAUSE we are saved.
I speak from experience when I tell you that there is no more difficult occupation than holiness. And contrary to what some teach, there is no miraculous change where you automatically cease to sin (except perhaps death!). Read what Paul has to say about that in Romans 7. We can read the Bible and every other book ever written about holiness, but until we make the decision that we are going to live holy lives, and until we take that first step in that direction by resisting sin, one specific sin, we will never get any closer. Hebrews 12:4 says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (ESV).
Yes, I will stumble and fall. I will fail. So will you. But we need to take that first step, and move forward. The Christian life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. How do your run a marathon? One. Step. At. A. Time.