I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
— Galatians 2:20

I used to read this verse and find myself feeling a mixture of emotions. On one hand, I loved the truth that, when I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was immediately made new. On the other hand, I often found myself feeling guilty and frustrated because I still struggle. I wanted to say, “I live by faith, and I no longer sin!” I wanted to skip the process of sanctification.

I’m guilty of this in many areas of my life. I’d love to run a 5K from start to finish without stopping. I wish I could plant a beautiful garden, and keep it alive. And I so wish I were a better violinist. I see people all around me who have these skills. The difference between them and me is that they are putting in the work. Growing a garden takes patience and daily attention, running takes training, and playing music takes study and practice.

Our spiritual growth is no different. Sanctification is the working out of our salvation (Philippians 2:12), a process of growth in our spiritual lives. Let’s look at Jesus’ words on this topic:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
— John 17:15–17

Here are some things we can take away from Jesus’ words:

  • We will struggle.
  • We have an enemy who wants to see us defeated.
  • We are no longer slaves to the struggles of this world.
  • We are set apart.
  • Our greatest weapon against sin, and our greatest tool for growth, is scripture.

Just as it would take daily training to achieve my 5K goal, spiritual growth takes daily attention. Here is what I know to be true of training to run: it isn’t always fun, sometimes it is painful, and it takes sacrifice. But those who have achieved goals in this area always tell me, “It is so worth it when you cross the finish line!”

God never promised an easy road, but he does promise that he has good plans for our lives and, if we will be disciplined in our pursuit of spiritual growth, he is faithful to walk patiently with us each step of the way!