A Role to Play
Perfectionists have one thing right: we are supposed to pursue perfection. They go about it completely wrong, though, by relying on their own efforts to achieve the objective.
Those with a good enough mindset have it partially right too in that the goal is impossible. Because our efforts don’t get us to the objective, we sometimes just don’t bother to try very hard. The “Why bother?” approach doesn’t match up with God’s desires for us either.
Fortunately, scripture clearly tells us what our role is in this process, and it involves the activity of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to perfect us. The Bible tells us that being perfected involves:
- Endurance/Patience (James 1:4) – Never give up.
- Love (Colossians 3:14) – Embrace unity.
- Holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1) – Get rid of what distracts us from God.
- Praise (Psalm 8:2) – Silence your enemies.
- Faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10) – Grow toward perfection.
- Good Works (Hebrews 13:21) – Use what God has given you.
- Unity (John 17:23) – Be stronger in unity.
- Strength/Power (2 Corinthians 12:9) Be strong in weakness.
If we focus on these elements, which God enables in us through His grace, we can know we are moving toward perfection. They provide a gauge by which we can assess our progress. The specifics of how these are carried out through the work we do (e.g., ministry, hobbies, interests, etc.) are unique to the individual. There is no comparison or competition with regard to sanctification.
Struggling with Perfection
The struggle with perfection comes because we live in an imperfect world, we are imperfect people, and perfection really is impossible for us. That doesn’t mean we should give up on the goal of perfection, though. We can’t go to the other extreme and put forth little to no effort just because we know perfection isn’t possible in our own efforts.
A huge part of my spiritual growth has been the renewal of my mind in the area of perfectionism. I’ve learned not to let perfectionism rule and reign and instead to allow a perfect God to rule and reign in my heart and mind.
My own efforts to be perfect lead to a muddy and miry pit. My imperfection, though, allows God to be more fully present in my life as I admit my need for Him to perfect me.
God wants us to pursue perfection but to do so by depending on Him. He’s given us a way to accomplish perfection, both now and through progressive sanctification. That way is Jesus.