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You're A Work In Progress

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Do you know you're a work in progress?

Men, do you ever wish you had those well defined pectorals, strong biceps, a washboard stomach? Well, I will never become one of those muscle-bound men by eating fried breakfasts, driving through the traffic, sitting 8 hours a day in my comfy office chair.

Ladies, do you look longingly at those lissom and elegant figures of beautiful women that grace the pages of fashion catalogues? Well, it's not going to happen with you sitting watching TV in the evening eating chocolate!

Change only ever comes with pain - exercise, stretched muscles . . .

William Tell is a horrific piece to play on the piano! It stretches the hands to the limit, and is played at finger breaking speed. When it is to be played as part of the Grade 8 piano examination, it becomes a year long nightmare of daily torture. While others play in the garden, you must practise scales to ensure near perfect dexterity. When your friends go off to the shops, you must repeat endless arpeggios. I know all about the pain, the torture, the practise required to play William Tell and pass Grade 8 - you see, my sister did it!

And whether we are talking about being a musician, an athlete or a child of God - change only comes with pain.

God is committed to changing me.

Philippians 1 6:
he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

And what is this work in progress? …..

Romans 8: 29-30
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Being conformed to the likeness of his Son

Being glorified

That is the work - doesn't sound very easy does it?

I have two colleagues at work. One going to the foot of Mount Everest, the other is going to base camp 1 - some 10000 feet up! The first is having a much harder time than the first one - more training, more running, more fitness, more stress, more work.

How high has God decided we are going to go

How about this?

Ephesians 1:20
… he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 2:6 goes on to say
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus

If you are anything like me, when things are going well, I am sometimes apt to be rather complacent about myself.

I wouldn't say it, or let myself consciously think it, but in an subconsciously I reckon ...

I think I am already good enough.

I care for those around me.

I'm happy enough in my circumstances.

I know God is there for me.

I don't lose my temper very often.

But God looks at my caring and says 'It is not enough to reach those who I love'.

And God looks at my happiness and says 'Your joy is not strong enough or deep enough.'

He looks at my peace and says 'I want to give you more - enough to pass through the storm.'

God wants to give you and me more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. He is determined to form the image of Jesus Christ in me.'

This is not a cosmetic exercise - it is the changing of my innermost person. Sometimes we will fail as God puts the challenge to us, as God stretches our spiritual muscles.

You've seen the skater glide off the rink, she looks about 13 yrs old. Her face is anxious as she scans the score board. She's at least hoping for 5.9's with one or two 6's.

Sometimes the face lights up as the score appears, but all too often, it seems, the face falls, and the exhaustion and disappointment come sweeping in and we can read in the tears that the months of work and the painful hours have not brought the score that was hoped for.

Then someone comes alongside, an arm is put around the drooping shoulders and together there is comfort and encouragement. This is someone who understands. For this is the coach. This person has been through it themselves. This one understands the ache, the disappointment, the longing. This one feels it all.

You know, the Holy Spirit is like that. He understands the ache in the heart. He feels it all.

Don't worry whether God can look after you.

Just after the Second World War, you would buy a car pretty much as you would today, except that in those days, of course much of what we now regard as essential was not yet invented.

Cars never had radios or CD players, no sunroofs or central locking, no anti-lock braking or seat belts or air-bags. The windscreen wipers went at one speed, and you certainly didn't have them on the rear window, or the headlamps. They weren't very comfortable, very fast or very safe.

In those days, you would choose a car largely on how reliable and powerful the engine was, and how much money you had. Each car would have the engine's cubic capacity quoted, much as it is today, along with the horse power.

One car stood alone then; the Rolls Royce. The two partners Mr Rolls and Mr Henry Royce had always wanted to provide the best car that money could buy. Of course, not everybody's money could buy a Rolls Royce. But if you were to look at the specification of a Rolls Royce engine in those days, intending to find out the horsepower of the engine, Rolls Royce put one simple word 'Sufficient'.

And because it was a Rolls Royce, that word was good enough. Sufficient for any journey that would be taken. Sufficient for any hill, sufficient for a full load of passengers, sufficient for any conceivable circumstances.

So it is with the grace and the power of God. We don't need to worry whether the resources are there to take us to the end of life. We don't need to concern ourselves with any of that. God has said 'My grace is sufficient for you'.

Sufficient to forgive us when we cannot forgive ourselves. Sufficient to welcome us back when we feel like slinking away from him into a corner. Sufficient to retrieve what seems to us to be irretrievable. Sufficient to give us the power we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

I recall a time - I must have been around 8 years old, I was recovering from the flu and off school. I must have come up with that cry that all parents dread - I'm bored - because I remember sitting in bed and trying my hand at knitting for the first time.

Every now and then, I made a small mistake, but I was sure it would turn out all right. But as time went on, it became more and more tangled and ended up a series of tight little knots and loops round the needle. Then ten or fifteen stitches came right off the needle and I knew it was irredeemable.

I remember my father coming in and asking me how I was and tearfully showing him the mess I had got into. He took the mess of knitting out of my hands and to my horror, took the knitting needles right out and started to pull on the end of the wool, undoing row after row. If it had been anyone else, I would have grabbed the knitting back right there and then. But my dad assured me that when he gave it back to me, it would be OK.

I could not see how or why he was systematically destroying all the work I had done, but I trusted him and as he undid the mistakes and came back to the point where the trouble had started, he assured me that all would be well.

And to my relief, it was well. After a couple of minutes, he handed the knitting back to me with the mistakes all gone, a couple of extra rows added and the wool neatly rolled.

And now I do the same for my own children. They have watched, protesting as I dismantle the Lego machine, until I reach and rebuild that weak part that threatens the structure of the whole model. And even my wife has watched with foreboding as I remove wires and terminals and other bits from the washing machine throwing the useless parts in the bin, and rewiring it with my own design!

And it isn't easy to watch trustingly as God opens us up and removes and sometimes destroys parts of our lives that we think we cannot live without. But he always gets it right. He gently holds our lives, and tells us not to worry, and puts our lives back together again. And when he returns them into our hands, they are always better than they were, when we gave them to him.

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