Two steps forward and one step back.
I first heard this from an adult in my life when I was a child. They were referencing their financial situation: they felt like they would take two steps forward only to be forced to take one step back. The financial progress felt grueling and laborious.
It took a few more years in my life before I understood what they meant.
Our spiritual lives can feel like that financial assessment, right? We seem to make such progress and then—WHAM!—something knocks us so far back we wonder if we’ve maybe slipped further back than when we started.
Our ongoing journey through the “book of joy”, Philippians, should offer some direction for you. We read in Philippians 3:15-16:
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Philippians 3:15-16, NIV
As the seasoned Apostle has just laid to rest our ability to brag on our so-called “accomplishments” and told us to move towards the calling Jesus has given us, he now states (my paraphrase), “If you’re mature, you’ll think like this.”
This could come across as extraordinarily arrogant if we
- take the comment out of context and
- forget that Paul knows he is writing the truth of God’s Word.
We only have because God gave it to us. And He gave it to us to surrender it back to Him in pursuit of the high calling He has placed on our lives. This is the truth.
So, it’s no stretch for Paul to state that the mature in Christ will also think this way. To the rest who aren’t there yet, he writes a word of encouragement: “hang in there; you’ll get it, too” (verse 15b).
Then Paul gets to his application in verse 16: take what we have right now and use it to keep moving. Scripture is calling us to be steadfast. We are called to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to use our past spiritual growth as “proof of concept” in the plan of God.
Therein lies the encouragement when we feel like our spiritual lives are two steps forward and three back: don’t quit! Let the progress you’ve made in your journey be the proof that God is still working in you. Like I heard someone once say, “Don’t judge me yet. I’m still in the oven and God’s not done cooking!”
He’s not done with you.
He’s not given up on you.
He’s got a great plan for you.
And when you feel like the valley is too deep, the pathway too dark, the pain too crushing… “live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:16).
You can do this.
Jesus is with you. When He’s with you, anything can happen!