We shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. (Ephesians 4:13 TEV)
Discipleship is the process of conforming to Christ; your journey will last a lifetime. Every day God wants you to become a little more like him: "You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you." (Colossians 3:10a NCV)
Today we're obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability than swiftness. We want the quick fix, the shortcut, the on-the-spot solution. We want a sermon, a seminar, or an experience that will instantly resolve all problems, remove all temptation, and release us from all growing pains.
But real maturity is never the result of a single experience, no matter how powerful or moving. Growth is gradual. The Bible says, "Our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him." (2 Corinthians 3:18b Msg)
People often build their identity around their defects. We say, "It's just like me to be ..." and "It's just the way I am." The unconscious worry is that if I let go of my habit, my hurt, or my hang-up, who will I be? This fear can definitely slow down your growth.
Habits take time to develop. Remember that your character is the sum total of your habits. You can't claim to be kind unless you are habitually kind—you show kindness without even thinking about it. You can't claim to have integrity unless it is your habit to always be honest. A husband who is faithful to his wife most of the time is not faithful at all! Your habits define your character.
There is only one way to develop the habits of Christlike character: You must practice them—and that takes time! There are no instant habits. Paul urged Timothy, "Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress." (1 Timothy 4:15 GW)
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Rick Warren is the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," now available in paperback from Saddleback Resources.