Ever wonder why God forgives a person who puts their faith in Him and wipes their slate clean but doesn’t instantly change their character?
God doesn’t automatically transform a person’s character because He expects them to do the demanding work it takes to follow Christ.
The life of a follower of Christ is often depicted in the Bible as a field to cultivate:
Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you. — Hosea 10:12, NLT
Likewise, a follower of Christ must work hard to grow spiritually and become fruitful. They must till the ground hardened by sin, pull weeds that have grown from neglect, and plant seeds of biblical truth daily. But God doesn’t expect His followers to do the work by themselves; instead, He works alongside His followers, so they surrender and become willing and able to do the work. God equips each person to accomplish the tasks He has for them through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is full of life-changing stories that show how God patiently works to change a person’s character. For example, take the story of Joseph in the Egyptian jail. Thirteen years passed from when he was sold by his brothers to when he left prison. Still, during his time in prison, Joseph grew to become a humble leader (see Genesis 39:20-41-41). Another story is that of Moses in the desert. After Moses killed an Egyptian, he fled to Midian. He spent forty years preparing to lead the children out of Egypt (See Exodus 3:15-4:20).
Don’t forget David’s flight from Saul (1 Samuel 21-24) and Jonah’s time in a fish’s belly (Jonah 1:17-2:10). Consider all the suffering Job went through (Job 1:13-2:8). Remember how Peter denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-74). Observe how Paul miraculously changed on the road to Damascus. However, preparing for missionary work still took him three years (Galatians 1:15-18).
Finally, the Bible is clear that brokenness, humility, and patience all lead to spiritual maturity and usefulness. A follower of Christ must become familiar with the stories in Scripture by reading them carefully and learning from them. Because their examples illustrate how Christ can change a person’s life.
A person’s character doesn’t change overnight because it is slowly carved out over time.
By Steve Arterburn