If you have young kids you’ve uttered the words “hold on” 18 million times. Maybe 19 million. When you say it, you’re asking your kids to wait, to give it time, to be patient.
Even when I say, “hold on” to my kid’s request with the knowledge that I’m going to say “no”, my “hold on” is a statement that I will address the demands/questions later. I’m saying to them, “You can’t see it right now; I’m not addressing it right now; this immediate second is not the time for you to receive your answer.” Your kids probably respond the same way my kids do when I say, “hold on.” They politely thank me, excuse themselves quietly, and apologize for any interruptions they may have caused me. (Actually, those are someone else’s kids. If you know those kids, my kids need to spend some time with them.)
“Hold on” presents a promise of action. When we survey the people landscape around us, we need to be reminded of these words. “Hold on” should be ingrained in our minds and refrained on our hearts. Patience is not the hallmark virtue of a 21st century people accustomed to the microwave, the drive-thru, the 30-second news blip, and the 120-word or less social media post. The patience required for the hold on does not come naturally.
The doctrine of biblical justification means that God has declared a person to be right before him. Justification is a judicial term which evokes the image of a judge bringing the gavel down on his massive bench and proclaiming, “Not guilty” before a person on trial. The crazy thing is, in biblical justification, the person on trial IS guilty of the crime. His only hope of hearing not guilty hangs on his crimes being counted to someone else and someone else’s record of law-keeping being counted to him. This is why justification is always connected to faith and faith is always connected to Christ in the Bible (Romans 3:22).
When this happens for a person they are set apart from the world and the course they were on. They are placed on a new path that IS and WILL result in eternal life. Sanctification is that doctrine which means that God will make a person in reality what He’s declared them to be (by way of their union/connection to His Son, Jesus) – righteous. Hebrew 10:14 says it this way, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” You could paraphrase this verse accordingly, “By the death of Jesus, God has declared ‘right’ for all time those who He is making ‘right.’”
Spiritual growth is a long-haul journey. The promise of our sanctification – a big word which means God is not done working on us – is one that God designs to fulfill over the course of our entire lives. As much as we’d like it to be, God does not change us overnight and His changing work is not a one-shot deal. It’s hard to wake up and not wish you were a different person in different circumstances. In one sense, this kind of angst about your own place points you to the reality that there is more to come – you will be different; circumstances will change. C.S. Lewis stated “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Your dissatisfaction with yourself and others is a pointer that there’s more to come.
When Michelangelo was asked how he carved David, reputedly he responded, “I looked inside the marble and just took away the bits that weren’t David.” God looks inside the misshapen, raw, still-in-the-works material of our lives and takes away the bits that aren’t us – the true us – as he conforms us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). If it is true that your struggles from yesterday are likely to be your struggles today, why would you expect God to change the people around you in an instant tomorrow? If we look at others, expecting to see finished statues of artistic perfection, we’ll only end up frustrated, angry, bitter, and disappointed.
God says to us, “Hold on.” The promise of Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you WILL bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” is as true for others as it is for you. The gospel is the good news of God’s past work that breaks forth in the present and proclaims to us a future. The fact that you’re still here means God’s not done. The fact that those around you are still here means God’s not done with them yet either.
Gospel hope means we trust God with ourselves and others. Gospel hope means we hear God say, “hold on” and we do. We wait. We watch. We expect. We pray. We’re patient.
He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into…a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less.
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity