The repairs on our church building were completed this week following the flooding incident I wrote about a few weeks ago. We're thankful for how God has provided and worked in such a way as to make our facilities look better than they did before the water damaged the place.
When the painting part of the job began I was somewhat uncertain about the color that had been chosen for the sanctuary. We weren't aiming for a drastic change, just a slightly darker hue from what we presently had.
When I first saw the new color, it had only been applied to the edges of the wall. In contrast to the old color that still covered the rest of the wall, the new one looked like a much darker shade, more so than I had expected.
But based on past experiences with paint, I decided to reserve judgment until the whole room was completed. Sure enough, when the job was finished the color looked great.
Some people commented that it looked to be almost the same color we had before. To my eyes it also seemed very similar at that point. However, in my mind I could still see the stark difference that was present when the two colors had appeared side by side.
Similarly, there are times when we look at our present lives, attitudes, and relationship with the Lord with a degree of disappointment and frustration. It doesn't seem like we're making the progress we ought to be. We're still struggling with various issues. We are too aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings.
We know that we have a long way to go in many areas of our lives before we come close to being like Jesus.
That's why it can be helpful at times to look back. When we remember where we used to be and how far we've come, the contrast often becomes more evident to us. When we put them side by side in our minds, like those two colors of paint, we can better see the difference.
We should keep in mind that there are some pitfalls to avoid when looking behind us. We don't want to glorify our past sinful lives or revel in those ungodly actions. Neither do we want to stir up guilt and condemnation over past wrongs for which we have already been forgiven.
However, there can be value in remembering the old life from which our Savior has delivered us. It can stir up gratitude and love for His grace toward us. It can remind us of how far we have traveled on our journey since that time.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul often pointed out the contrast between what those believers used to be and what they were now. They were dead in trespasses and sins, but now they were alive in Christ (2:1-5).
They used to "walk according to the course of this world" and conducted themselves in the lusts of their flesh, but now they were "created in Christ Jesus for good works" (2:2-10).
They were once "strangers", but now were "fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (2:19). And now, instead of being in darkness, they lived like children of light (5:8).
We all have a long way to go in our journey toward Christlikeness, but most likely we've come many miles from where we first began. Think back -- do some comparing -- and see if it isn't so.
Give God thanks for what He's done for you. And be committed to letting Him continue that work in you until it's completed.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.