Progress, Not Perfection

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

He was a powerhouse of a student, filled with energy, brains, and confidence: all a little too much for his second-grade self to handle at times. One morning he stepped on my last nerve. And I lost my temper.

It was more than unprofessional. It had the potential to be damaging. I couldn’t let him leave for the day without trying to make amends. I found a moment to speak with him alone. “I’m so sorry,” I told him with tears in my eyes. “I was wrong for losing my temper. I was wrong to make you feel unloved. You are important to me, and so very important to God. Will you forgive me?”

He impulsively threw his arms around me, totally sympathetic to my struggle. “It’s alright, Mrs. Coleman,” he assured me. “I was being bad. You are supposed to straighten me out when that happens.”

It was the start of a beautiful friendship. Knowing his teacher readily admitted her failures opened the heart of that precocious little boy.

If you are like me, your standard on living before others may be nothing less than perfection. Not an especially realistic expectation. But don’t despair, because in reality, it’s not perfection, but the demonstration of our spiritual growth that actually touches hearts.

Paul’s first letter to Timothy emphasizes this. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather show yourself an example of those who believe,” he told Timothy. “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16 NASB).

Paul wanted Timothy to be an example to the church at Ephesus. But Timothy would not inspire through perfection. Rather, people’s hearts would stir in seeing God at work in Timothy. Living transparently before them, willing to admit his failures and openly acknowledging his humble dependence on God, would encourage them the most.

Not the pretty picture we might assume an example should be, right? Transformation can be a messy business. But Timothy’s transparency through that process would best serve to inspire and instruct the body of Christ.

Years ago, I heard a Bible college president urging his young protégés to keep themselves one step above those in their future congregations. Don’t let them see your faults, he warned them. In order for you to be an effective leader, you need to be revered.

This idea couldn’t be less biblical! The apostles were very open about their weaknesses. Paul named himself the chief of sinners. Yet the Chief of Sinners led hundreds to the Lord and God is still using his writings in the lives of believers today. Peter’s impulsiveness and infamous denial are laid out for all to see in the gospels. But God used him to lead people into the truth and to build His Church. Our testimony is not in keeping up appearances. Our most effective witness is in the demonstration of our progress.

God reveals Himself through us as He moves us forward in our relationship with Him.

Being candid in the struggle gives those around us an opportunity to watch God’s transforming power in action. It gives them hope that they, too, can be used by God, even with their own imperfections.

Stop feeling pressure to be perfect. Embrace what you can learn and ultimately teach others in response to your failures. It’s the perfect opportunity to reveal a God who is alive and active in you.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB 

Progress, Not Perfection – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: How has transparency led to inspiration for those around you?