For nine consecutive mornings, while attending a church leadership conference in Singapore, I opened the hotel window curtain to an inspiring view. It wasn’t a view of the bustling harbor below or of the beautiful orchids carefully planted throughout the city. This simple view of a construction site inspired me. It reminded me that I’m under construction too, a “work in progress” before God (and people.) I’ve come a long way, but I’m not nearly finished. I continue to need growth, adjustment, renovation (also known as repentance,) tweaking and shaping. But, I know that as long as God works on me he is touching me, molding me, and lovingly shaping me. This reminds me that he cares for me. If I ever begin to feel like I’m “a finished product” then I’m surely in spiritual trouble.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:12)
I take heart in the scriptures that speak of the need to add to my faith (2 Peter 1:5-9); to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18); to grow in love and faith. ”We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. (2 Thessalonians 1:3); and to grow in the knowledge that God’s spirit helps me grow “from one degree of glory to another. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Over the past few days in Singapore I have been challenged and inspired by my brothers and sisters from all over the world, who are also works in progress, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
The “construction stories” of my sisters around the world challenge my faith and help me grow. I’m challenged and inspired by my sisters in India, sometimes enduring intense persecution because of their faith; my sisters in Abidjan, who dodged bullets while serving the church during civil war; my displaced sisters, affected by the unrest in Eastern Ukraine; my sister from Pakistan, who was enjoying her first international fellowship; my sisters from the Middle East, who experience much less freedom as a woman; my friend with three little ones who recently moved from a comfortable life on the West coast to serve the poor in Cambodia…and on and on. Your faith calls me higher—as God uses you to reach many women around the world with the wonderful message of hope that Jesus offers.
As I converse, read the Bible, counsel, and share my faith with women who struggle to find meaning in their lives, overcome addictions, struggle to forgive, and learn to accept that they are indeed loved by God— I am reminded this building pictured—a “work in progress.” We are all works in progress, but if we let God work on us we will indeed make great progress. I recount the many ways God has worked in and on my life…sometimes fulfilling my dreams, sometimes thwarting and changing them and sometimes telling me to “wait.” The victories and struggles all remind me that I am still a “work in progress.”
The story of Singapore’s history calls me higher. Fifty years ago the city was filled with poverty, chaos and pain. Kicked out by its “motherland,” Singapore was left to fend for itself. Lee Kuan Yew, who became prime minister, looked out at his impoverished, abandoned and isolated city—and from his love and passion envisioned a nation of unity, strength, beauty and excellence. 49 years later Singapore enjoys all of these and more. It’s a vibrant, thriving and beautiful city.
It’s so easy to think that God looks at us with disdain, seeing chaos instead of vision and love. When I think of ways I need to grow in prayer, in boldness, in caring for the poor,… I can think I’ve so far to go. Yet, God goes to work on me with his construction tools full of love and grace—for which I am so thankful–and I make progress.
If a physical city can be built with human leadership and willing volunteers, imagine what God can do through his spirit to “grow us” to completion as together we build the kingdom of God on this earth.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)