If I had a dime for every time I have heard someone tell me “it changed my life!” I’d be a rich man (even if those dimes were Canadian currency). I remember hearing people walking out of the theatre after watching The Passion of the Christ and saying how the movie had changed their life. It’s not unusual to go to Amazon and read book reviews that say something like “I finished this book last night and it has changed my life!” I can’t deny I am always skeptical when I hear this. It seems to me that life change is rarely something that can be measured in mere minutes.
I won’t deny there are moments that are life-changing. This is certainly true in salvation – I know of many people who have had a moment where suddenly it all came together and the Lord gave them new life, just like that. There was no long, drawn-out process; it just happened. There are other life-changing moments. A wife who suddenly loses her husband can legitimately immediately say “this has changed my life!”
When it comes to sanctification, though, it seems to me that life-changing moments are much fewer and further between. Sanctification is not an easy process. It is an uphill battle where we fight for every inch of ground we take as we wage war against the old nature. We often lose ground and have to fight long and vicious battles to regain ground we took days, weeks or even years before. As we strive to live as God would have us live, we battle the old nature, we battle Satan and we may even have to fight battles with those around us. Those who have been believers far longer than I tell me that the battle does not get easier as it goes on. Behavior that hasn’t been manifested in decades may come crawling back while new aberrant behaviors may rise up. Truly it is a lifelong fight.
But it is not impossible. As believers we have confidence that the Spirit lives inside us, helping us fight the war. He is the one who empowers us and enables us to gain ground. He is the one who moulds and shapes our character to slowly begin to conform to the image of the Son.
And so it is that I exercise caution with using the term “life changing.” In my own life I have seen that many battles I thought I had won were merely temporary victories, for when I thought that particular enemy was subdued, he came roaring back as strong as ever. I rejoice that there are other enemies that I put to rest that have not showed their ugly faces again. But I know that in the future they might.
Have I had life changing moments? Absolutely! Have I read life changing books? Yes! How do I know? Because months or years later I can look back on those as defining moments that gave me a new level of understanding or helped change a specific aspect of my character. At the time I rarely realized the impact they were having. It is only in time that they have become clear.
Through the setbacks and the losses I am not discouraged. I rejoice in the victories and take confidence that He who lives inside me has empowered me to win the battles as I walk with Him, one day at a time. I look forward to the day when the enemy will be conquered fully and finally in what will be the ultimate life changing experience.