When I stood with my back to the “measuring wall,” and my mom marked my growth progress from the previous year, my six-year-old brain was discouraged. “Why can’t I grow faster? Why is Ronda [my older sister] taller than me?” From that day forward, I schemed, planned, and plotted to find ways to grow faster. And for those of you who know how tall I am . . . those plans didn’t work.
I’ve often been frustrated with the slow process of growth. Whether the goal is to lose ten pounds, increase financial investments, learn a new language, recover from surgery, or to become more Christ-like, progress is painstakingly . . . slooooow.
If you’re like me, I want change to happen now. I want growth to happen now. I want to overcome my bad habits now. I want to be a better person now. What I fail to recognize, however, is that change IS happening now. Growth, overcoming bad habits, becoming a better person—all of these are happening now. This doesn’t mean I’ve achieved the end result, but the process has begun, and incremental change is far better than overnight change for becoming who you want to be.
Incremental change is slow, steady, and deliberate movement in the right direction. If you’re on a diet plan to lose twenty pounds, and you achieve your goal through liposuction without any lifestyle change, those pounds lost will eventually be pounds regained.
Spiritually, if you want to overcome your addiction, or become a person of character, or know your Bible better there’s no shortcut to crossing the finish line. Spiritual growth comes through daily practices of prayer, reading Scripture, confession, and community.
My assistant, Sandy, always tells me, “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard life is hard.” And so it is. Incremental, daily growth develops patterns of the heart that open the door to God’s transformative work. Get-rich-quick schemes and get-mature-quick schemes have this in common: they fail. Even if you experience an increase in your financial or spiritual bank-account through some shortcut, the increase quickly dissolves through lack of character and judgment.
What God is doing in your daily life will prepare you for your eternal life. This life is the training ground for the life to come.
Why do you think Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)? Why did He call us to take up our cross “daily” and follow Him (Luke 9:23)? Why should we learn from the Berean believers who examined the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11)? The reason is that long-term growth comes one day at a time.
Someone told me recently, “The days go by slowly, but the years pass quickly.” And maybe this is a good thing because we don’t want to miss today by dwelling on all the years to come.
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Enjoy the incremental growth day-by-day, and you will discover exponential rewards year-by-year.