Musings, Spiritual Formation

Unconquerable Imperfections

Have you ever had the feeling that you will never overcome a persistent weakness?

Perhaps a propensity to:
Anger
Bitterness
Impatience or negativity?

You pray, you try–and still you seem to lose the battle.

Could it be possible that God does not want us to have victory over all our persistent weakness?

That almost sound like heresy to our ears.

Would God really do that? Would He leave us with weaknesses? If so, why?

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (ESV)

A 17th c French Bishop François Fénelon, in Spiritual Letters: Letters to Women–Forbearance (Letter XCVII Forbearance to Others and to Self), wrote:
“…for sometimes He leaves people with certain unconquerable imperfections…”

Let me put the quote in context:

“It often happens that eager faultfinding, even with one’s self, is but an untimely zeal, while God is carrying things on altogether differently; for sometimes He leaves people with certain unconquerable imperfections, in order to deprive them of all inward self-satisfaction. It would be far less real mortification to them to be corrected of certain involuntary failings than to feel that their weaknesses got the uppermost. Everything in its own time. Self-reliance even in matters of curing one’s faults fosters a hidden conceit.”

Notice that these “unconquerable imperfections” are not the same as rebellious acts or willful sins, they are “involuntary failings.” While the concept of willful sin versus “unwillful” or unknowing sin is hard to fully comprehend–since I’m not sure I have ever sinned without knowing what I was doing, usually I sin knowingly (by the way this is different than sins of omission versus commission)–the point seems to be the difference between outright rebellion and failings.

What Fénelon seems to be saying is that there are aspects of our personality and disposition which make us prone to certain weaknesses and sins–which while still wrong, are not God’s main concern. His main desire is for us to be wholely devoted, fully surrendered, humbly yielded to Him.

Lessons

We all have “unconquerable imperfections”–but they are no excuse for “bad behavior.”

Our “unconquerable imperfections” should not cause us to despair but to depend. To depend more fully on the mercy and grace of God. To depend more on Him and less on ourselves.

It may be that God wants submission and humility more than He wants perfection from His Children. A humble heart that quickly repents seems to truly please God.

Psalm 51:16-17 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (ESV)

So, praise God for your “unconquerable imperfection” for through them you learn dependence on God. And when we are dependent on God, then He will receive the glory and we will receive His empowerment.

Unconquerable imperfection should not lead to despair, but to hope. God has left us with our unconquerable imperfections because He is not through with us yet–He has plans for us, and the ultimate end of the plan is our conformity to the image of Christ.

But, perhaps not all our “imperfections” are “unconquerable.” There is hope for victory–but the only hope is through surrender and humility.

(More on the hope and victory later.)

Author: Steve

Steve Kilgore joined the staff of Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA in the fall of 2002 as the Pastor of Discipleship to facilitate the equipping ministries, which include Adult Bible Fellowship and other adult discipleship ministries, and work with the rest of the education ministries. He currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Ministries with a focus on providing ministries that facility individuals taking intentional Next Steps for growing and participating in the leadership and administrative aspect at Calvary. He has also taught part-time at Lancaster Bible College in the area of Spiritual Formation and New Testament. Prior to coming to Calvary he served in two churches as well as taught part-time at Philadelphia Biblical University. He was born in Dallas, Texas, but spent the first 13 years of his life in Guatemala where his parents were missionaries. It was there at the age of four and a half that Steve placed his faith in Christ as his Savior. Steve received a Bachelor’s degree in Bible from Philadelphia College of Bible and a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Steve and his wife, Mary Anne, have their two boys, Andrew and Nathan (both in college), and live in East Lampeter Township. Steve lives and ministers by the personal motto, Know what you believe and why, live it, be able to defend it. His hobbies, other than playing with his family, include tinkering with computers, reading, drinking coffee with his wife, playing and watching basketball. Steve and Mary Anne are looking forward to exploring new hobbies as they transition to life as empty-nesters.

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