Friday, September 15, 2023

Fits and Starts - Martin Wiles

fits and starts
I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15 NLT

For a long time, I committed more “fits” than “starts.” 

For those not familiar with the idiom, it refers to irregular intervals of actions and inaction, as in “His presidential campaign is proceeding by fits and starts.” The expression began in the late 1500s with “as by fits.” The noun fit meant a paroxysm or seizure. Start was added about a century later (The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms).

Many of the folks I’ve known during my lifetime have fallen more into the fit category—myself included. From infancy, people had told me the story of Jesus dying on the cross. How could they not? My dad was a preacher, which meant Mom and I went to church every time the doors opened. But hearing just meant I knew some Bible stories. 

A few months before my ninth birthday, Dad took me into his home office and told me why I needed to follow Jesus as my Savior. I understood—and decided I would. Things progressed well—until I hit middle school. That’s when things changed. Not all my friends followed Jesus in my new school. Nor did they make any effort to obey all the commands my parents had taught me to obey. They pressured me to follow suit. I stood strong. Then adolescence took over. 

My fourteenth birthday brought more changes. By this time, I had decided I wanted to delve into some of that behavior and those attitudes my middle school friends had invited me to indulge in. By this time, I was in another school with a much rougher crowd. I had only two or three friends who traveled the way my parents and every Sunday school teacher had told me to go. I chose the wrong path. 

High school was a blur. Still is. I continued going to church—I had no choice—and I even kept reading my Bible and praying. But the fits caught me, and the starts became almost nonexistent. Occasionally, I’d feel bad about the things I did, but God’s still small voice grew stiller and quieter. 

Finally, when in my mid-twenties, I tired of the fits and decided to start . . . again. Of course, God hadn’t left me. I had moved, and, as always, he waited for me to come back. When I did, I discovered open arms, forgiveness, and second chances. 

I wish I could say my journey from then to now has entailed consistent starts—but it hasn’t. Yet, I feel as if I’m in good company. The greatest missionary who ever lived faced fits and starts.  

Most Bible scholars believe Paul wrote these words after he met the risen Christ on the Damascus Road, not before. Which is significant. If he penned them afterward, then his life was also characterized by fits and starts. Although he took the gospel message to the known world, he didn’t always trust, get it right, or obey. Still, God used him. 

The theological word for the process of fits and starts is sanctification. And some important elements go along with the word and its meaning.

Sanctification Requires Effort

Sanctification isn’t automatic. In fact, if we don’t put in some effort, we’ll find ourselves doing more fits than starts. The writer of Hebrews alluded to this when he wrote, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12 NLT). 

Sanctification Is a Process

The process begins the moment we follow Christ and continues throughout our lifetime. We never arrive at perfection this side of heaven. There should never come a time when we stop striving to grow spiritually, to know more about God and his ways, and to get closer to him. 

Sanctification Always Involves Forgiveness and Second Chances

Unbelief is the only sin God won’t forgive, and Christians don’t have to worry about committing it because we have already believed. Satan would love nothing more than to convince us our fits have disqualified us from God’s service. Our place is on the shelf. Our service is over. We’re a failure. 

Such messages never come from God. When we choose to follow Christ, he clothes us in Christ’s righteousness and forgives all our sins. Our part thereafter is to confess and start—and keep starting despite the fits.

So, don’t let the fits get you down. They are a part of our fallen nature and of the journey. With God’s guidance, you can enjoy more starts than fits. 

How can you enjoy more starts than fits?

Father, give me the strength to follow you faithfully so I can experience more starts than fits.

Tweetable: Do you have more starts than fits? 

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