The Tyranny of the Novel
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“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” –Matthew 24:13
I’m terrible about finishing projects. Even as I write this devotion book, I’m tempted to put it aside and start working on something new.
New things are exciting! I love thinking about possibilities, setting up frameworks, and talking to others about things I might do.
Then, at some point, the novelty wears off. The excitement fades. Another something new comes up and grabs my attention. Putting my nose to the grindstone and working through difficulties, periods of boredom, and setbacks are nowhere near as enjoyable as the prospect of experiencing something new. I’ve started calling it “The Tyranny of the Novel Idea.”
Spiritually speaking, The Tyranny of the Novel Idea is reinforced by our warped idea that spiritual maturity can be accomplished quickly. We’ll commit to that new devotional, but if our flawed patterns of thinking aren’t changed in a week then the devotional hasn’t worked. We’re willing to conceptually forgive someone who has wronged us, but when the feelings of hurt don’t instantly vanish we convince ourselves that forgiveness and reconciliation are fine in theory, but don’t actually work. We may even be willing to alter our morning routine to spend a few more minutes in prayer for a week or so. But when things get a little hectic or we have a day where we oversleep, we mindlessly fall back into our old patterns.
But if Christ-likeness is a process that will take a lifetime, then we must develop the spiritual muscles to persist in habits, disciplines, and practices that Scripture and the examples of those who have gone before us demonstrate lead to spiritual maturity. While we love the idea of living a life that pursues passion, psychologists have discovered that people who accomplish great things and become proficient with some skill have done so precisely because they have learned how to persist through boredom. Kobe Bryant became great because he made 2,000 shots a day in the offseason (note: he made 2,000, not took). Before he became the apostle Paul, Paul spent anywhere from 1-8 years anonymously serving the church at Antioch.
This is precisely why Jesus said that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13). Our salvation in the sense of our standing with God through Christ doesn’t hang in the balance. That’s been accomplished by grace through faith in His work. But the ongoing process of becoming more like Him in our salvation will require perseverance, not just in navigating things that would challenge us to fall away from Him, but also in persisting in the things that will make us more like Him.