Pictures of destruction are easy to find. I am struck by how quickly good things can be destroyed but how long it takes to build something good. How long does it take for a bomb to destroy a 10-story building that took a year to build and has housed people for 40 years? How long does it take for a person of dignity to be killed after 25 years of trying to build strength and character? How long does it take for a leader or celebrity to ruin a reputation after years of effort trying to build a good image?
It seems like building anything good takes time and energy and lots of effort. The only thing that happens naturally seems to be deterioration and destruction. If we relax our disciplines, we get fat, lazy, and inefficient and things begin to deteriorate. Dr. Timothy Warren spoke at the Dallas Theological Seminary chapel service this week concerning the importance of pursuing holiness and quoted D. A. Carson to illustrate our natural drift away from godliness.
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Quoted in Chrisitanity Today, 2000
In light of all this, words like “perseverance” and “pressing on” and “discipline” seem to take on an extra measure of positive value. Personal growth is worth the time and effort.