Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting better or getting worse

In university I had a coach who ended up being the winningest coach in Canadian University football. He was much accomplished in both victories and championships. He had a dozen or so catch-phrases that he would regularly use when addressing the players. One has stuck with me; "As a football team, you are either getting better or getting worse."

The idea he would go on to espouse is that football teams never remain the same in terms of performance and ability. They either improve through hard work and preparation or they worsen through apathy and ignorance. But they are never static, they never stay the same.

I think this idea is applicable to many areas of life. A 'plateau' is never really possible. Once you have plateaued, and you cease to grow or improve, you are actually declining. Consider education or a skill set for a hobby or a relationship; if these things aren't growing or improving or expanding they are actually diminishing.

In A Body of Divinity, Thomas Watson applies this principle to spiritual growth as well. Considering this type of growth is 'organic', I think there is some truth to the ideas he shares here:

Such as do not grow in grace—decay in grace. "Not to go forward in the Christian life is to turn back," Bernard. There is no standing still in piety—either we go forward or backward. If faith does not grow, unbelief will. If heavenly-mindedness does not grow, covetousness will. A man who does not increase his stock, diminishes it. Just so, if you do not improve your stock of grace, your stock will decay. The angels on Jacob's ladder were either ascending or descending. Just so, if you do not ascend in true religion, you descend. (276)

Let us be encouraged to keep ascending, to keep growing, to keep going forward, to keep pressing on. We must. Because we don't remain the same.


  1. Sanctification comes to mind after reading this post. I have always thought of it as a progression, being conformed to the likeness of Christ. However, in light of this, can one decline in their sanctification? Or is this just a categorical error on my behalf.

    Good post nonetheless,

  2. Good question.

    Grudem defines sanctification as such: Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.

    For our part, is it possible to sin more and more and become less like Christ? I would think so.

    Granted, our role in sanctification is secondary to God's role. Nevertheless, I think our actions and thoughts could be such that we become less Christ-like. It seems to me there are Scriptures to indicate this.

    If we can decline in sanctification, then we and not God would clearly be culpable for the experienced decline.

  3. Two quotes I came across that apply to this issue:

    “For Athanasius, sin, takes on its own momentum. The soul ‘having fallen in love with pleasure, began to work out in various ways’, for the soul, by nature, is mobile, and ‘she cannot at all cease from movement’ (4.2-30).” (15)

    "A life of sin and a life of holiness are alike in one thing-they are active, always advancing." William S. Plumer