Sanctification In A World Of Instant Gratification

Why sanctification can’t be just one click away.

In a world of live streaming, binge-watching TV shows, high-speed internet, and same-day delivery, anything that takes more than 24 hours to accomplish feels like an exercise in long-suffering. This is why I give up on diets after not losing 20 lbs in one week. We’ve lost the ability to be patient because, for the most part, we don’t have to anymore.

The process of sanctification is an affront to our fast-paced, instant gratification mindset. And it should be. Think of metaphors of the fruit-bearing trees (Matthew 7:16–18), the vine and branches (John 15:1–8), and the reaping of souls as a harvest (Matthew 9:37–38; John 4:35–38). Think of the parables of the sower (Matthew 13:1–9), the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13:24–30), and the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31–32). The apostles also used such language – spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22–23) and fields (1 Corinthians 3:6–9).

Listeners in Jesus’ day would be familiar with these agricultural references and understand the arduous process of planting and harvesting. They understood how the seasons impact the fruit and the effort and discipline that goes into growing and processing food. These metaphors are all but lost on most modern readers. We may understand the surface level, “it takes time and energy,” meaning, but we don’t know what it’s like to labor in a field for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for weeks on end. We certainly don’t comprehend the consequences of not laboring in the field. Isn’t there an app for that?

While modern technological advancements in farming have some obvious benefits, I think we lose appreciation for the fruits of those labors. Or for labor at all. Which brings us back to sanctification. It’s hard work. And it’s often slow. So slow, that we even take a few steps backward. This is intentional. As author Jon Bloom puts it:

God designed us to develop habits of obedience and holiness slowly and incrementally because the process teaches and trains us to live by faith rather than by our often inaccurate perceptions and emotions. The waiting teaches us to trust more in the truth of what God says than the impulses of what we see or how we feel.

He goes on to say that the long-term, beneficial effects of this slow growth are that we develop a deep and complex relationship with God, and we begin to understand the full picture of who He is in every season.

Sanctification may not be just one click away, but the benefits are eternal. “Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” – Psalm 37:3