Should We Seek Perfection, Progress, or Neither?

For years, the media has sold us an image of perfection. We idolize celebrities and models in movies, TV shows, and print ads. We envy their photo-shopped looks and overflowing bank accounts, all the while feeling totally inadequate in comparison. In response to this, the following advice has become commonplace: “Seek progress, not perfection.” Apparently, Hollywood can be perfect, but we common folk should settle for progress.

However, lately I’ve been hearing a new message: “You’re perfect just the way you are.” So, now it doesn’t matter what we say or do; we just have to wake up in the morning to be perfect. And since everyone is perfect, no one has to feel pressured to seek progress.

Each of these messages can be used to justify our actions (or lack thereof). So, what’s the truth? Do we seek perfection, progress, or neither? As Christians, we should look to the Bible for our answer.


Be Perfect

One of the grandest statements in Scripture is found in Matthew 5. After admonishing the disciples to love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NAS).

If we can’t even compare to celebrities, how can we be perfect as God is perfect? How should we interpret this today?

First, note that Jesus was NOT talking about heaven. He simply said the disciples would be perfect if they loved and obeyed God and loved their fellow man. As Jesus’ disciples today, this applies to us, too.

Second, the word “perfect” here is derived from the Greek word teleios, meaning “complete” or “having reached its end.” This does NOT mean that we’ll gain special powers, that we’ll stop making mistakes, or that we’ll never need to ask for forgiveness again. I will NOT become Super Woman, and you will NOT become Anne Hathaway.

However, this Scripture DOES mean that we’ll become complete, mature versions of ourselves—the epitome of what God intended us to be when He created us. I’ll be the perfect me, and you’ll be the perfect you.


Make Progress

I’ve heard parents say they wish their children could remain babies forever, but they don’t really mean that. Instead, they want what is best for their children: for them to grow and mature until they realize their full potential as adults. As our Heavenly Father, God wants the same thing for us!

Paul explained that we must “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15 NAS). He then said that we should use our talents and the roles God gives us within the Church Body “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NAS, emphasis mine).

The word “mature” here is the same word teleios meaning, “perfect, complete, having reached its end.” In other words, we should strive toward righteousness, obedience, and unity, growing in the knowledge of the Lord until the whole Church Body is where it should be.

This act of maturing, of perfecting, is not a one-time activity! It is not relegated to the point of salvation, baptism, or confirmation. Instead, it covers a lifelong pursuit of God and His holiness in our lives.

And God expects us to make progress.


Progress in the Pursuit of Perfection

God is not concerned with the world’s definition of perfection, and neither should we. The media’s messages might tickle the ears, but they are empty of real truth. God’s message is much more meaningful and valuable! His Word says that we should seek Him first, and that we should strive to be what He made us to be so we can do what He’s called us to do.

In other words, we should make progress in the pursuit of God’s perfection.

If this is a new concept for you, I encourage you to study these verses and meditate on their meaning. If you feel convicted to make progress in your spiritual life, ask the Lord what steps you should take. Then, stand in faith that, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6b NAS).


~ By Ashley L. Jones of

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The Ultimate Makeover


“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” — Isaiah 16:7 (NIV).

Check out the cover of just about any magazine at the local supermarket and the headlines seem to taunt you:

Lose 25 pounds in 6 Weeks

Ten Ways to Find Happiness

Find the Love of your Life in 30 days 

As a society we are obsessed with perfection. We seek the perfect job, the perfect body, the perfect mate.

I remember a Reality TV show called “Extreme Makeover.” The premise of the show was to take a woman who needed a complete makeover on the outside. Most women did need help with their appearance. However, when the makeover was complete, the woman’s family often didn’t even recognize her. While the results were amazing, I often wondered about the individual’s inside. An extreme makeover is good for the self-esteem of those who undergo such a dramatic physical change. We all want to look our best. But looking our best and being our best are not the same.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

As a child, I was shy, a bookworm. I was not athletically inclined. In a society that values physical prowess over other personal attributes, I didn’t fit. In elementary school, when teams were formed for dodge ball or some other sport, I was chosen last. Being chosen last colored my view of myself. I longed to be the most athletic, the team captain and the one who did the choosing.

I suffered from low self-esteem. Then, in my mid-forties, a friend and I started a power-walking program, which eventually led to my competing in 5K races as a runner. In my first race, I won a third-place trophy in my age division.

Bitten by the racing bug, I took up the challenge of the Tulsa Run several years after I had started competing. By this time, I was no longer competing against others to win. I was competing against myself. Could I reach my personal goal to finish the race in 90 minutes?

I was encouraged by several friends who helped me pace myself during the 12-mile race. I was disappointed when, three miles from the finish line, I developed a side cramp and was forced to walk. However, through encouragement from a 75-year-old race master, I was able to sprint to the finish line.

Although I didn’t win a trophy — which was not my goal — I finished in 97 minutes. It was my personal best. I knew before I started the race I would never achieve perfection by coming in first, but I knew it didn’t matter. I had done my personal best.

Our relationship with God is like that race. With His encouragement, He wants us to reach the finish line. He wants us to be our personal best. He doesn’t look at our outside. He doesn’t see the crooked teeth or nose or other physical flaws as we do. He wants to do an extreme makeover from the inside out.

Are you ready for the most extreme makeover of your life? Look in the mirror and see the person that He does. Ask for God’s guidance to change your life from the inside out. The only extreme makeover we need is finding our best selves through a personal relationship with Him.

Psalm 139:13-15 reminds us how much God treasures us:

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (ESV).

Carol Round

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