K2 is the second-highest mountain in the world, towering 28,251ft above sea level. Not only is it tall, but it is also dangerous, resulting in the deaths of 77 people who have tried to reach its peak. Some have scaled the vast height, but they did not all use the same route. One can attempt to climb from any side of the mountain and may choose it based on several factors, such as availability, season, political situation of the countries each side resides in, finance, equipment, and other variables. Each route offers challenges and difficulties, but those on different routes still scale the same mountain.
Our Journey of Sanctification
Now, while justification is only a one-way path, faith in Jesus Christ alone, our journey of sanctification may take different bends and turns than others. While we are all on the same journey with the same goal, we do not all have the same challenges to face or obstacles to overcome. We should all be going up the road to holiness, but the things that impede us from that goal may not be the same. While you may never have to struggle with drunkenness, others may, and the temptation is to see them as lower on the path than you are. However, that same person may never have to struggle with the rage or excess pride that you do. The problem lies in when we superimpose the ease or difficulty of our journey onto others. It can be tempting to establish our sanctification as the standard and treat it as if it is a cookie-cutter method of how everyone will grow in sanctification. Sanctification is not a one-size-fits-all process, for while we are all sinners, we do not all share the same sins in equal measure.
Our Struggles during Sanctification
Sanctification is also at different rates. Some start from a position where the climb up will be intensely laborious. In contrast, others start with relative ease and quickness only to approach a vertical cliff of difficulty later. The way up in both situations is not to look at where you are in relation to others but rather to keep your eye on the goal, which is Christ. Therefore, instead of looking with disdain at those we perceive as behind us, we should encourage them to press on through the things we have already conquered and sympathize with those who struggle with what we didn’t have to struggle with. Often, I find the discussion of who is the “stronger” Christian vs who is the “weaker” Christian to be missing the fullness of our complex situation. While there are definite marks of strength that scripture gives, a better question may be what we are strong in vs. what we are weak in. Due to their different struggles, some may be farther along and stronger in an area than you are, even though you can look into their lives and see a weakness compared to you in another area. All Christians walking down the path of sanctification have something they can learn from each other.
Our Humility in Sanctification
Sometimes, our paths intersect, which helps us move together through the challenges we face. But even when one person must climb over boulders, let us not think of ourselves as superior because boulders never give us a problem even though we are dealing with snow drifts. Or put another way, Jesus says, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5). Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 also speak to how we interact with those who are in different areas of sanctification. Rather than causing conflict, let us learn to use their vantage point to help us see things we may never have seen and share our view with them that they may have never been aware of.
Our Companions through Sanctification
Sanctification is the path that every Christian must walk in, and while it is a steady and long race that will test our endurance, it is not a race against each other but with each other. We must always remember that our progress in sanctification is never measured by how far we are from other believers but by how close we are to Christ. So, if every Christian is looking to Christ, then every Christian ought to be growing in him, and while what that looks like in each believer may not be exactly the same, it will still be an encouragement to us all. The race before us is long and hard, so let us press on together and spur one another on to good works. Even when our sanctification is from different angles, its journey will still help motivate others to continue to grow in godliness. An expedition of K2 takes three weeks full of dangers and endurance, but the course of sanctification takes an entire lifetime full of dangers and endurance. The Christian life is not for the weak of the heart, which is why Jesus said his disciples must take up their cross daily and lose their lives, for that is precisely what they will do. While sanctification is hard, it is worth it, for through it, we will be conformed more and more into the image of God’s Son. While the journey of K2 may end in glory, the journey of the Christian life ends in glorification.
Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Eric Ayala is a pastor, healthcare chaplain, and seminary professor. He earned degrees from Moody Bible Institute, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Anderson University. He holds professional certifications in spiritual care, palliative care, and end-of-life support. He has also served in homelessness recovery ministry, spiritual counseling, traumatic crisis support, and ethics committees for healthcare organizations. He currently serves Reformation Church in Plant City, FL.