I have for most of my life struggled with the idea of how much work is involved on my part as it relates to changing who I am as a person. Christianity teaches me that when I surrender my life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells me. That word is a theological term to mean that the Holy Spirit becomes a constant, ongoing part of my life, especially in the spiritual sense. That indwelling includes something called sanctification. To be sanctified is to be made holy in the same way that God is holy. Understandably, that is a lengthy process and is different from person to person.
The point for me in this writing is to try to separate the part of that work that belongs to the Holy Spirit (that he is changing me into someone else), and the part that is my responsibility (the part where I try to act holy).
I have struggled with this for so long and have to date not yet reached what I would call an adequate answer. It would seem that on one level, the work of becoming holy like God is holy is completely beyond my grasp. The Holy Spirit would be the sole architect in that process. How could a flawed human attempt to be like the unflawed God?
Then a different part of my brain and heart take over, and it says, "Of course I am supposed to do my best, work my hardest, try with all my might, etc. What a foolish notion to suggest that becoming holy would mean complete passivity on my part waiting idly for the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants to do."
Common sense would tell me that the answer is a combination of both. Let me give you an example:
MY PART: I want to pray to God more. I believe that praying to Him more every day moves me closer to being holy. So, I place prayer into my schedule at a set time in the day every day to make sure I do it. I make a written list of the things I want to pray for.
SPIRIT'S PART: The desire inside to pray more grows by virtue of the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in my heart and mind over a period of time in accordance with His perfect timing. It could happen overnight, but it often happens over the course of my life.
Sounds reasonable, right? A partnership of responsibility that works toward an ongoing improvement of who I am in Christ.
But what happens when my part doesn't go as described? What if I spend my entire life unable to develop the discipline to pray in a manner described above? Will the Holy Spirit just pick up the slack? What is complete sanctification, anyway? Will I ever truly be holy here on earth? If not, why does God's Word command me to be holy?
The only words of comfort I find when asking these questions come from Matthew 5:3:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Sanctification is spirit growth, and I feel stunted in this area. Jesus took the time to comfort me by reminding me that even when I am poor in my spirit, I am still His forever.
So, all of that to say this: let not your heart be troubled as you consider your spiritual growth here on this earth. Keep trying. Don't give up. But don't beat yourself up if things move slower than you'd like. God even uses the poor in spirit to accomplish His will. And one day, the work of sanctification will be complete. You will be as the Lord intended you to be.