Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
A little girl was playing when she noticed her little dog was just about to enjoy a big fat caterpillar snack. She rescued the tiny crawling creature giving him refuge in a mason jar with a little twig and some grass for comfort. Soon he made his way to the middle of the branch and by morning there was a tightly woven cocoon surrounding him. She waited and waited knowing that soon a lovely butterfly would emerge and fly high above the dangers of the earth below. One morning the cocoon was moving and she knew that it was time. But as the little butterfly continued to squirm and move with no sign of escape, she took little scissors to ease its passage to eliminate its struggle. Out popped a butterfly but not as she envisioned, its body was fat and wings shriveled and wet. So she took the little creature to her science teacher seeking help yet again for her tiny friend. The science teacher immediately knew the problem and told the little girl that when she had cut the cocoon and ended its struggle to survive she had preempted God’s Process. See it is in the struggle that the wings are strengthened to fly.
Struggles are a part of life. They are predetermined and predesigned to strengthen God’s People and create the endurance we need to finish the race. No one likes the struggle but most will deem it worth it when the finish is finally found. The life of faith is a series of trials and tests to examine our faith for perfection. It must be authentic. Without real and genuine faith, we will not make it to our destination. Our journey will end abruptly. It is human nature to find release from the pressure and end the struggle as soon as it started. In some cases, we are successful but one must consider the cost. When our son battled with cancer, I was determined that it would not touch my faith. Well, it did but not like one might imagine. Like an athlete attacking a weight bench, it made me examine my faith and decide whether I would be strengthened or give up all together. Cancer did not change us but it certainly has empowered our faith over the last four years.
I have endured trials that ended too soon because I gave up. But there have been some tests in life that giving up was not an option. Our son’s life was not optional. There was no choice. People often say, I don’t think I could’ve done it. Friend, if it happened to your child you would do it. You don’t have a choice. Death is not an option. Life is the primary goal. When our choice is life or death, everything changes. If we only could see that every struggle in life is a choice between life and death, we might look at these things a little differently. Jesus is our Champion. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He promised that with God all things are possible. Faith is the force that unites us to the Father through the Son.
After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. When a tiny baby is being thrust from the womb, its chest is squeezed so tightly that the fluid is pressed out of them so that he can take his first breath. Birth is a violent process. It is quite painful, I can attest. When I look at my five beautiful people, it is worth it. Every painful moment is absolutely worth it to me. When I read this verse this morning, I thought about my own life. I can hope that the last great struggle we faced is over. But if I am still breathing, there will be more. Some days I am ready for the fight. Other days, I just want to give up or give in as my flesh rallies against me. But it is a matter of life and death…
Deuteronomy 30:15-16 (NLT)
“Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.”
Grace did not change God’s Offer for His People. It stands firm today. You decide if you will live or die and between prosperity or disaster. Life is a struggle. Every single day our flesh fights for control. Paul summed it up like this, “I have discovered this principle of life – that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s Law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.” (Romans 7:21-23) I know that there are many days when I think I have come so far but still have too far to go to ever make it to a place of firm faith and completely confident hope. But when we consider that it is a matter of life or death…maybe it will make a difference in how we fight. Like the butterfly works to strengthen its wings when it thinks only of getting out of the cocoon or a newborn baby wants only a little room to move so it makes its way into the world, so it is with us in the daily struggles. We do not see the long range effect they have on our life but for those who love the Lord with all their heart and are determined to remove that sin creating havoc in their life – each struggle will result in blessing and prosperity. Are you willing to fight for your life? It will be a daily struggle. It will requires a daily decision.
I Timothy 4:8-10 (NLT)
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.
I have a confession to make. I have stopped working out. I didn’t mean to. It kind of just happened. I got too busy or too lazy – pick one. Some days it is preempted by my schedule and the routines of those I love. Other days, I just don’t feel like it. In a nutshell, the result is I haven’t gone in a long time. I want to be healthy. Exercise makes me feel better and is of good benefit to my life. I have a gym membership so I can go anytime that I want to but if I am not willing to get in the car and go – it does me no good. We are saved by Jesus Christ which gives us access to God’s Presence and subsequently every single promise that He ever made to us guaranteed by His Spirit within us. If we refuse to struggle to maintain our faith and keep a type grip on hope fighting against our own unwillingness to surrender and obey, we will never reap the full benefits of salvation. It is an access point but if we choose not to go in – there really is no point. Obedience offers the life we hope for. Discipline keeps us on track. Grace is enough when it is what we rely and depend on. Faith that is unfounded is fruitless. Hope that is not grounded in Christ is just another floating timber rather than a solid anchor. We need the struggles we face to know the God who we serve.
James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Today you will face some difficult choices, overwhelming challenges and daily struggles, it is called life. There is purpose and meaning in each test and trial we face as we decide whether we will choose life or death. There are not multiple routes from here to forever. Just one. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) There are a lot of folks trying to make up different ways to get there, but truly the only way to walk in the Presence of God is obeying His Word and following His Way every single day. You cannot follow the Lord and willingly walk in sin. As you walk with Him, He will show you the things that may be permissible but are not beneficial. The things that feed our flesh rather than releasing the Holy Spirit to fill us and equip us to live forever. We are reborn in Jesus Christ. Like the infant is pressed through the birth canal removing water to breathe in air, we pressed by problems to remove our sin and breathe in more of His Spirit. Just like the brand new butterfly must fight for freedom, we must fight the need for release and cries for escape to break every bondage that sin places on our life so we can rise above our problems to live by faith and confident hope. The process you are in has meaning. It has purpose. The Eternity that is hidden in our heart is being expressed into our life. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Isn’t that what we desired coming to Christ? A new life. Isn’t that what we meant when we repented from our sins? To remove them once and for all to live in totally free, healed and delivered from them. Don’t give up. Daily struggles are the process by which our faith is refined and hope driven home in our heart. The good news is that Jesus is our Champion. In all things we are more than conquerors. No weapon formed against us will prosper. Though trials and sorrows may be many, Jesus overcame them all!
John 16:33 (NLT)
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”