What do you do when winds of adversity blow against you as you try to live a godly life? How do you hang in there when there seems to be nothing left for which to “hang?” Where do you go for strength when your arms feel too tired to lift from your side? What gives you the power to continue when it feels like you are running two steps forward and sliding back three?! Jeremiah felt anguish as he lamented on hearing God’s voice speak to him: “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?“ (Jeremiah 12:5)
We have been talking about the Disciplines of the Spirit-led Life for 19 blogs, but here is “where the rubber hits the road.” THIS IS THE DISCIPLINE THAT MATTERS! Well, ALL the Disciplines matter, and there are many others that we are not even addressing. However, you can fast (January 8, 2017) and pray (January 16, 2017) and keep yourself pure in the world (January 22, 2017); you can read and study (February 5, 2017 ) and memorize Bible verses (May 21, 2017) and find times of solitude (February 12, 2017) and worship in community (February 20, 2017, May 29, 2017) and exercise all of these 19 Disciplines and more and still find yourself lacking at the end of life . . . if you do not continue; hang in there; PERSEVERE!
In concluding this series on Disciplines of the Spirit-Led Life, I would be remiss if you were not reminded that none of these Disciplines earns eternal life (February 27, 2017, March 7, 2017! That is a completely different story.
But to find the joy God has planned for us, to discover just how great His love is and how He wants to use us to bring glory to His name, to explore the ultimate purpose of loving and enjoying HIM forever, we must be disciplined followers. If you give up, you may as well have never started. The rewards of living for God are not to the ones who start, but to the ones who finish. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)
Esau was the firstborn of the patriarch, Isaac, but he sold his right to his inheritance for a bowl of soup. Saul was a great “starter,” but in the end he lost his way, his authority, and his life. Ananias and Sapphira began with great enthusiasm for the nascent church, but the love of money and prestige clouded their vision and they failed to see what it would cost them. Paul warned the Christ-followers in Colossi, “He has now reconciled [you] in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. (Colossians 1:22-23) Though one cannot be “unborn” after being “born,” a child may die for lack of nutrition or disease. In the same way, one “born again” can spiritually die for lack of spiritual food.
However, Paul’s confidence in his salvation was secure. About ten years before his execution at the hands of the crazed emperor, Nero, Paul wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
He realized that the things you could see with human eyes and touch with your hands were transient, including his aging body. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17) The unseen intangible things are eternal. So when this life is over, He who made the first body for you in the womb of your mother, will create a new body for you , a whole new creation, that will never again get diseased or wrinkled with age nor shrivel up in the shroud of death. There will be no more separation from loved ones, especially not The Loved One who loves you more than His own comfort or life!
From where does such strength, determination and dedication come? Where is the confidence that our lives are hid in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3)? The same wind that grounds the sparrow and makes a starling shiver in its house lifts the eagle to heights above the mountains. The God Who Is There will give you everything you need to succeed, to be disciplined, but He will not force you to listen for Him, any more than He will make “dry water” to please a skeptic. He did His part . . . on a cross 2000 years ago; from a tomb three days later, and by sending the Holy Spirit 40 days later. There is nothing we can add to His completed work, but we also have a part: to choose to believe; to choose to trust; to choose to allow Him to work out His will in our lives, to let the winds raise us like eagles.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for Yahweh shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)