There are lessons we can take from facing extreme challenges. We may enjoy backpacking, kayaking, skydiving, or we may just enjoy seeing others participate in these challenges on survival reality shows, but the most extreme challenge we can take is to walk the Christian life. We watch these television shows or read about others facing the challenges of nature, and we think, “I can do that.” Many of us think that, but few of us would ever try – only five percent of visitors to the Grand Canyon, for example, ever descend below the rim.. Like the tiny percentage of people who ever go below the rim of the Grand Canyon, very few who look into God’s word find the will power to actually implement it.
Pressing Toward Our Goal
In James 1:22, James calls on us to be active in God’s word, and he says we fool ourselves if we study that word without becoming involved. We cannot be sideline observers in our spirituality. James says we must be workers of God’s word to receive God’s blessing. Also, in Matthew 7:13, Jesus calls on us to enter into salvation through the narrow, difficult gate. He illustrates destruction as the easy path. Sadly, in verse 21, Jesus observes that not all who call upon God’s name will enter into His kingdom. Rather, it will be those who commit to His will. We have to meet the challenge of participation to be blessed in God’s eyes.
Once our Christian journey begins, we have to understand the journey may be longer than we anticipate. We may begin our walk with great enthusiasm and confidence, but time and trials can cause us to question our resolve. When we face a challenge, stopping and quitting is not an option. Once you’re at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, you have to continue the journey to get back out. Luke 14:28 records Jesus talking about crucifying self to follow Him, and He encourages His listeners and us to count the cost of a great endeavor. He advocated preparedness. In Luke 9:62, we see a few examples of individuals willing to sacrifice self to follow Jesus. We have to be willing to finish what we started, never giving up until we reach the goal.
During this difficult journey, great benefit can be found in rest and refreshment. In Acts 2, the early church comes together for the purpose of encouraging and restoring one another. Verse 46 records this occurring daily, assembling to worship and to build each other back up. In Acts 4:23-24, persecuted disciples come to fellow Christians for encouragement in fellowship and prayer. Do we value the times we come together? Our times of worship and fellowship are not burdensome. It is a time to benefit from being in the presence of our brethren and our Lord.
We come together because we will not complete this journey by ourselves. We need each other. When we are on a long journey, we often share resources and provisions. We help those with whom we were journeying. We help keep each other on the right path, preventing each other from trailing off. In Hebrews 12, the author writes about running our race of faith, pressing on to a goal, laying aside unnecessary burdens. In verse 12, he encourages us to lift one another up, living peaceably with each other, and watching over each other. We need each other, and we need to be willing to ask for help when we need it.
Rejoicing In Our Goal
Always, the completion of our efforts will bring great joy. Sometimes, we enter into a task, and we think we will never finish. When we finish though, when we reach our destination, we have an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. Writing form prison in Philippians 3:12, Paul writes about his efforts pressing on, working toward the goal before him while leaving behind those things that might hold him back. Paul is looking toward a great joy waiting for him. In I Peter 4:12, Peter speaks of fiery challenges we may face in our journey, that these trials help prove us, help shape us. Just as Christ suffered, we may suffer, but we are made better through endurance.
Will we have the same stamina and endurance demonstrated by Jesus and by Paul? Hebrews 2:2 calls Jesus the author of our faith. He has cut the path for us, but it is not always an easy one. It is a path for which we must be committed and prepared. We must rely on one another, and we have to stay focused on the joy promised at its end. Jesus finished His work. We can follow His lead, walk after His footsteps, and enter into the home He has prepared for us.
lesson by Tim Smelser