The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Help for the Moment We Want to Quit

Posted on: April 18, 2017

REMEMBER THE PRIZE AT THE END OF THE RACE

Last week we said “Don’t resent exercise machines if you want to be fit.” In a gym, every piece of exercise equipment is there to make our bodies stronger in a specific area. Put them all together, and we can become a physical marvel, compared to what we would be if we never exercised.

So it is spiritually. We can view the difficult people and challenging circumstances in life as spiritual exercise machines to transform us spiritually. Put them all together and we can become a spiritual marvel compared to what we would be if we never had any trials.

It is as Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. wrote in Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: “The point of our lives is not to get smart or to get rich or even to get happy. The point is to discover God’s purposes for us and to make them our own.”

To further that idea, Dallas Willard wrote in The Divine Conspiracy: “The main thing God gets out of our lives is the person we become. And the main thing we get out of our lives is the person we become.”

So, the greatest opportunity of life is to submit to God’s plan for us, challenging as it may be, to become the most we can become in God’s eyes before we die.

It is always a challenge to cooperate with God’s “spiritual exercise” process, but our odds of cooperating with it are much greater when we understand it.

To further the analogy, the way we are transformed, physically, is to take our bodies beyond their present capacity, which always involves discomfort, and sometimes even pain and distress.

Any athlete who has experienced significant achievements has had moments in his training when he wanted to quit, when the distant reward did not seem worth the immediate pain. But, as they hang in there, their bodies respond and become stronger and more capable. In the end, they are glad they did not quit.

And that is the same way we are transformed spiritually. God allows us to be taken, through challenging people and circumstances, beyond our present spiritual capacity. Then, as we hang in there, we respond and become stronger and more capable, spiritually.

But it is worth visiting that moment in the training process when the future reward does not seem worth the immediate pain, and we wish we could quit. John Newton, author of the classic hymn, Amazing Grace, wrote another poem, entitled Prayer for Grace, in which he spoke eloquently to that moment.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds*, and laid me low
. (*Reference to God’s allowing the gourd plant to die that was shading Jonah from the intense heat of the sun – Jonah 4:5-8.)

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

We have all felt the dismay that Newton expressed: “Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?!?”

And not only us, but throughout Scripture we see God’s children crying to Him for deliverance that seems to be so slow in coming. The Israelites cried out to God for 400 years for deliverance from slavery. (Acts 7:6)  Wouldn’t 300 years have been enough?!? Or 200?

David prayed, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)

Mary and Martha said to Jesus, after their brother Lazarus died, “Lord, if you had only been here, our brother would not have died!” (John 11:21)

The nature of trials is that they take us beyond our present capacity and make us feel as though God has forgotten us. He has not.

So, our task is to hang in there. The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (12:1-2)

In the end, all will be well. So in that moment when we instinctively cry, “Lord, why this? Will You pursue your worm to death?”, we can help ourselves “hang in there” by reminding ourselves that…

  1. God will cause all things to work together for good, to those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28)
  2. God will cause us to become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
  3. God will reward us disproportionately forever. (Romans 8:18)
  4. God will say to us, “Well done.” (Luke 19:17)

Hang in there. The reward is worth it!

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