So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.
I like this last part best, where Paul says..."if we don't give up," reminding us that there is a harvest of blessing coming to those who endure, persevere, and remain faithful.
Yes, so often, we give up or give into trials, struggles or hardships because we lose sight of the end goal, the blessing at the end of the process. In my faith walk, I have struggled to remain strong. There have been many times when I wanted to give up, to give in, and to walk away. Yet, I stayed the course, and while the bitterness of the process wore on me (and by bitterness I don't necessarily mean bitter as in longterm hardness, but rather as in a bitter taste), I was able to stay focused on the end result. Keeping your eyes on the prize, so to speak, can help -- especially when the going seems to be rough, and the journey is long and hard. I am thankful that the experiences I have had over the course of my life have been such that while I suffered through them, they (the experiences) didn't "do me in!" Yes, I give thanks to God for His provision of grace, and for His willingness to carry me through some very dark and difficult times.
I wish I could say that my future looked so bright that I didn't have any worries or concerns about hardship, strain, or difficultly. Well, I could put on a Pollyanna outlook (persistent optimism), but in truth, that doesn't serve anyone well. Hiding from hardship is not the answer. Embracing the challenging times with a good heart, a good attitude, and a good dose of realism -- well in my view -- that is practical, pragmatic, and just a good way to handle problems. Yes, I think it is best to be honest about your struggles, to share them willingly and openly with others, and to take heart, to remember that "in this world" as the Word says "you will have many trials and sorrows" (John 16:33) but (praise be to God), Jesus Christ has overcome the world! So while we may struggle, stress, and have sorrow as we journey through this life, we can take heart (find peace, hope, and confidence) to know that there is "light at the end of the tunnel" and there is a harvest of blessing waiting for us.
Today, I take heart in knowing that no matter what trial I face, no matter what hardship I struggle to overcome, I can rest, be at peace, and find hope in the knowledge that the Lord has already overcome this world (and everything in it). He is risen; He is risen indeed!
I wish I could say that something wonderful happened to me last night, something so profound that my life was changed in an instant -- but that would be the farthest thing from the truth! Nothing out of the ordinary happened. In fact, my life situation, my life (in all its glory) didn't change one bit. In fact, I am still in the same boat I was in yesterday. Nothing has changed, nothing has improved. I am right where I was yesterday, and the day before, and the month previous to that day. Yep, I am still on the same path, walking in the same direction, and struggling with the same load. I plod on, I walk on, and I continue to push on through the various struggles, the obstacles in my way, and the, at times, heavy and hard way. I keep on moving forward, pressing on toward the goal, the upward calling of Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14). God is good. He sustains me with His presence, and He provides for my needs with abundance and sufficiency. I thank Him for His Goodness toward me, and I thank Him for meeting my needs. I look to His hand for mercy, and I rest in His Name because He is God, He is Good, and He knows my needs well. I rest from my striving, and I yield my way to Him. I relent, so to speak, and I let go of the need to do things my way. Instead, I agree with Him, willingly agree with His decisions, His choices, and His outcomes. His way is always best. His way factors in my good as well as the good of those people He chooses to interact with me. His way understands the needs I have today and the needs I will have tomorrow. His way leads me in the path of righteousness for His name sake (Psalm 23:3). His way will see me through to the end (Psalm 48:14).
Looking Forward and not Backward
The time has come to look forward, to forget the past, and to press on. Paul says it this way in Philippians 3:13-14,
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
There is a time for self-reflection, and there is a time for letting go and moving forward. I have spent the past 6 years in reflection. This has been for a purpose, for a reason, and I have learned many things about myself, about my life, and about my future dreams and aspirations. I have spent time reflecting, thinking back, and inspecting the events of my life. In doing so, I have grown as an individual. I have learned to accept the hard truth, to accept responsibility for things I have said, done, or left undone. I have had to own up to my mistakes. I have gained wisdom and knowledge in so many areas, and through this time of reflection, I have come to understand myself well. I know myself well. I have also seen the hand of God on my life, clearly from the time I was a small child until today, I have seen His hand mark all over my life. I can attribute my days, my weeks, and my months to the Lord. I can give Him all praise and honor -- because despite my sin -- despite those things that I am ashamed of doing or thinking, the Lord was unwilling to let me go. He never let me go. He alone is worthy of our praise. To God be the glory, forever and ever. Amen!
I goofed up. I made mistakes, some of them serious. I said things I should not say, especially not as a Christian, and I spoke harshly at times (to friends and to family) without thinking, without control -- simply out of haste and out of ignorance. Yet, despite my failings as a Christian, and my lack of witness at times, the Lord never gave up on me. He never stopped calling me to Him, to account, to His way.
It took time to relent, of course. I am hard headed, stubborn, and willful. Even when I did relent, it was for a short-time only. Often, I relented and moved forward in the Lord's will, only to grasp the reins of "my way" and halt the process. I would relent again in time, and start the process all over again. This pattern of "fits and starts" plagued my early walk with the Lord. It seemed we would just get moving forward when WHAM! I would not like the look of the way, the scenery, the people -- and I would put on the brakes. I would put that "look" on my face and in my heart, I would puff up and say "not that way, Lord, not that way!" I would simply dig my heels in and refuse to move until I was satisfied that the way was good, that it pleased me, and that it seemed like a good idea. Sigh!
All of this is to say that my days of stubborn, willfulness, and hard headed attitude are behind me. Yeah, right! I wish it were so, but since I am flesh (and flawed at that), I doubt seriously that I could make that bold statement. The good news is that my stubborn, willful, and hard headed flesh was nailed to Calvary's Cross, and as such, the "old me" was crucified with Him. This means that the "new me" is conformed (being conformed as Kay Arthur likes to say) to Christ. I no longer live (as Paul says), but it is Christ who lives in me. And, since He has already overcome this world, I am able to forget the past, and press on to reach the end of the race, the final prize waiting for me. All of this is the result of the action of One Man who chose to take my sin to the cross, who died, who was buried, and who rose to new life on the third day (yes, it is Easter week!) My old way, old life, and all the old things about it are dead and buried. My new way, my new life, is alive because He lives in me and through me. I can press on, I can hold on, and I can move forward toward the end with confidence, with hope, and with assurance that I will make it, I will make it. He hasn't let me go yet, and He hasn't given up on me -- so I can take heart, and I can know that there is a harvest of blessing to come. Praise God! Selah!
What Does This Mean?
I think this means that I am ready to move on. I've been stuck for a while, for a long while, and while I have tried to move forward, I have only made tiny baby steps. These baby steps were good, mind you, and they proved good lessons in trust, in rest, and in letting go. But they were little steps forward, and not huge lurching "giant steps," the kind where you really see change, BIG BOLD CHANGE, happen. I think this was the Lord's will for me, to ease me into all these changes, to comfort me through them, and to give me time to reflect on them. Now, I am ready. I feel ready. I am looking forward with excitement and eagerness even though I don't know what that means. I feel good about the plans He has for my life. I feel really good about where He wants me to go, to work, to live, to minister. I feel positive and upbeat. I may not know the details, and I may not know the timing, but I feel that no matter what happens next, God will see me through it. He will lead me on, and I will follow after Him. He is good like that, so very good.
Now as I consider today, this Maundy Thursday (the day commemorating the Last Supper), I think about my life and how I am in the midst of a similar experience. Granted, I am not talking "last supper" by any means. I just mean that I am at the portal, the doorway to the unexpected. The disciples had gathered in the upper room to share supper, but they didn't really understand what would happen next. The Lord revealed the details to them, and they were shocked, dismayed, and even horrified to think that He would die. They didn't understand that what was about to happen, the events of the coming day, would change world history forever, would change the course of events and usher in a new era, a new way of living, a new mindset predicated on faith in Jesus Christ.
I look to my future in a similar way. I feel the excitement, the anticipation, and yes, at times, the heat of what is happening. I don't know what the next days will bring for me, but I believe they will end with resurrected life (literally and figuratively). The Lord has resurrected my life, literally, and He has rebuilt the damaged walls surrounding my heart over the course of time. I am in the process of being remade, and the changes that have happened to me, all serve one end-goal, one outcome --> to bring me to that full stature of maturity, making me ready for the Kingdom of God. My life has been redeemed, and my life now serves as living testimony to the faithfulness of God as Redeemer. He redeems the lost, the broken, the unloved, and He makes all things new. In doing this for me and for others, He transforms what was once useless into something useful to Him, good for His work, and available for Him to use in ministry to others. I am excited because the Lord has plans for my life that will work together with others (other people who are also seeking to serve Him in this way) in order to reach those who are marginalized, disenfranchised, and lost. It is a good thing, a very good thing, to be used by a Mighty God for His purpose and His plan. I am excited to be used this way, and I look forward to see all that God has in mind and in store for my life.
My life has been redeemed, restored, and I am in the process of living out the resurrection (as a daily experience). The Lord is risen, and He lives in me, not as the crucified Savior (though this is always His character), but rather, as the RISEN AND EXALTED Lord over all of creation. He lives in me as victor and champion, the One who overcame sin and death, and as a result, who brings to me the power, the authority, and the presence of Name in order to experience victory over every area of my life. I live victorious because He is victorious.
So today, as I think about my life, I let go of the past so that I can press on toward the blessed future the Lord has planned, prepared, and promised to me. He is good, so very good, and I rest in His goodness, in His power, and in His presence this day. I rest. I trust. I relax, and I let go of the past. I accept, willingly and with full agreement, the future the Lord has for me. I walk on, with peace, with hope, and with joy, looking forward to all the experiences the Lord has for my life. He is good, so very good. He is so very good to me!