“It’s God’s job to set the course, it’s our job to run it.”
“And the child (Jesus) grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” (Luke 2:40) The phrase, “waxed strong in spirit”, according to Strong’s Concordance, refers to “the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of anyone.” Curious, isn’t it…a disposition or influence that will fill and govern me? I know of just two influences that wish to govern me: good (God) and evil (anti-God). So the question needs be asked, how does one “wax strong” spiritually? Well, how does one wax strong physically? Effort, repetition, and resistance in body bring strength to the muscles. Likewise, effort, repetition, and resistance in spirit bring fortitude to the soul. How is it that we are to strengthen ourselves spiritually? Strengthen the good influence by feeding it. Feast upon that which is true, just, lovely, of good report… Feed your soul that nourishment which is vital for your Christian life.
Christian, we are engaged in a contest. We are contending for a prize. In the Bible, the word “strive” is found a number of times. It means “to contend or struggle with difficulties and dangers; to endeavor with strenuous zeal; to obtain something.” As we are “compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Be mindful of the weights that we pick up and needlessly carry with us on our race. Beware of “little sins”. God has severely punished sins that have been looked upon as little sins, indeed, some of them well-meant sins, as when Uzzah took hold of the Ark when the cart shook. (2 Sam 6:6-7) Note also Numbers 15:32-36, which is the account of the man that was gathering sticks on the Sabbath and his subsequent stoning. Forgetful humans that we are, we tend to let things fall to the wayside. God, however, is an exacting judge. He is ever mindful of our words, thoughts and deeds. He has a method of gathering evidence for our upcoming meeting with Him.
Our enemy, the accuser, watches and waits for our guard to be let down. He rejoices as our resistance weakens in the face of trial and temptation. “The devil does not much care by what sins we go to hell, whether small or great, formality or profaneness.” The devil has similar feelings towards the believer, whose soul, though eternally secured from hell is still facing many a snare on its heaven bound journey. Satan wants our steps on earth to be weak, faint and faltering, and whatever needs be done to cause the Christian to stumble is fair game for him and his devilish crew.
First John 3:8 says, “He that commiteth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus Christ is after total domination of our heart…for our own good. When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the new believer, the end-goal is a total transformation of the vessel’s heart and mind. Trade in your corruptible for that which is incorruptible. What little you have can be multiplied in the hands of the Master. Go, sell all that ye have to obtain that pearl of great price; for nothing that you hold is so dear as to claim possession of your heart from the One who died for you. “For our God is a consuming fire.” Give Him access to all recesses of your heart, to every area of your life and let His holy fire burn away the dross; the weighty, worthless waste, and purify, strengthen, support, and shine that which is glorifying to Him and joy-producing for you.
Upon conception, your course was set. God in His sovereign love has an expected end for you. In our brief lifetime, the gift of our will can be freely sacrificed to His will as we give Him His rightful place of Lord of our life and place Him on the throne of our heart. Our race has begun in earnest now. Those who have gone before you look on knowing the amount of spiritual and physical strength needed. The course is designed to build our faith in the loving Master. We each run our own race with trials set out particularly for our own needs. It is a faithful and loving God that knows the purging and purifying each will need before the finish line is crossed.
This race is not a sprint, but rather a marathon. In order to endure, we must think in terms of long-range goals. Thinking about the far end keeps you steadily moving forward, not expecting huge leaps or changes immediately, but rather a steady climb. Running this race with patience, means running it with steadfastness and endurance. In the New Testament, patience is also described as, “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” (Strong’s)
Practically speaking, thinking in terms of long-range goals means such things as setting exercise goals in your life for a change in lifestyle rather than a quick fix and temporary solution to a greater problem. Or, reading through your Bible in a year or even in 90 days. This entails the daily “Steady Eddie” discipline of “one bite at a time”. How about the long-range goal of becoming like Christ? We all know this involves a long and steady climb. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do with one who is committed to the long haul!
Must we give in to this flesh and its constant demands for rest, peace and safety? Comfort is its first thought and happiness is its constant goal. For the flesh, pleasure wins out over pain every time. Christian, strain and sweat should be a part of your daily life. Fight the old man within! Is there any depth to your soil? When the Sower throws His seeds your way, is your soil prepared to receive it? No? Invite the Gardener to plough and to fertilize. A tended garden is a beautiful thing, but what gardener has reveled in the prize and glory of a radiant garden without having spent much labor and toil to make it so? It doesn’t just happen. The only thing that grows naturally and easily in a garden is weeds! A life that is truly lived is one of never-ending growth which means never-ending weeding and never-ending tending. Live each day striving to make it better than the last. Strive to fight the battles that always seem to knock you down. Strive to become closer to your God. Strive to be the best you that you can be.
Live with passion! Life without passion and purpose is just a merry-go-round of distractions; moving faster and faster yet gaining no ground and going nowhere. You were made for a special purpose. You have a specific course to run. You have your very own part to play in this symphony of life. No one but you can play your part. Handle your instrument (the aptitudes God has given you), get to know it (know your strengths and weaknesses), and place yourself at the Master’s feet to learn how best to play it. “No instinct can be put in you by the Holy Ghost but He purposes to fulfill. Let your faith then rise and soar away and claim all the land you can discover.” (S. Keen) God in His awesome mercy has given you this blessed and brief opportunity to love Him, serve Him, glorify Him and make your eternal mark in time.
Strive, Christian, strive! For you will find that, “Yes, you can!” You CAN reach the heights that you once only strained to see. You CAN look straight into your fears and conquer them! You CAN do it! For Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believe.” There’s a life that’s worth living and it’s yours for the taking. Seek His face, set a goal, and soar to the heights you were meant to climb.
As seasons of life change, Elizabeth happily remains desperately dependent upon her God. Two of her four children have now branched off to begin their own families. She is a homeschooling veteran and a faithful wife of almost 30 years.