God does not require from you to be sinless when you come before Him, but He does require you to be unceasing in your perseverance. He does not require that you shall never have fallen, but He does require unwearied efforts.
He does not require you to win, but He does require you to fight.“
–Frederick Temple (1821 – 1902)
I read this quote a couple of days ago and found it to be both convicting and encouraging. Too often I grow weary, thinking about the person I want to be and how much I fall short. I wonder whether it’s worth it to keep putting one foot in front of the other, when I seem to be on a treadmill struggling just to stay in place.
The Bible doesn’t tell us it’s going to be easy. But we are told where to go to find rest for our souls.
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
–Matthew 11:29-30 NLT
Jesus’ teaching to the Jewish people of His day was simple and straight-forward, compared to the rules and regulations laid on them by the Pharisees (see Matthew 24, especially verse 4: “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
Love God and love your neighbor, He said. (Matthew 22:35-40) Every other commandment depends on these two.
And of course I know this. I’ve known it for such a long time. But my flesh is weak…weaker now as I grow older. I grow weary sooner; fatigue, hunger, impatience can make me reluctant to go out of my way for others. I may speak more harshly than I’d like to those I love. But I cannot succumb to defeat. I cannot ever shrug and say, “Oh well, they know I didn’t mean it. I’m tired–what do they expect?”
And because God has both a heart of compassion and a sense of humor, the source of my great weariness is also the motivation for me to keep pressing on toward the goal: my granddaughter Lucy (who may as well be my daughter, since I am her only Mama). As often as I lose my temper I have to take a deep breath, call on the Lord for strength, and try again to model gentleness and self-control.
It IS a battle to live a life pleasing to God, in the face of distractions and dismays, wonders and worries, all of which drag my attention away from what is most important. It may be all uphill, from now until the day I die. But as a story I once read observed, “The way may grow steeper, the climb rougher and the struggle harder every step. But each one will bring me closer to God.” (That’s a rough paraphrase from a story in a book by Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God.)
Fight on, friends. To the finish.
“Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
— (I Cor 9:25-27 Holman)