“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).
Do you ever feel as though you’re just spinning your wheels? I know that visitors to my home have felt that way while attempting to climb my long, steep, and often ice-covered driveway during the winter. My son was just spinning his wheels when he called me to pull his stuck 2-wheel drive pick-up off the ice of a local lake he’d hoped to ice fish. Those situations can be frustrating, but they don’t hold a candle to the frustration that comes when you feel as though you aren’t making any headway on the icy roads of life.
Whether it’s a dead-end job that doesn’t pay enough to get you out from under a tidal wave of debt and bills, or the sheer agony of failure after failure in the battle against habitual sin, or any number of other things, it can be overwhelming. It can feel as if you are so busy trying to keep your head above the water that you can’t enjoy your swim; your life has no life.
Life can be so incredibly draining; yet it can also be invigorating and fulfilling. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). So why is it that abundant life can be so elusive?
Jesus told a parable about a sower of seeds, which represented the Word of God being sown in our hearts. He spoke of different types of soil, identifying the different levels of receptivity among us. Ideally we want to be fertile soil, able to receive the Word and live fruitful lives for Christ. But, He said “As for what was sown among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 ESV).
I believe that at different times and seasons of our lives we are all of the different soil types Jesus mentioned. Sometimes our hearts are so hardened that we don’t even recognize God speaking before the enemy snatches that seed away. Sometimes we receive His Word easily and joyfully, but we don’t allow it to get deep in our hearts where it can grow best.
I further believe that, with mindfulness and a teachable spirit, we are able to take the seeds of the Word of God out of the poorer soil of our lives and transplant it where it can thrive. This requires mindfulness on our part.
We need to get it deep within our hearts and minds that God has good things planned for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV). “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11 ESV)! Until we believe that God wants only good for us, we will be spinning our wheels!
We need to see the weight of the troubles in our lives in light of eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV emphasis mine). When we consider that we are here on earth for such a short time, it gives us perspective.
In my marathon training I have speed intervals planned into my workouts a couple of times a week. These intervals are to train my body to run fast and to develop my ability to endure hard efforts. Whether I am running shorter intervals at a very fast (for me!) speed, or longer efforts at a pace faster than my usual distance pace, I have to break the total workout into segments that are shorter than the intervals. For instance, I may be doing one-mile repeats with quarter-mile recovery pace in between repeats, but I break the mile repeats into quarter-mile sections. This makes it easier for me mentally to push on through fatigue and discomfort; surely I can keep this pace up for a quarter mile! In the same way, when we consider our 80 years, give or take, in light of eternity, surely we can push through any fatigue and discomfort our situations may be placing on us!
This involves setting our focus on the end game. Paul wrote, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:13b-15 ESV). God doesn’t want to keep us in the dark! When we come to Him asking that He would reveal anything in our lives that is holding us back from fulfilling all that He has for us, He will tell us. And we can be confident that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”