The Christian Life & Work: Working It Out

15 Oct

If you’ve ever tried to get in to some sort of exercise after a long season of being stagnant, then you’re probably familiar with all the aches and pains that accompany a new routine. Sore muscles, thirst and hunger after a workout as your body sweats out the fluids and needs more fuel to burn, the temptation to give up after just a few days, and all the mental warfare that goes on in one’s mind about whether or not it’s worth it to keep on going or to just quit since it’s easier to eat what you want and sit on your couch instead of hauling yourself to the gym or giving up a precious hour for a run or workout, are some of the difficulties you’ll face.

At the same time, if you are really determined to reach a goal, whether it is weight loss or just overall fitness, those challenges, although they may be hindrances at times, will not ultimately set you back. I’ve seen it at times in my own “athletic” life and in the lives of others around me who’ve wanted to get in shape and have shown incredible determination and perseverance in order to get where they want to be. Sacrifice of time and of favorite foods and meals, the prioritizing of plans in order to make sure that every day involves some form of exercise, beating the body into submission in order to make it accomplish what it needs to. It’s hard work and it takes an incredible amount of commitment. No one looses 50 pounds overnight, nor can they increase their stamina after a few 5 km runs. Sometimes it takes months, even years to get where you want to be.

Then there are others who at the first sighting of a McDonalds are off the track and back to their old ways. Getting up early and going out for a run or heading to the gym are not easy things in the dead of winter when it’s -10 degrees and your warm bed is calling you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be there too.

Maybe we all fit into one category or maybe some of use fit into both at different times. Some of us have the ability to look at a task head on and just dive into it without looking back. For most people though, I suspect that tackling difficult challenges doesn’t come without the desire to quit and give up at any sign of difficulty or challenge. In the Christian life, work can feel the same way. Last week, I was sharing about the difficulty of Christian athleticism when it comes to carrying out the jobs we’ve been called to do, and how often we look at the responsibilities we’ve been given and rather than taking them on, we want to pass them off to someone else who’s better and more able than we are. But if we’ve reached the point where we see areas where we want to grow and we have a goal in mind, whether it be a mom who wants to learn how to better plan meals and cook good food for her family, or a dad who wants to learn how to lead his children with Scripture, or a student who’s trying to get a handle on the whole university thing, we can’t get where we’re going without a game plan.

Being real with ourselves and our weaknesses is, I think, the first place to start. If you decided that you wanted to run a marathon but hadn’t put on running shoes since Terry Fox in 8th grade, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to set out on day one expecting yourself to go much further than a kilometer. Thinking that you can accomplish a huge feat after a day or two of exercise is not only unrealistic but it sets you up for failure and disappointment. The same goes for any type of work or responsibility we’ve been given that we want to learn to do better at. Taking a gourmet-cooking magazine that calls for ingredients you’ve never heard of and requires hours of time may not be the first place to start when setting out to try to conquer the kitchen. This doesn’t by any means mean you can’t get there, it just means you have to work it out so that in time, you’ll be able to do what you set out to do, once you’ve built up the skills and abilities you need.

To use a personal example, one area I’ve struggled in is my personal devotions. It’s something that for years I’ve wanted to be more consistent with, and each time I’ve tried a new Bible reading plan or set a time to wake up every morning, I’ve gone on for a while and then some life change or new set of circumstances comes along and I find that I’m once again struggling to maintain consistency. I get discouraged and then give up for a while.

Recently, my husband and I decided to start reading just one chapter of the Bible each day together. My mom and dad had just been telling us that they’d really been enjoying their time together in the Word every morning and that it was really encouraging and helping them because it was an opportunity for them to come together and focus on a small portion of Scripture, as well as giving them enough time to pray together. They’ve been reading a chapter a day and are all the way to Ruth! Serge and I have never done devotions together. Here and there, we’ve read and prayed and we will sometimes listen to a sermon together, but it hasn’t been something that we have done consistently as a couple. When my parents shared their idea, we thought to ourselves, “Why don’t we try that?”. We’ve both struggled to find ways to read the Bible consistently, and we’ve both found it challenging to tackle plans that tell you to read even four chapters a day, finding that skipping from one part to another often left both of us forgetting the majority of what we read. So, two weeks ago on an early Monday morning, the alarm rang at 6:00 am. I’d like to say we got up then, but we didn’t. It wasn’t till around 7:00 that we hurriedly hauled ourselves out of bed and tried to quietly make our way to the kitchen so as not to wake up Emma, and then we spent about 30 minutes reading and praying. It was great. And the days that have followed have been equally encouraging. Some days we’ve gotten up on time, others have been more rushed, but one thing we both have said to one another is that this is something that is working and helping us both. It hasn’t been as hard to get up with a partner, as it was to get up alone. Rather than dose off mid-sentence while reading, I have someone else to listen to and someone else to keep me awake. And reading one chapter has been more than manageable. It sounds like nothing, but when you start making yourself feel like reading the Bible is a competition or chore, or you begin comparing yourself to others who are able to read ten chapters a day, every day, then you can easily feel like you’re a failure when it comes to being a student of the Word. But that’s not what God has called of us. He desires that we come know Him, enjoy Him, and abide in His word. One chapter mediated on and prayed over, is better than trying to check off a list of several just for the sake of saying you’ve read a lot.

My point is this. Tackling a new task, or trying to grow in any area of our Christian life and work is going to bring us face to face with reasons to feel like failures and make us want to give up. Rather than looking at the mountains we are trying to conquer, I think that wisdom would have us begin where we’re at and build our stamina, one small step at a time. We need to work things out. Concert pianists don’t get there overnight. They spend years in private practicing before ever making it out on stage. An excellent cook doesn’t learn kitchen skills by watching the Food Network. She puts her head to the plow and slowly, one meal at a time, works on building her arsenal of abilities. Christians who want to be better students of Scripture don’t need to feel inadequate because they aren’t able to understand Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. They need to ask God to help them understand His word, one verse at a time, one chapter at a time, using resources that are helpful to them in the place they are at, rather than looking at all the things they don’t know and feeling discouraged because of that.

How about leaving off with a word of encouragement right from the Lord? Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Isn’t that a comfort today, that in committing to Him whatever work He’s given us to do, He will strengthen and enable us to do it? If our plans are His plans, meaning we are seeking to glorify Him and do all things as unto Him according to His word, then we have nothing to fear. We can begin, knowing very little or even nothing, and God will give us wisdom as we seek it, and enable us to do all the good works that He’s called us to do. That is one of the best things about our Heavenly Father; He never requires of us anything that He will not by His own strength working in us, enable us to do.

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