I love going for long walks, especially on sunny days. In Pittsburgh, we don’t get a lot of sun, so I relish every ounce that pokes its way through the clouds. For years, I’ve also made jogging my exercise of choice. I don’t love to do it, but I always feel great afterwards and have never regretted a single run.
While in college, and during my time on staff with CRU, I would spend a few weeks at my parents home in Connecticut during the summer months. My jogging path always took me up a large windy hill on the road behind their home. Inevitably I would need to slow down and walk up the steepest portion of it, out of breath, with sweat pouring down my face. As I pushed myself a little more each day, that hill became less difficult to conquer. With each step, I could imagine cresting the top, and finishing my run on flat terrain. I put my faith in the fact that the road would level out after a few dozen more yards, and that kept me going. It always did. I had memorized every curve of that road, and I knew my perseverance would pay off.
Recently I feel like I’ve been running uphill while the culture is swiftly going in the reverse direction with great ease. This is challenging for me because one of my deepest temptations is to be liked by others. Following Christ, and living a life marked by obedience to His Word, is not always popular. I am a people-pleaser by nature, so when I am criticized, insulted, or misunderstood for taking a particular stance I wrestle with it for a while.
The problem is my sin. I forget where my identity truly lies, I forget that suffering is promised, and I forget the One who can see into my heart, and knows my every thought. When I am criticized, or gossip makes its way back to me, I need to turn my heart and mind toward the truths laid out in Scripture. Just like when I keep my eyes on the crest of the hill, trusting that the terrain will flatten out and a respite will come, I also need to keep my heart saturated with God’s Word, trusting Him to bring me through any trial He ordains. There is no better way to persevere.
Maybe you’re currently “running uphill” too? If so, let these authoritative truths comfort your heart as you seek Jesus as your refuge. These have brought much comfort to my own heart over the past few weeks.
*He is more precious than life, and worth any suffering you will encounter. Psalm 63:3 – “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”
*Find comfort, and confidence, in the fact that God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters. He will be the final judge of you, and your accusers. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 – “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
*During trials, you have the privilege of sharing in Christ’s suffering. Embrace your trial as a friend, allowing God to do a good work in you. Insulted for Christ = blessing! Your trials are unique to you, granted by a good, kind, merciful, and loving Father. 1 Peter 4:12-14 – “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of gloryand of God rests upon you.”
*Keep your eyes on God’s eternal reward. We can learn much from Moses who “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” – Hebrews 11:25-26.
“More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow down to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ”
– A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent (pages 31-32). Italics mine.