Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Endure when it feels like nothing will change

For me, the hardest part of endurance is the length of time I have to wait before I see results. I’ve mentioned before that I really hate waiting. I don’t mind training and preparing and planning, but once what I have trained and planned and prepared for has happened, I want immediate results. I want to see a ROI–a return on investment, as we call it in the marketing world. But most of the time that’s not how it works.

Following Christ and living for God is less like a marketing campaign and more like wheat farming. In a marketing campaign, you do the work, you submit the materials, and you wait for your leads to come in so you can track them down and try to convince them to buy product. It’s all very rapid, and you get fast results. In wheat farming, or other types of farming, you plow your ground, you plant your seed, and then you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And pray that it doesn’t get hailed to bits or blown away. And pray that there’s enough rain but not too much. And you keep waiting until it’s finally time to harvest.

That’s what the Christian life is like. And that’s why we need to learn how to endure patiently because some things can’t be rushed, and if you give up too soon, you’ll miss out.

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

It’s hard to do the right thing. It’s hard to press on and do good when all it seems to accomplish is to get you in trouble or to encourage others to take advantage of you, but that’s what we are called to do. As Christ-followers, we are called to live a life that honors God, and that means living according to the Bible. And maybe you didn’t know this, but the Bible isn’t exactly popular anymore. If you want to be politically correct, the Bible isn’t really the source for that.

It’s tiring to live the way the Bible says in a culture that mocks everything you believe. And it’s growing more and more difficult every day, it seems. And sometimes, in that quiet dark corner of my heart that I don’t like to admit is there, I wonder if it’s really worth it.

Have you ever been there? Where you’re just tired of being treated like a fool? Or you’re tired of always having to do the right thing and be branded as a goody-two-shoes? Or be labeled as “The Christian” when you really know the label means “self-righteous” to the people who use it?

Or are you tired of having to deal with other Christians? I think sometimes we focus on how frustrating it is to work in a culture with people who don’t believe the same way we do, but what about having to work with people who do believe the same way you do? It’s twice as frustrating because we have expectations for how Christians are supposed to behave, and when they don’t meet those expectations, it’s easy to get angry.

I get tired. I get worn out. I get exhausted with dealing with people and situations and circumstances, and there never seems to be an end to any of it. But then, I see a verse like today’s verse and I remember that many times I’m just in the growing phase of the season. People are growing. I’m growing. And if I try to harvest too quickly, I’ll kill my crop.

That’s why we have to endure. That’s why we can’t give up, whether you’re dealing with believers or unbelievers. We’re planting seeds every day, and maybe we’ll see something sprout. Maybe we won’t, but most of the time we’re going to harvest something. Maybe we won’t recognize it. Maybe we won’t even realize it, especially if we aren’t looking for it.

So don’t give up. And if you’re frustrated, try shifting your focus. Instead of seeing only how long you have to wait, try looking at how much your crop is growing while you’re waiting. We had so much moisture recently here in Kansas that the wheat outside my window has turned the most brilliant shade of green I’ve seen since last March. I got so used to the dull, dead colors of winter that seeing so much green nearly brought tears to my eyes.

And it reminded me that even in a season when it feels like nothing is growing, something is. You just have to look for it.

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Get your head out of yesterday

I don’t run. I’m not built for it. My body tends to revolt against me whenever I try, but I have a lot of friends who run. And they don’t just run; they compete. These folks do triathlons and marathons and all sorts of other forms of torture like that. And one thing that I have noticed when you’re running is that you really need to keep your focus on what’s in front of you, otherwise you could run into trouble … literally.

I’ve never seen a runner trying to compete by running forward and looking backward. I’m sure people do it because people are strange, but I’d be willing to bet, they don’t run well. Because even if you find a way to look backward as you’re running forward, your focus won’t be where it needs to be–on the goal.

I’m also reminded of a line from an older movie, Gumball Rally, an old racing movie we used to watch with my dad. It was a movie about racing. All these different people in all kinds of different cars had to race from coast to coast, regardless of the legality of their actions, and one of the racers was this Italian guy who ripped the rearview mirror off the car windshield and tossed it in the backseat, proclaiming: “What’s behind me is not important!”

These people race. They’re moving forward toward a goal. Looking behind and focusing on where they’ve been will only slow them down and make them unhappy in most cases. And in all honesty, following Christ is very much the same.

 

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Rough road to San Miguel Alto Uno, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:12-14.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

We all came from somewhere. Some Christ-followers came from Christian homes; some didn’t. Some have come from a legacy of people who always loved God; some didn’t.  But no matter where we started, God is moving us somewhere else, sometimes physically, always spiritually. We’re all moving forward, and if we look backward, we’re going to slow down or we’re going to hamper the efforts that are going on around us.

Paul was majorly into sports from what we can tell from Scripture. He talks about running and racing and fighting and wrestling, and actually there are a lot of comparisons between the Christian life and sports. Sports require training. They require focus. They require pushing yourself to achieve something you’re pretty sure you aren’t able to achieve. They require teamwork most of the time. The Christian life isn’t a competition, though, but the other similarities are kind of cool.

And in this case, running is a great example because all of us are runners. If you follow Christ, you’re in a race. You’re not competing against anyone. It’s like a marathon or a triathlon, and Christ has already run the race and won. So the rest of us are competing against ourselves really, and it’s our goal to finish. And you can’t finish the race in front of you if you can’t get your eyes of what’s behind you.

The past is important. Don’t get me wrong. In some cases, it is important to remember the past. We need to remember where we’ve been and recognize what God wants us to learn from where we’ve been, but you can’t focus on yesterday. What’s done is done and can’t be changed; what can change is how you react to it.

I know people who bury themselves in the past. They forget about today and don’t even consider tomorrow, and all they can talk about is what happened before. Where they used to be. What they used to do. And living today is torture for them because all their focus is on yesterday, and they can’t handle the stress of right now or the implications of what might happen tomorrow because they can’t get their heads out of yesterday. And they’re miserable for it.

So what does this mean for us in 2013? Stop living life in a rearview mirror. Stop looking backward to find happiness and contentment in yesterday and start looking forward to what’s coming. Yes, what’s coming is unknown. What’s coming might not be fun at all. But it’s very likely that you’re already prepared for what’s coming, whether you know it or not. You probably experienced yesterday what you needed to know for today and for tomorrow. That’s what yesterday is for.

Learning.

You can learn from yesterday. Just don’t live there.

God sets our paths. He doesn’t let us run alone. And He always provides exactly what we need exactly when we need it.

Keep your eyes forward and run. Don’t worry about the other runners; they’ll handle themselves. Don’t worry about the road behind you; it’s past. Don’t worry about the road ahead of you; take it a day at a time.

 

Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo

Who wants to speed through life anyway?

Why is it so easy to give up? I can’t really call my self a quitter in all honesty, but I can call myself a procrastinator about things that haven’t worked out the way I thought they should. If I have worked and tried really hard to accomplish a certain goal, and I hit a wall in the process, many times I’ll set that goal aside and work on something else. And while I could claim that I’m just taking a break (and that can be healthy), sometimes I wonder if it’s because a part of me has given up that I will ever succeed.
 
Giving up is easy. Maybe that’s part of the human condition. Maybe because our vision is limited we think when we arrive at an insurmountable task, it’s a sign that we have already lost the race and should just bow out gracefully. But from what I’ve witnessed, there are no odds that are truly insurmountable. I’ve seen people achieve things that would blow your mind. And those same people had every right to give up, but they didn’t.
Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo
Tortoise at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

When God begins a process, He doesn’t stop until it’s finished. And that process will be complete when we leave earth and go to heaven, either by natural death or the Rapture. But until that day, God is working on us. Teaching us. Chastising us. Walking beside us and living live with us.

But some of us are harder to teach than others. I don’t know about you, but I’m the most stubborn person in the world. And I have lost track of how many times God has had to teach me the same lesson over and over again until I finally get the point.

But the issue here is that God never gives up on us.

It doesn’t matter who we are or where we came from or what our preferences are. It doesn’t matter if we like hard rock music or classical. It doesn’t matter if we don’t eat meat or if we prefer to eat our meat with a side of meat. Once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, God begins a process in our lives to help us become more like Him. And that doesn’t happen over night. It’s a long, slow journey.

And sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress. Sometimes it feels like God is asking more of you than you can give. Well–yes, He is. Living the kind of life that Christ lived is impossible in our own strength. So if you try to live like Christ did without asking God for help, you’ll fail. But nothing is impossible for God. And no goal is insurmountable with Him on your side.

There will be days when you have obstacles in your path. And some days those obstacles will seem to be definitive. But on those days remember that you have a choice. You can choose to give up; that’s up to you. But if you persevere, it will be worth it. Because you’ll not only succeed, God will be able to show His strength to you and you’ll think twice before you doubt Him again.

The journey may be long and slow, but you’ll get there. And at the end of your journey, you will have learned so much and seen even more. The old fable about the tortoise and the hare isn’t always true. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race because sometimes fast is just fast. But I can guarantee that even if the hare had reached the finish line first in that old story, the tortoise still would have enjoyed the race more.