Just a Little Further

There are some times in life where we just feel like we can’t handle it — whatever “it” is. We frequently experience stresses at work or at home that frustrate us, things we would rather not be dealing with. Those are things like fixing a washer or meeting a deadline. We handle these as they come. Other times, however, there is more riding on our ability to push through our stress. Here’s a story from my life (and one that many of you can relate to): Lauren and I are buying a house. She’s also pregnant, but that is unrelated to my illustration. Buying a house is stressful! We have both spent a lot of time on the phone, sending emails, and collecting paper work, all to make sure we get this house. This past week, we made some calls and by the end of them, we just said, “Wow, this is stressful!”

BUT — you press on. You do what must be done. You know the results of some brief discomfort will be worth it shortly.

Paul knew a thing or two about stress. He spoke of his persecution, his perils, and then almost to save the thing that weighed on him most for last, he mentioned the “daily pressure on [him] and [his] anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). He was busy about the work of the Lord, daily fulfilling his ministry. His work in the kingdom is truly admirable.

There are a few lessons we ought to learn from Paul’s willingness and ability to push just a little further through so many uncomfortable situations. First, we see that he saw his goals clearly. That implies that he set goals, and he worked to meet them. In Philippians 3, he speaks at length of the amount of effort he put into meeting his goals. Many of his ideas ought to be replicated by us — like counting physical gains as loss in order to gain Christ, attaining by any means possible, pressing on, forgetting the past and straining ahead, and staying focused. While his long term goal (and ours) is, of course, going to heaven, it is good for us to set tangible, concrete goals in the mean time. Consider them milestones.

It is also interesting to note Paul’s readiness to cut ties with worldly things. He wasn’t speaking of inherently sinful things, he just knew they paled in comparison to the real prize. We do a poor job of that a lot of the time. We (self included) tend to focus greatly on worldly progress. Here’s the strange, uncomfortable thing though: we see areas we can grow as Christians, we become keenly aware of weaknesses and shortcomings, and those things seem doable to us; however, we don’t make a move. Or we start but we don’t see it through. We embark on a change of spirit, but we are easily deterred by the very things we are trying to rise above. Just like diets, workout plans, or bad habit breaking, we have the best intentions, but then comes the reality that in order to truly change, constant, hard effort must be applied for a long time. That is uncomfortable! Paul would say, “just a little further!” Jesus said that when we see Him again, we will immediately forget all the pain. When you move in, you forget about the paperwork. When the child is born, the mother forgets the pain.

So what is the point? The point is that the life of a growing Christian (aka all of us!) must be full of effort and intention. Heaven is not gained by accident, nor by a lackadaisical attempt at pleasing God. But oh, it will be worth it. Remember the words of this song? “Often I'm hindered on my way, burdened so heavy I almost fall; then I hear Jesus sweetly say; ‘Heaven will surely be worth it all.’” When you’re ready to grow, remember: it’s just a little further.