Much of this Christian life is made up of our responses to the obstacles God wisely puts in our path. Every athlete knows the value of resistance training. God graciously coaches spiritual endurance out of us by placing obstacles, weights, burdens, and difficulties in our path.
It seems with each obstacle there also appears a wide path of escape, at least what looks like escape. So, rather than lead an angry wife, a husband may swerve to the left down the path of silence, brooding and TV. Rather than submit to a floundering husband, a wife may swerve to the right and take charge of the chaos.
But each of these paths is either a dead end or a kind of service road running alongside the freeway. Either it ends in the crash and burn, or (even worse) it parallels the direction of the freeway of obedience, but with all the stops, turns, detours, and gaps or a frontage road. I say this is worse, as a man can look like he is walking with God on this road, but he is not.
Rather, he is playing a part. He is living “in his own strength” and doing all he can to keep up appearances. But his life lacks life and the happy gravitas of one who leans in to the endless grace of God. Like a city boy dressed up in farm clothes, he looks the part, but doesn’t smell like it.
I am that man far too often. The choice to remain on the narrow path and face the obstacle can seem like death. As you get older, it can seem like despair. “Really? We are back here again?” But I am sure many coaches have had to convince their athletes to fight through the benefits of repetition. “Really? Dead lifts again? Haven’t we been here before?” But the coach knows. Those muscles are not strong enough yet.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.(James 1:2-4 ESV)
I sometimes wonder if every person is always at a decision point in this regard? There is always some obstacle before them and they are always facing a choice - lean in or divert. I have known so very few who have lived long and stayed dependent. I have known many more who have gone a fair distance, but given in before the finish line.
I want to be a man who keeps looking every trial in the face, while taking every trial to the Face of the One who loves me and will give me grace to endure.
If anyone is to be taken captive,to captivity he goes;if anyone is to be slain with the sword,with the sword must he be slain.Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.(Revelation 13:10 ESV)