hard fought spirituality

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

Yes, there is rest, with the paradoxical exhortation (or command) to make every effort to enter into it (Hebrews 4:11). Talking about the Sabbath rest in Christ in whom our salvation completely lies.

But in this life we have to engage both in terms of our own faith and faithfulness coming from that, and in terms of the faith itself. Effort is required. It’s not just a matter of entering into and settling in the rest. To remain in the rest, again paradoxically, requires effort.

The Apostle Paul considered his life in Christ, amounting both to the general call for all, and the specific call he received from Christ to lead him into nothing less than a fight, “the good fight of faith,” which he instructed others to engage in, as well (1 Timothy 6:12).

It seems like the nature of things, even of God’s grace in us, that everything is gained from being hard fought. Maybe I’m missing it somehow, but in my own life I have to stay on my toes, and be ready for difficulty and trouble in terms of the world, the flesh and the devil. This seems to be the nature of things in this life.

Recently I joked at work that when I expect something to be easy, it ends up being hard, but when I expect something to be hard, it end up being easy, not so hard at all. In significant part, though not entirely, that is psychological. This is much more than that. It is important to know what we’re in for, so that we can be good for the long haul, and grow through it all.

One tricky part of this is to mistakenly get our focus on ourselves and our own effort. Instead the effort required is to get our focus off of ourselves and our effort, or whatever we might imagine commends us, and get our focus onto Jesus. We do that through being in the word and prayer, and in the fellowship and communion of the church, so as to live in an interactive relationship with God, which results in an interactive relationship with each other in Jesus.

I wish we could arrive in this life to some sort of place where we would live in a grace which carries us through the day in God’s love in Jesus, submerged and overwhelmed and living out of that love. Yes, we get some signficant tastes of that in this life, to be sure. And there are those times which seem to be a bit of the foretaste of Heaven, in which we find a rest and peace and along with that a deep settled joy, not of this world. But somehow, usually too soon that experience dissipates, or we run into the hard realities of this life.

The blessing in the troubles and trials, yes- even in our worry is that we’re pressed to get back to the basics of our faith, and to seriously practice them.

We want to become much better in all of this as time goes on, but we’re never relieved from the call to press on in battle, a spiritual battle no less, not just for ourselves, but for others. But yes, for ourselves, as well. Following Paul’s example, as he followed Christ.

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