Does your desire for comfort replace your desire for Christ?
The Christian walk isn’t easy – but don’t you dare quit, writes Director of Training Dave Newton.
I wonder if you have ever felt like you quit something too soon. Looking back over the past decade, what do you wish you had not given up on?
When I was in the top year of primary school, much to the horror of my parents, I was selected as one of five people in my year to learn the violin. I remember going to buy my first violin excited about my potential to make it in the concert orchestra.
I lifted the three-quartersized instrument from its case, tightened the bow to the appropriate tension and began to glide it across the strings. To my dismay, (and parents’ relief) the instrument made no noise whatsoever.
My violin career didn’t go much further. In fact, I don’t know that the violin got out the case too often. I did eventually manage to get a noise out of it, but it wasn’t one that others wanted to hear.
It’s easy to quit at things in life before we have even got started; we can live life wishing we had carried on playing that instrument, kept up that exercise or healthy eating regime, or kept in touch with the friend we were once so close to. I have found that it is generally much easier to quit than to endure.
Endurance has almost become an elite term, associated with exercise freaks, professional performers or even the military. In an instant quick-fix society where all potential solutions to life are only ‘one click away’, surely endurance is an outdated concept.
In so many ways life urges us that if the job gets hard – find a new one; if relationships don’t satisfy – start again. There are so many shortcuts that we shouldn’t have to endure anything. Life is too short, right?
I wonder if you have ever walked into a shop and immediately been drawn to a garment of clothing or piece of furniture that has really caught your eye. You walk over to it slowly and as you approach it your heart is already set on it… this is something that you ‘need’ in your life.
Eventually, after imagining yourself with your new acquisition, you glance down at the price tag and the excitement drains away to disappointment. The price you are being asked to pay is too great so you leave it in the store and walk away disappointed.
Resilience is certainly a desirable quality, an essential characteristic for life. Everyone wants to have emotional resilience, mental and physical resilience, to be able to stand up against the storms of life and face opposition with confident optimism. But as you begin to glance at the price tag of this resilient life we see that endurance is the price that needs to be paid.
The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:11).
There are no shortcuts to developing a resilient life as a Christian. In the New Testament three examples often get used when talking about hard work and discipline – the farmer, the athlete, the soldier. For each of these to achieve their goal they require effort, determination, focus and commitment.
Don’t get comfortable
If endurance is the price tag of a resilient life, how can we develop our endurance? If as a believer your greatest desire is for comfort you haven’t really understood what the Christian walk is all about. We can be deceived into thinking that the world and the Church revolves around us and our needs. When these are not met we can be quick to complain to God or others about how hard the Christian life is.
A Christian who chooses comfort over endurance will struggle to develop resilience; in the same way that an athlete uses resistance to train the physical muscles, the challenges of life have the opportunity to shape and strengthen us for the future. The real temptation is that our desire for comfort replaces our desire for Christ.
We can say, “I am happy to desire Christ as long as it’s comfortable. As long as it doesn’t cost me too much time or money, as long as I can do it from a comfy seat in church, as long as it means I don’t have to change my priorities, behaviour or attitudes. As long as it doesn’t mean speaking up for him at work or living out biblical values in an increasing secular society.”
Let’s not quit too soon in pursuing the mature, resilient life God has called us to live.
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