More and more these days, I’m understanding why the writers of the New Testament compared the life of a follower of Jesus Christ to the life of an athlete. For instance, nearly every personal fitness instructor will tell you that it is vitally important to have a “why” that you always keep in mind to remind yourself “why” you’re doing it when it gets tough to continue.
Let me tell you a short story.
I was 24 years old the day my father died, and although I was sad, I thought I would be okay because I was too young and inexperienced in life to understand what I’d actually lost. Years later I was reading Ariel Sharon’s autobiographical book “Warrior” and I got to the part where his father is on his deathbed, telling him that he’s actually not afraid of death but he’s sorry to be dying because “you still need me for so many things.”
Upon reading that, I dropped the book, collapsed back into the chair I was sitting on and wept bitterly for several minutes as feeling of self-pity overtook me for having lost my father at a time in my life when I still needed him for so many things.
The reason I started out by telling this short story is that this is what motivates me get up at 5:30 every morning to do my morning workout routine. It’s COLD and DARK in Jerusalem at 5:30 in the morning in November. I’d MUCH rather stay in bed, but I get up and go because if I don’t do it then there’s no other time during the day when I can do it, and I MUST do it. I know what it’s like to have a father who didn’t take care of his health die in his mid-50s, and I don’t want my sons to have that same experience.
Now, there’s other things that are also difficult to do, and I don’t think they’re going to get any easier.
Simply being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, of refusing to go along with the currents in popular culture which demanded first “tolerance” than “celebration” of things which the Bible specifically condemns as sin, has gotten noticeably more difficult in recent years. The Bible tells us to expect that it will get more difficult for us going forward.
As someone said, without humor, early in the war in Syria “it’s going to get worse before it gets worse.”
The recent mass-shooting at a church in Texas was bad. What was really terrifying about it to me though was the tsunami of hateful words spoken against Christians in the discussion boards of online news stories about the shooting. Far from the expressions of sympathy or solidarity one might have expected such an event to provoke, many people felt perfectly comfortable expressing their high-octane hatred and contempt for God, the Bible and anyone who puts their faith and trust in them.
This indicates to me that there are a great many people out there who wouldn’t be bothered at all if Christians came under much heavier and more comprehensive programs of violence and coercion, possibly even by governments. This is something that we have long witnessed in many parts of the world and we may soon see it happening in Western countries where it would have been unthinkable just a very short time ago.
So the next time you encounter difficulties for taking a stand for Biblical principles that are considered quaint, old-fashioned or even “hateful” by popular culture, you’re going to have to remember why you’re doing it. If you don’t, if your “why” gets lost or forgotten, you’ll find yourself falling away.
So before that happens, take some time to fast and pray and study the Word and really get a firm grip on “why” you’re following Jesus of Nazareth. What’s motivating you? What are you looking forward to? What’s keeping you here?
Every morning when my alarm goes off and I wake up knowing I’ve got an hour of tough physical activity ahead of me in the cold, dark, November morning, I have to remind myself of why I’m doing it. If I had to sit there and think of a reason not to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep every morning, I know for sure that wouldn’t work.
The time to get a firm grip on our “why” is before we need it, so that later, we can hold fast to it in the day of trouble.