We all like the easy button. We all want 2021 to be easier, better, and more normal than 2020. Last year brought many challenges, changes, interruptions, and inconveniences (masks, long lines, higher prices, shortages of food, money, and other products). There was a lot of social, political, and financial upheaval. It challenged our comfort zones, stretched our faith, and made us pray and depend on God more than ever. Face it, we don’t like change. Truly, the only people who like change are wet babies!
In August of 2005, Staples introduced the “easy button”—a novelty item for offices as a fun way to relieve stress. When you pushed the button it said, “That was easy!” It served as a symbol of the frustrations and challenges of small business. It was a clever ad campaign as they tried to make things easier for their customers. We all like quick fixes and shortcuts. We all want to wave a magic wand and “poof” make everything better faster. But life doesn’t work that way. Real life is hard sometimes and we must plod and plow through it.
Some things we don’t enjoy but we must simply endure. The Bible doesn’t say life or faith is easy. Jesus never promised trouble-free living. In fact, He predicted the opposite—“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33, NKJV). The Psalmist provided this reality check and promise, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19).
So, why is life such a struggle? Because there is a constant tug-of-war between good and evil, God and Satan, truth and error, darkness and light, the spirit and the flesh. These forces keep clashing in a series of struggles. God gives us grace to face our struggles and makes us stronger by them. Someone said, “Where there is no struggle there is no strength.” The struggle we are in today is developing the strength we need for tomorrow. Plainly put, if God removed all our struggles, we wouldn’t grow!
To struggle means “to contend with an adversary, opposing force, task, or problem.” Remember the old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? Well, then we should be super strong by now, right? Strength is built through resistance. Athletes who use weights for training in their sport build muscle and strength by resisting (pushing against) the weights. The same is true for us spiritually. James 4:7 instructs us to “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The more we resist Satan, sin, and self, the stronger we become. Consider the following:
• As a butterfly struggles to break out of a cocoon, its wings develop so it can fly.
• As a baby squeezes through the birth canal, amniotic fluid is forced out of its lungs so it can breathe.
• As a toddler strains to crawl, pull up, and roll over, it builds muscles to later walk and run.
• As a student studies for assignments and tests, he or she learns and finds the tassel is worth the hassle on graduation day.
• As a bird or reptile breaks out of an egg, it gets stronger to face bigger challenges ahead.
• As an eagle fights against opposing air currents, it learns to soar higher.
• As a salmon swims against rapids and even jumps waterfalls, it elevates itself to higher spawning pools.
You see, we can’t have a testimony without a test! We can’t have victory without a battle! We can’t be overcomers if there’s nothing to overcome. Remember, every miracle in the Bible first started as a problem. Impossibilities with men are opportunities to God. The Christian life is a struggle because we are going against grain of what is popular in our corrupt culture. Any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes someone with guts and grit to go against the current.
Jesus empowered His disciples to endure the struggle as He sent them out as lambs among wolves (Mt. 10:1). He warned them that the road would not be easy. He prepared them (and us) to face the struggle of rejection (Mt. 10:12-15), religious and political persecution (vs. 16-20), betrayal by family (v. 21), and demonic hatred (v. 22). Then He emphasized, “But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
Paul echoed that sentiment when he wrote, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). The Christian life is more like living on a battleship than a luxury cruise liner. Soft saints won’t survive severe spiritual warfare. We must be tough enough to endure temptation (Jam. 1:12) and to “Run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
The Christian race is not a short sprint; it’s a long-distance marathon. It’s not about who starts the fastest; it’s about who finishes the race. We should strive to finish strong like the Apostle Paul who wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).
In Aesop’s famous fable, the hare sped ahead to gain a big lead, but then he got lazy and took a nap. Meanwhile, the tortoise creeped along (steady Eddie) and passed him. The hare woke up just in time to see the tortoise cross the finish line. Slow and steady wins the race. It may not seem like you’re making much spiritual progress but keep striving, soldier, you’re getting stronger every day!