Tuesday, January 18

Uphill Battles

He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ. --1st Corinthians 1:8

I first memorized this verse during "quiet time" on a church-sponsored houseboat trip. Whenever I read it, I automatically think back to that trip and other "mountaintop experiences" that I had on other church camp-like outings. Most Christians would agree that they have, at some point in life, had an opportunity to feel exceptionally close to God during such times. I thought about how in my own life I have undergone brief periods of hyper-spirituality that were induced my those moutaintop experiences.

Many of us wish we could spend more time on the mountaintops, standing still, taking in the panoramic view that God has shown us. However, most of our lives are spent climbing the hill. We grunt and sweat, fighting to find secure footing as we stumble uphill. Even if we have exchanged our heavy burdens for Christ's light and easy one, we must daily fight an uphill battle. This is simply the reality of being a Christian.

Christ commands us to follow him. He says that we are to take up our cross and follow him. Following him means struggling against the things of this world that try to tell us that we are fools for our faith. As we follow Jesus up Calvary's hill, we battle unseen forces that attempt to convince us that being a Christian should be as hard as it is.

Depending on your situation, living a Christ-like life may quite possibly be the most difficult thing you will ever do. For me, being a Christians was most challenging while I was a college student. I was bombarded with ideas that could have easily unraveled my entire belief system and unseated my faith if I hadn't trusted God to keep me strong. I needed to rely on his strength and not my own in order to fight to hold onto what I believed to be true. Most of my uphill battles were on the moral front. It was difficult for me to honor God with my words and actions when so many people around me were clearly not interested in honoring anyone but themselves. Even among people who professed to be Christians, there were times when I felt that I was being dragged back down the hill rather than being offered the encouragement I needed to reach the top.

Those experiences taught me that most uphill battles are taking place in our thought lives. The world teaches us to think a certain way--a way that is self-motivated, self-centered, and self-seeking. It is possible to spend so much time as my husband says, "contemplating our navels" that we forget to lift up our heads to focus on the goal and the One who will get us there.

God enables us to scale the heights. One step at a time, he gives us the tools we need to proceed uphill, no matter how slowly, so that we can one day stand with him at the top. In our uphill battles, God is always present. He doesn't just point to a mountaintop and expect us to climb it alone. When we accept him as our personal Lord and Savior, he gives us spiritual strength. Like this verse says, not only does he give us strength, he keeps us strong. He doesn't give us strength in spurts for the battles, and just because the battles are uphill, they need not be futile ones. God keeps us strong so that we may reach the end of our climb and stand blameless on the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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