I love this time of year, the final quarter, It’s hot, with longer days and shorter nights. It's the time of year when a lot of us take stock of what's gone and we start to plan and prepare, set new goals for the final stretch and maybe even the New Year.
Yet, even when we think about the future and set goals, in life it can be difficult to persevere, in some seasons or circumstances it's much easier to give up.
What was the last goal you set for yourself?
What rules or plans, if any, did you put in place to achieve this goal?
When faced with opposition, did you keep going and persevere or did you give up?
Our faith journey can be like this too, we think we’ve heard a word from God, but at the first sign of opposition, it is tempting to quit.
Here are three keys to hold fast to prepare you for things to come, as you navigate these seasons in your life, they are:
Stay Focused on the Goal.
Remain Faithful to the Journey
Cultivate Fortitude to Endure
2 Timothy 2 3-7 NKJV
3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Stay Focused on the Goal
The Christian life involves hardship and suffering, Paul cautions Timothy to not get entangled by things of this life, really what he is saying here is to remove the distractions so that you can stay focused and not be led astray, because that's how you please God.
I don’t know about you but there will be seasons in my life when I put my trust in other things. In the tough seasons of work or relationships, I read self-development books, I listen to speakers, podcasts, and global leaders in business. I look for guidance and advice from things with good intentions and these things can be great but ultimately over time what I am doing is idolizing and putting them ahead of God, I'm getting entangled with the affairs of this life, and what it's doing is it's actually pulling me further away from God as opposed to drawing me nearer to Him, which is what pleases Him. And We can be distracted by many things: lust, alcohol/substances, idolatry, and God doesn’t leave us in these moments but we are choosing to seek fulfillment elsewhere, and not seek Him and His will.
I want to tell you, you are called to more, God’s design, plan, and purpose for your life is not merely to exist and float through life by being pulled in different directions by these distractions, but to thrive by staying focused, you have to be ruthless with your time… cutting out the things in your life that are keeping you from pleasing Him.
So where do you start? What does this look like to remove distraction? It could just be by starting to prioritize your time. Ask yourself what do you do first thing in the morning when you wake up? Check your phone? This is what you are giving the best part of your day to, something that is life-draining. BUT When you give God the first part of your day it’s life-giving this and this pleases Him and opens your heart to his plans and purposes (the goals) He has for you to Stay focused on.
Remain Faithful to the Journey
Paul uses the example of an athlete that sticks to the rules to win the prize. I don’t think in the religious sense of rules but rather God’s will for our lives - His race for us not ours. You can't win unless you finish the race, you can’t finish what you started without remaining faithful to the journey even when you face tough opposition…
My question to you is who are you in this story, are you one who will finish the race despite the tough opposition, or are you likely to turn around half away because it's harder than you anticipated or maybe the excitement has worn off?
Do you finish what you started or do you give up at the first sign of opposition?
What does finishing look like? Well, the first step is to admit, "I can't do this on my own strength" We need God’s power, and He gives us His strength through the Holy Spirit.
I love how Craig Groeschel put it in his book Winning the war in your mind:
The power you need is a power you don’t possess.
You need to ask for help, and then be obedient to what it is God is saying. Obedience is our job, the outcome is God’s.
Cultivate the Fortitude to Endure
Paul refers to a Hardworking farmer - to endure requires hard work, and just because it's hard doesn’t mean it's wrong. The harvest follows hard work! I'm not a farmer, nor do I know much about farming but I love gardening, my wife often says I’m an old soul trapped in a young body, and my hairline would agree with her but when we moved into our house, there was grass a nice big yard but no garden just grass… So, the first thing we did was go buy plants and we got back all excited but then realized, this is going to take a lot of hard work to plant everything… but we did. We wanted to rush the result, to see the flowers bloom, but that’s just not the way it works, the harvest follows the hard work and it takes time and patience for the harvest and I think that’s why Paul used the metaphor of a farmer because farmers understand the harvest follows the hard work BUT it takes time and patience and faith.
The definition of fortitude: courage in pain and adversity
You have a choice in this, are you going to work hard and Cultivate Fortitude? You cultivate fortitude by spending time in the word of God. A few weeks ago Gareth spoke about regaining our courage, and that in order to do that we need to be connected biblically, and sometimes this is hard or we don’t feel like it but this is how you cultivate fortitude, this is where our help comes from.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
This, then, is how we live now to prepare for things to come:
Stay Focused on the Goal, Remain Faithful to the Journey and Cultivate Fortitude to Endure.
- RJ Vischer