During my summer break back home, I watched a movie on the Apostle Paul’s life. It was a moving portrait of a man who had fully surrendered his life to God and at the end of his life could confidently say that he had fought the fight and finished the course. He was confident of a reward that was waiting for him when he breathed his last and met Jesus face to face.
I pray some day I can have the same confidence that he did. Sometimes I feel like I have been bruised and battered so much that I can barely stand. Other times, the allure of this world and its temptations seem almost impossible to ignore. Or when I do seem to move forward in this spiritual journey, I often look back or hesitate rather than boldly pressing onwards.
I wish this Christian journey were an easier one sometimes, with more peaks than valleys, more flat land than bumpy terrain. But perhaps there would be less to learn. And if life were just an easy road without struggle and pain, it would be much easier to rely on myself and neglect to seek after God.
The Apostle Paul certainly had his share of suffering and pain. Being stoned nearly to death, shipwrecked, imprisoned, abandoned by dear friends, and dealing with divisions and apostasy in churches he established. I imagine at times, he must have wondered whether it was worth all that struggle and why God allowed him to suffer. But through it all, he kept his eyes fixed on the prize, which was eternal life in heaven and praise from God for a job well done.
I was also reminded during church this past week that our reward for following Jesus is first the church body where each of us (if practiced as God intended) use our gifts and talents to help our fellow brothers and sisters and second, Jesus himself, both in this life and the life to come.
So often I find, when the pressures or stresses of life weigh me down, I become so myopically focused on my own difficulties that I forget there are others around me who often have their own struggles. But if I have the right focus in life, I will naturally consider others more than myself as Jesus did.
Following Jesus is no easy task. He set the perfect example for me, and following him requires self-denial and sacrifice, which frankly, does not always excite me. But I know it will be worth it in the end. By God’s grace, I pray he can empower me to follow Jesus this year, casting off the worldly weights that press me down and fixing my eyes on the one who suffered infinitely more than I can imagine so that we could have an eternal life with him infinitely more than we deserve. Now that is a fight worth fighting for.