GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–Nothing of great value in our lives comes easy.
Getting married: Easy. Having a great marriage: Hard.
Finding “friends” on Facebook: Easy. Building lifelong friendships: Hard.
Accumulating debt: Easy. Being a faithful steward: Hard
We all know this, yet it’s human nature to drift toward the path of least resistance. I was reminded of the value of rejecting “easy” the other day as I talked with my son Todd. Todd just completed Army Ranger training, which is regarded by many as the most rigorous, difficult and demanding training in the U.S. Army. It’s necessary, though, because the training is preparation for the reality of war. If he didn’t go through this, he would not be prepared for what lies ahead.
Todd will soon deploy as a medic in the war in Afghanistan. A medic’s job is serving, caring for, protecting and investing in the well-being of those injured in battle, and it is difficult work. In fact, medics are most vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress syndrome because of their proximity to the horrible traumas of war.
God calls each of us to a journey filled with obstacles, resistance, heartaches, suffering, loss and, at times, terror. In 2 Timothy 2:3 Paul says we are to “endure hardship like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” In many ways, the Christian confronts life as a soldier faces war. Note how Paul describes his life in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27:
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”
Paul’s mission was hard, but he was willing to reject “easy” because of his dedication to the Person and purpose for which he was fighting. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8, this valiant soldier of Christ writes:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
The Apostle Paul knew that anything worthwhile, especially our spiritual journey, is going to require sacrifice and hard work, but the outcome — the reward — is ultimately worth the sacrifice.
Are you facing something that is hard?
Reject “easy” and embrace “hard” so that you won’t one day resent the path you took. Consider it a blessing when you must face “hard.” Never give up. Press on by faith when the chilling winds of adversity swirl in your face. Keep fighting the good fight. “Hard” is actually God’s gift to train us, to equip us and, ultimately, to reward us.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES THAT ARE HARD
1. Have realistic expectations.
Like medics dealing with the dangers of war while treating the wounded, we must never stop loving and serving, but we must give up the notion that our assignment will be easy. That false expectation will lead us to disillusionment with marriage, parenting, career and finances. Expecting “easy” will block us from undertaking the great mission God has chosen for us.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “There has never been a man in history who pursued a life of leisure, whose name is worth remembering.”
Nothing worthwhile is found on the easy path.
2. Ask for help.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus assures us that when we are weighed down by the difficulties of life, He is there to shoulder the burden for us. The implication is that life is hard, but we have an ever-present Source of help available to us. Many times, we go through painful trials without getting into God’s yoke. While trials and tribulations are required courses for our training, we have a Friend upon whom we can call for help. We are never alone in the battle, and only He can make our burden light and easy.
3. Focus on eternity.
Facing hardship should be viewed as an opportunity for growth and eternal reward. Soldiers who overcome their fear of combat and press forward during times of great risk are recognized and rewarded even beyond this life — so too for the Christian. When faced with hard times, we receive the benefit of training and character development to become better soldiers of Jesus Christ. And God will reward those sacrifices in this life and beyond. God is the righteous Judge, and He is able to redeem all of our hard experiences for our good and His glory.
My hope is that you will use this perspective as you progress through your endeavors when the going is difficult and painful, especially those that will lead you toward becoming a steward who is faithful to the end.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown’s MoneyLife podcast (Crown.org/media/MoneyLife). To learn more about practical resources, including the new Eliminating Debt Video Study, visit Crown.org or call 1-800-722-1976. A version of this article first appeared in the May/June 2011 edition of Money Matters. Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.