Growth

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character develops our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5 (NLT)

Growth is hard. Any kind of growth is hard work. Whether we are trying to grow new muscles, learn new things or grow aspects of our character, growth is hard. I think that’s why Paul chose to remind us of the benefits of growth in this passage of Romans. He knows that growth is hard. Whether the growth is forced upon us as a result of circumstances or whether we are choosing to grow and train in a particular area, we need reminders of the end game. We need reminders of the ultimate goals and objectives we desire for ourselves. We need reminders of the goals and objectives God desires for us.

I don’t know about you … but when I am training to grow in a certain area, sometimes I get tired. Sometimes, usually when it’s getting really hard, I want to quit … or slack off … or “adjust” my goals. I begin to doubt if I really want what I am pursuing or whether it is worth it. But the truth is, those are the moments when I need Paul’s words the most. That’s when I need to remember that the hard moments are the ones when strength of character is forged, if I will just press on. These are the moments when I can, if I choose, become closer to my true self — the self that God made and desires for me to be. These are the moments over which I can rejoice, if I simply don’t quit. (And, by the way, the hard moments are not the best moments to consider adjusting goals. It’s wiser to wait until we are out of the hard spot and more sober-minded.)

Growth is hard. But the outcomes are good. Rejoice!

Endurance and Encouragement

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide, we might have hope. May God, who gives endurance and encouragement, give you ….” Romans 15:4-5a (NIV)

Sometimes life is like that — a time when you need desperately need endurance and encouragement. Maybe you are a mom with small kids, or caring for an elderly parent, or starting a new company, or battling a chronic condition. Sometimes we simply need to cry out to God for endurance and encouragement.

The other day, I was out on a long run. Where I live in the mid-west, there are few hills of substance. Often, instead, there are these long inclines that seem like they might go on forever.  Kind of like those seasons in life. Long, drawn out, uphill battles that seem like they may never end. Not dramatically uphill, mind you, where the challenge is glaringly overt. But a slight, subtle incline that wears on you and just continues.

While I was running, I came upon  one of those dreaded inclines and was reminded of this verse in Romans 15.  And I was reminded that God is a God of endurance and encouragement. He wants to provide that for us. He wants to give us hope. He has provided the Scriptures to teach us and to do just that.  He has provided many stories about members of our “cloud of witnesses” to bolster our perseverance.  (See Hebrews 11 & May 4, 2014 post.)

So I kept running up that darn incline. And I kept thinking about the saints of old and of their endurance and encouragement.  And you know what!? That darn incline did end.