“To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears.” [emphasis added]
~ I Corinthians 9:25 TLB
I remember one particularly grueling semester in college. I had foolishly stacked five upper level political science classes on top of one another thinking that taking them together would be easier.
That was a dumb idea.
The end of semester assignments included 200 pages of written term papers along with essay tests and other random bits. For two weeks I fell asleep on my bedroom floor, pen in hand, legal pad underneath my head and surrounded by dozens of open books I used for reference.
After composing the papers, I had to type them, add footnotes and bibliography and deliver them. All back before computers and word processing programs made it easy and electronic!
Oh, how I wanted to give up and give in! I was certain that I was not going to make it. I just knew that my body or mind or both would give out before I completed the task.
But they didn’t and I did manage to make it through.
I was willing to put forth the effort and pay the price for a letter grade!
No one cares what I made on those essays. No one asks me about my college classes or grades. At 53 I can’t even remember what I wrote about.
Now I face a much more challenging task: Living without the companionship of one of my precious children. The “grade” I make on this effort has eternal impact.
This is the Valley of Weeping, yet Christ promises it will become a place of refreshing.
“When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!”
Psalm 84:6 TLB
I can’t see an end for this grueling work. There’s no “semester break” circled on my calendar.
But there will be an end to this toil and pain-just as surely as there was an end those many years ago.
“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. 2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.” [emphasis added]
~Hebrews 12: 1-2 GNT
And the reward for faithfully completing this assignment is so much more valuable than a good grade.
“Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.” [emphasis added]
~Philippians 3:12-16 PHILLIPS
This reward is eternal-a never-ending supply of God’s grace and love and joy that will overwhelm the toil and pain I’ve endured.
So while I wait, I encourage my heart with these truths:
“Even more, I consider everything to be nothing compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. To know him is worth much more than anything else. Because of him I have lost everything. But I consider all of it to be garbage so I can know Christ better.” [emphasis added]
~Philippians 3:8 NIRV
“We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair. 9 We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. 11 For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh.” [emphasis added]
~ 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 VOICE
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~Jesus
~Matthew 28:20b NKJV