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Matthew Bauer

Matthew's Blog

You are here:  blog  >  March 2011  >  It Only Gets Harder

It Only Gets Harder

it_gets_harderI will never forget the words my friend told me that day.  He is a well-known and well-respected pastor of a large church, and has decades of ministry experience beyond what I’ve known.  And one day he told me, regarding my life, my ministry, and my walk with the Lord, “it only gets harder from here.”

I’m sure he gave me the other half of the story – that with the “harder” comes more grace and more strength, but the truth is, I only remember the first half.  And the stories of my life and of so many people around me seem only to prove the point.

Every day, I hear these words ringing in my head.  Every day, as one more battle comes my way, as one more test and one more temptation and one more crisis tries to lead me away, I remember, “it only gets harder from here.”  And it’s not that we don’t learn how to deal with the old battles – it’s not that we don’t have true and lasting victory along the way – no, we learn how to deal with that – but new tests come one after the other and get progressively harder as we grow with the Lord.

It’s even led me on multiple occasions to despise my calling, and to look for alternative things to follow after.  Sure, the vision God has given me is great, but in the distance between here and there is a harder challenge than anything I’ve faced before, and I’m just not sure I want to go through with it.  Like Jonah, I want to run away from my call.  Yet for fear of the fish that would swallow me and bring me back (by even harsher methods), I learn from Jonah and stay the course, the words still looming over me that it’s only going to get harder.

Ultimately, however, and despite what my experience may tell me, I don’t really believe those words are true.

Yes, the more we return to the image of God (in which we were created), the more abnormal and conflicting it becomes to live in a Godless society and even worse, a Godless church.  But, the more we lean on God’s understanding instead of our own (even to realize that our understanding of God is flawed in itself), and the more we learn to seek first His kingdom (His law) and His righteousness (His grace and salvation), and most importantly the more we love (God, others, and ourselves), the more peace, joy, hope, and abundant life we will experience.

You see, Jesus came to show us how to LIVE – how to really LIVE – to have LIFE to the fullest.  But His example was not amidst an easy life.  No, despite His success in ministry (sparking a revolution that has lasted already for two millennia), His life conflicted more and more with the world around Him – to an observer, they would say that His life got harder and harder.  But inside, He walked with the everlasting peace, joy, and love of His Father. 

Surely, He knew stress – He did sweat blood, after all – but only when His will conflicted with the Father’s (see Luke 22:39-43).  Yet His stress was momentary.  It was not built up over time like someone who was overworked or weary, nor was it lasting.  As soon as He surrendered His own will to that of His Father, it was gone.  Even in the midst of the following torture, He did not make a sound, for He was at peace.  His outward conflict was not matched by inward conflict.  Inside, He was sure of His identity, sure of His purpose, and surrendered.

When He sought first the kingdom and righteousness of His Father, He no longer had any worry or fear or anxiety about the conflict around Him (see Matthew 6 for how these things are related).  He was able to fight the upstream battle of being a citizen of God’s kingdom amidst the influence of Satan’s kingdom, and He was able to face it with ease and confidence and even joy.  He knew that the secret to life – to true, abundant, peace and joy-filled life – was not in leading but in following.  It was not in knowing the way or being prepared, but in fully trusting God for each step.  It was not in His own power or strength or wisdom, but in complete surrender – only doing what He saw the Father do, and only saying what He heard the Father say. 

If we can accomplish that – if we can achieve that absolute surrender – the “hardness” of life will be of no matter to us.  But we must be careful, because in our foolishness, we can easily turn the act of surrender into the most impossible of tasks. Yet surrender cannot be achieved by doing, but only by letting go. 

Oh, and if you figure out how to do that, be sure to let me know.

Posted: 3/20/2011 1:28:45 AM by Matthew Bauer | with 0 comments
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