Who says, "hang in there!" to someone who just got a promotion or won first prize in a competition? Why should we need encouragement when things are going well?
Something occurred to me this morning while I was putting on my shoes. I've been less stressed out and less troubled for the past 2-3 weeks than I had been previously. The reason for this is beyond question. Having determined that I should be living as a missionary right here, right now, I have put much more trust in God regarding all areas of my life. Not only so, but I can see that God has worked in a number of other ways as well in order to shepherd me into this transformative thinking. I have more faith, less fear; more joyful hope, less dread. This is wonderful, though not nearly complete.
We are not yet in Heaven where there is no sin and no temptation. Here in the world, there is still danger. As I reflect on the past couple of weeks, I see a tendency in my behavior toward complacency. It's striking because I expect a trend toward action driven by joy, excitement, a renewed sense of freedom. All those things are present, but my flesh is still at work also. I believe, based on what scripture teaches about human nature, that such gravity toward complacency during times of peace, prosperity, and blessing is exceedingly ordinary.
But I don't want spiritual growth to cease or even to slow down! While the troubles of this world provide a strong temptation to turn to idols of all kinds, even the blessings of God can be turned around in my childish mind to become a temptation to idolatry. It may even be that they are a greater temptation, because in striving for God, we must sometimes release our hold on the peace and prosperity that he has graciously poured out, but this is not only contrary to our flesh, but also to our common sense. In my immaturity, it is precisely for peace and prosperity that I seek God. But it should not be so. God himself is our very great reward.
So, perhaps even moreso than at other times, in times of peace and hope that come from spiritual growth, we must press on persistently in fervent prayer, scripture reading, and the encouragement of one another in the Spirit. These must remain our commitment to God in order to continue to fulfill our mission.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
"Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward." ~Genesis 15:1
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:12-14