I remember when I was young I would watch the Summer Olympics and I suppose, because I liked the glory of it, I wanted to take part someday myself and so after whatever event I was enjoying was finished, I would often go outside and try to do what I had seen myself and I sort of thought, I am embarrassed to say, if I just ran my fastest or swam my best a couple of times, then maybe I could somehow be able to be part of the Olympics.
I had no idea of the training that was involved. (Or the natural gifting!)
I don’t think I was all that unusual. That’s the way young people often think about life. They get excited and they start to try something; but they really have no conception, no idea of how much effort is involved in the whole thing, all they see is that moment on television, they don’t see the thousands of hours in the gym, and so when they try and fail, they give up so quickly, like I used to do when I found out I couldn’t run a two hour marathon the first time I tried.
And that I think, honestly is a problem a lot of people have in the Christian life as well.
People sometimes see someone who is doing well and they want to do well and so they try but they don’t really know all the struggle that is involved in it and so when they start sweating and struggling spiritually they think something strange is going on and they give up, when really as we see in many passages throughout Scripture, the Christian life is a struggle.
Take Ephesians 6:12.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against rulers and authorities…
The key word there is wrestle.
We all wrestle.
In the verse before this one, verse 11, Paul says put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand, but here he switches over to the word we; almost as if he wants to stress, that this wrestling or struggling is true across the board for every believer. It’s not just weak believers who have to wrestle and struggle, even believers like Paul had to wrestle, we all do. Don’t ever think the fact that you struggle makes you so different than everyone else here at church.
As one old Puritan once said, “Pretty much every Christian duty involves some kind of struggle for pretty much every Christian person.”
We sometimes think I don’t do that and that other person does because it is harder for me.
Well, yeah I guess that some of us struggle with particular temptations in different ways more than others and we definitely do grow and get better at certain things as we mature spiritually; but you know still, honestly we all wrestle. I am not trying to bum you out, because there really is spiritual growth and certain things do get easier as you go along spiritually but I do want to take away this excuse that people make where somehow they think the Christian life is so much easier for other people, because Paul says here we all wrestle.
This is in the present tense.
Paul doesn’t say, we wrestled as if you only struggle way back at the beginning of your Christian life when you are first converted and he doesn’t say we will wrestle, as if you only struggle at certain times in your Christian life, no this is the every day Christian life.
Now honestly I think that’s a real rebuke to a certain kind of Christianity that talks as if once you become a believer everything is supposed to be nothing but easy street and it also rebukes the kind of person who says he is a Christian but isn’t wrestling, who isn’t trying to put off sin and working on becoming more like Christ, you know the only kind of person who doesn’t wrestle, a dead one.
I sometimes talk to people who are worried about whether or not they are Christians because they are having such a fight with sin and they don’t like it, they wish they were different and they are trying, but they hate the fact that they fail and you know, usually I am actually very encouraged when people speak to me like that because from what I know about dead men, they don’t wrestle. I don’t see too many wrestling matches in cemeteries and the fact that a person is engaged and fighting and hating the fact that he sins and worried about his weakness and wishing he was different, that’s a good sign that he actually is alive spiritually because spiritually dead men don’t really wrestle either.
Don’t let the fact that the Christian life is a struggle cause you not to work, it should instead encourage you to work harder because this is what our life in this world right now is like, we wrestle.