There have been many times where I’ve felt exhausted and prayed for God to help me – either by giving me more energy, or by making the situation easier.
Similarly, there have also been many other times where I’ve also prayed for God to help me physically overcome whatever arduous task I was doing (often involving hiking up mountains!). Speaking with friends, I know that they also operate similarly to me.
Faulty assumptions on challenges
Most of the time, we operate out of a fault assumption based on Philippians chapter 4, verse 13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. However, we miss important context when we take that verse alone.
Paul just spent the past 12 verse expounding on how he can be at peace and content through all circumstances – and he was able to do this through Christ who gives him strength. We often take that verse as permission to do things that are far beyond our ability, ignoring our God given limitations.
In saying this, I do want to acknowledge the Supreme Creator and Sovereign over all of Creation that is our Father in heaven. He does care about us and our intimate circumstances and can and does act in ways (miraculous and otherwise) to help us.
However, we also tend to lose sight and follow the whims of our culture that say our pleasure and comfort is the ultimate goal in life, and pain is to be avoided. One merely needs to look at Jesus, who is the model, author, and perfecter of our faith, and see that he was a “man of sorrows” as Isaiah says.
Keeping heart by fixing our eyes on Christ’s love
So, if overcoming all challenges in our life through sheer grit for the sake of comfort in this life isn’t in God’s plan, how do we make sense of all the promises in the Bible?
"Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 16 to 18)
The promises are meant to give us hope and internal encouragement to persevere through the challenges for the sake of God’s kingdom and his plan.
The theme of fixing our eyes on the unseen is repeated in Hebrews chapter 12, which comes after Hebrews chapter 11, which details many characters of the Bible who did not get what they desired in this life. Rather, they died with eyes of faith looking forward to when God would fulfil His promises to them.
Similarly, for us, though what we endure today is challenging, Paul invites us to lift our eyes and fix them on the sure hope and promises that await us.
What do we fix our eyes on? Ephesians chapter 3, verse 16 notes that the Father strengthens us out of his glorious riches with power through his Spirit in our inner being. To what end? So that Christ may dwell in our hearts, and that we may know God’s love.
This is the link friends. Hope and strength for the journey comes from fixing our eyes on the love of Christ, the love that surpasses all knowledge, a love that fills us to the fullness of God.
An unselfish, outward oriented love
This love also drives us outward to our friends and family who don’t know Christ. To the measure we understand our need for God’s love, to that measure we allow ourselves to receive it. As we understand our need for God’s love, our eyes are opened even more to how much others need it – and how they don’t have it.
Friends, the love we have received is an unselfish love, and so we should be unselfish with it too. As we fix our eyes on Christ, and what is unseen, we are formed and loved into Christ-likeness, which spurs us further on into loving those around us into salvation.
I disciple university students in the University of Canterbury through the Navigators while currently working towards a Master of Divinity. Outside of this, my wife and I enjoy rock climbing and going on adventures with our dog.