Continue to struggle
Life is hard. It’s one of the first lessons we learn. As a child, life is pretty easy; from infancy to toddlerhood, most things are done for you—food is provided, your entertainment, your sleep schedule (you actually have time to sleep!)—but at some point you learn, life isn’t easy. Things aren’t going to be done for you and what you have to do for yourself will rarely be easy. It’s a struggle. One of the biggest problems we see in culture today is that people don’t know how to cope with the struggle and hardship that is life. Millennials and Gen Z get accused of being lazy and always wanting the easy way. Paul knew that life was hard and he passed this lesson on to his student, his “son in the faith,” Timothy.
“‘Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.’ This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it.” (1 Timothy 4:8-9)
Paul used a lot of athletic metaphors and language in his writing, and here he points out that training the physical is good, but training the spiritual is better. After all, the physical training is only good for this life; the spiritual training is good for this life and the next. But it’s in verse 10 where Paul hits on the “life is hard” lesson.
“This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.” (1 Timothy 4:10)
This is why we work hard and continue to struggle. Some manuscripts read, “continue to suffer.” This is the upside down way the Kingdom of God looks to us sinners on a fallen planet. Life would seem easy if you chose your sinful nature, your default setting. It’s easy to get angry or indulge in temptation. It’s hard to resist. As C.S. Lewis put it, “you don’t learn the full strength of the German army by surrendering, but by fighting against it.” Paul says we work hard and continue to struggle—why?—because our hope is in the living God, the savior of all people. Now the enemy will want us to think this is a false hope, that eighty years of struggle or suffering is not worth it, but Paul also reassures us that this hope will not lead to disappointment.
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)
Choosing to reject your sinful nature and instead go with Jesus and choose the nature of the Holy Spirit is a struggle because we are doing it in a fallen world. We are choosing holiness while living in a sinful body in a sinful world. The very fact that God has given us the choice, given us the Holy Spirit to combat the sinful nature, shows how dearly God loves us. It’s a struggle, but we continue because we know that training in godliness will benefit us both now and later. If you only want the benefits now, if you only want the easy way, your indulgences and sinful nature now, you have that choice, but it will not benefit you in eternity. So which do you want: struggle now, for eighty years or so, or struggle for all eternity? The choice is yours.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.