It's all or Nothing
"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well!"
Or so the wisdom goes according to every parent, coach, and teacher I've ever known, but just because it's cliche doesn't mean it isn't true.
It makes little sense to undertake any endeavor and not give it the attention and effort necessary to see it succeed. Paul wrote of this in the first epistle to the church at Corinth, proclaiming that he ran in such a way so that he might receive the crown. He concludes that he must discipline his body daily lest he lose his reward after he had preached the gospel to others.
He expresses a similar thought in Philippians 3:
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Like any other strand of life, faith is an all or nothing endeavor. Said another way, our faith will always be as weak as what we are unwilling to sacrifice, and if we're going to begin our journey with Christ why are we not willing to do whatever is within our power to see it all the way through to completion.
Be Prepared Mentally for the Road Ahead
Jesus spoke of this many times throughout the gospels usually accompanied by the teaching that the true disciple is the one who takes up his cross and follows Him.
Luke 14:27 (NASB ) Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Luke 9:62 (NASB Strong's) 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
As with any discipline mental toughness is the key to success. Faith is no different. No one feels good the first few days of a new workout or until the scale shows that we're down ten pounds. That's because self-denial rarely feels good, but we must recognize that disappointments and setbacks while inevitable are also temporary. But faith it's not just about fortitude and conviction but more so about knowing the character of God.
Paul spoke this way to the young preacher
2 Timothy 1:12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
2 Timothy 2:11 It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
What Hinders You?
Galatians 5:7-9 (NASB ) You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
No matter what discipline you are engaged in there are going to be obstacles and hindrances. Such are the tests of faith. These setbacks can either become the ramparts on which faith goes to die or the obstacles which give it strength.
Randy Pausch, the author of the book "The Last Lecture," offered these two pieces of wisdom as he reflected on his demise from terminal cancer.
"We cannot change the cards we are dealt, but we can change how we play the hand."
"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. ”
Both of these are sound thinking on overcoming the obstacles to our faith. There is little we can do about the hindrances we find in life except to change our perspective. Paul encouraged those in Philippi to adopt joy in their adversity saying rejoice in the Lord always and to consider themselves as those whose citizenship is in Heaven. To those in Galatia, he encouraged them to glory only in the cross of Christ. To Timothy and those who would serve alongside him in the kingdom, he called upon them to flee the lusts of youth. All of these represent a change in perspective even as they remained in the same circumstances
There's little to be done about the discouragement of the people around us or the frustrations of the post-Christian culture in which we live, but they do not make the salvation of man any less glorious. They may, however, cause us to appreciate it all the more.
The End Justifies the Sacrifice
Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said to them, ...29 everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
One of the great discouragements of faith is that we see more clearly the sacrifices than we do the goal. Perhaps this is why the Hebrew writer asks his reader to consider the faith of patriarchs declaring that they could have returned to the country from which they came, but did not because they were seeking something better. They were journeying to a city with a foundation whose builder and architect was God. Of these, he declares that God is not ashamed to be called their God. Before this, he states that without faith it is impossible to please God and that those who will come to God must believe that He is and that he rewards those who seek him diligently. Ultimately this proves that faith is less about rugged endurance of man and it is about the depth of their trust in the Father.
When our faith is in our ability, it may quickly deteriorate into self-righteousness, but when our faith is in the righteousness of God we overwhelmingly conquer (Romans 8:37)
With faith as with life, it really is all or nothing. The question is, "are we all in?"