~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is a summary a sermon by Joshua Weir. You can read the whole sermon, No Pain, No Gain, by clicking here.
Everybody knows that when it comes to physical fitness, when it comes to having muscles, that you have to go through pain. No one would say “I want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and I hope it sort of just happens some day.” You need to do push-ups and sit-ups, and pull-ups and dips, etc. Even though no one would ever deny the hard work required for a good physique, we often fail to recognize that the same principle applies to every area of life! There is not an area in our lives that does not require pain in order to get gain.
Jesus says it better yet. “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” (Mt. 7:14, NLT) The word in the Greek that is translated “life” is zoe. Zoe is the most powerful way you can say the word life! So far as it relates to walking out that zoe life here on earth, so far as it relates to causing His kingdom to come and His will to be done on this earth, the road is difficult! When we think that the road is supposed to be easy, we are set up for disappointment and a lack of staying power. The path to experiencing true life here on earth is going to be difficult. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) We like to be comfortable. We like to avoid pain. But the life you really want is down a path of pain, difficulty, suffering, squeezing, and pressure. That sounds terrible until we start reframing pain, difficulty, suffering, and struggle.
In order to start reframing our approach to pain and difficulty, we need to realize that pain is a guarantee in life. “In this world you will have tribulation.” It’s a fact. But what are you going to do with the pain? Pain is inevitable, but gain is an option. What you do with the pain is completely 100% up to you! There is not a substantial story in scripture that does not have an element of pain in it. Jesus endured the cross – for the the joy that was set before Him! There was pain there. But there was a purpose also! Think about the most joyful things in your life . . . and you will likely find that there was pain in the path to that joy. The joy of childbirth? Check. A great marriage? Check. Raising children well? Check!
We expect that a good marriage is easy. But a good marriage doesn’t just happen. The gateway to having a life-filled marriage is narrow. That challenge is why so many couples can end up with in a “roommate” marriage . . . because the alternative is painful! We avoid the little pains, little by little, and soon the pain required to overcome that pattern of avoidance becomes greater and greater. And eventually that area of our life is completely out of shape.
When we look at every situation for its difficulty, then life is hard! But when we start to look at challenges and decide that no matter how big, how difficult, or how hard they are, we are going to run right into that challenge . . . life is easy! No football player would try to play a football game without getting hit! The fear of getting hurt would be a greater liability to them than just giving it their all! We can be so afraid of pain that we end up in more pain! It’s a mindset. “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33) When we run away from the difficulties of life, life is hard. When we press into the difficulties of life, life is easy. When we stop frantically trying to preserve our lives (avoid pain) there will be nothing that we are afraid of! Pain is the path towards gain (towards zoe life)! It takes hard work to experience God’s best!
So, why should we press in like this? Because we want to really make a difference in the lives of others! God wants to bless us so that we can be a blessing and we need to realize that those blessings are on the other side of a process and that process will include pain. The pain, the process prepares us for the promise! What have you been talking about for years? What have you been dreaming about and sharing with your closest friends and family? What is that vision you have? Has it happened yet? If not, why not?
There are things we can talk about for decades upon decades upon decades, but are we willing to press into the challenge, the difficulty, the squeeze, the pain of stepping into those dreams? If you are like most all of us, we have had dreams in the parking lot of our lives starved for the fuel of willing, hard work. Hard work is required in order to start seeing the blessing of God come to fruition in your life! We need to start pushing ourselves and asking other people to push us into pain and difficulty. And the pain we are talking about in this message is the pain of addressing fear or anger, unforgiveness or envy, old mindsets and ways of going about your life that don’t work. It’s the pain of change. In other words, pains of the heart, not of cancer or getting the cold. This is about the pain involved with changing our thinking and mindsets!
The result of pressing into seeing change in our hearts is that good things begin to happen! We need truth-tellers around us to help us! We need to start inviting people to be truth-tellers in our lives. No one wants to give truth to someone who rejects it and resists it. “If you see something in me – a way that I am acting where I am not really leaning in – would you please start telling me? I need it!” For example, tremendous coaches are truth tellers! They push their players beyond the cliff of the pre-conceived ability. They push and push and push. They care so much about their players that they confront their players, tell them what they are doing wrong, and what they can do better. Why? Because a good coach believes in his or her players – what they can become and what they can accomplish! Invite someone, a truth teller, someone who believes in you, to start speaking into your life. That’s action 1.
Here’s action 2: foster a vital, living relationship with Jesus in the midst of your difficulty and pain. We can’t do it alone. Who are we kidding . . . we are weak, miserable, and have no clue on our own! Jesus wants to meet us in the midst of our pain. Invite Jesus into your pain – into your challenges, struggles, sorrows! Have you known the Lord for 50 years? 5 years? 5 days? Great. But, today, are you inviting Jesus into your pain and process? Invite Jesus into that place. Lean in!