Every spring, tulip and daffodil bulbs push with all their stored-up strength against the cold dirt packed around them until finally their fragrant, fragile heads poke through the crusty snow. And every child who enters the world does so by pushing against its mother to forge an independent identity. Growth always takes place against something, and spiritual growth is no different. It takes place in a world opposed to God, and it happens among people who are apathetic, indifferent, and sometimes belligerent. Those who follow God are always going against culture. This was true in the days of the patriarchs; it was true in the first century; it is true today; and it will remain true until Christ returns to rule the earth.

Struggle

Before Jesus’ return to heaven, he spoke to his disciples. He didn’t motivate them with tales of adventure and excitement. He didn’t send them off with a pep talk about positive thinking. Nor did he promise them early retirement in a seaside community. He sent them off with this ominous warning, ‘Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves‘ (Matthew 10:16). Jesus protected them from future doubt, disappointment, and despair by preparing them for what was to come. And he did so by teaching them truth and warning them about persecution.

The words written to the Hebrew Christians so long ago, still bring guidance and comfort for Christians today:

Don’t ever forget those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail. When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity. Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. – Hebrews 10:32-36

Excerpted from “Seven Keys to Spiritual Renewal” by Steve Arterburn and Linda Mintle