Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Philippians 3:12-15.
"Our chapter doesn't do enough to focus on Christ." "She is not letting anyone do anything." "I just don't even know if I want to be a sister anymore if this is what it's like..."
I cannot tell you how many times I hear this, even from the women who have spent loads and loads of time investing in the vision God gifted them with to see a Christian sorority at their campuses. On the occasions I have had to assist in chartering chapters, I always make a point to tell them that despite all their hard work and effort, the real hard part is yet to come. You see, it's hard to make deep friendships, but it's even harder to keep them.
How can we find any motivation to press on in our sisterhood when everything seems, well, icky? When no one appreciates our constant efforts? When a sister is rude or downright intimidating? When it feels every two steps we take, it's three steps behind? Is there light at the end of the tunnel!?
Yes! God WILL help you through it if you simply allow Him to work in you. Here are several Biblical truths to keep at the foundation of your mindframe in order to press on towards glory, whether in your chapter when hard times surround you or in life:
1) Growth is painful, but it's also the goal.
We know that pain and discomfort is not fun, but it is often a necessary part of growth. For example, one word: puberty. Amiright?
The concept of maturation of faith is seen so much in the New Testament, it's almost impossible for me to select just a few to illustrate its importance to the Christian. Peter writes to the church that the trials faced "of many kinds" will produce a purer person in themselves, comparing them to refined gold, metal that has been placed in fire and smelted repeatedly to remove the impurities (1 Peter 1:7). His point? The pain of the fires of challenge matures our faith and character so that God is glorified in us as we are becoming more like Christ, our ultimate purpose as children of God (Romans 8:29). So, what does this process look like? Unfortunately, it's not easy; Romans 5:3-5, states that "we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Becoming like Christ is not for the faint of heart or the one who'd rather sit out. Christ still calls out to each of us, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Oh, but it's worth it! It's a sign "that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
2) We work for God, not mankind.
If we judge the value of our efforts by who praises them, we've missed the point. Sure, we all appreciate being appreciated! (In fact, so many of us are given the gift of encouragement, which is so needed to inspire the work of God in His Body of Believers. So keep on keeping on!) But, we do not work to please our peers, but we give our most excellent efforts to God alone. We are commanded to, in "whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (Colossians 3:23-24). So, next time you are confused about why no one notices your contributions or why others continue to assume you'll do the work, remember--your efforts are for God, not them. Encourage them, rather than berate them, to work alongside you in offering up your best for Him, as Jesus did for Martha:
"But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her' (Luke 10:38-42)."
Listening to God, enjoying His presence, and offering up our best ("first fruits") is the thrill of being a Christian! Without Jesus, what we do or what we can offer means nothing (John 15:5).
3) We must pursue Peace.
We are children of God, yes? Then we must be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)! Paul tells us that "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)." Our identity in Christ is testified by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I don't know about you, but I sort of feel like all of the fruit rests on the first and last ones listed: love and self-control. If we have not love, don't we have nothing at all (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)? If we have no self-control, how are we able to submit our hearts, minds, soul, and strength to God with intention and purpose for His will (Luke 10:27)? If we live reactionary lives rather than intentional ones, we will be blown about by the hot air coming at us from the criticisms and praises around us. How exhausting! We must learn to control our responses, our attitudes, and fix our eyes on the prize: Jesus, the perfecter of the faith (Hebrews 12:2). So, when we face obstacles of many kinds--including our relationships--we must "keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:25-26)" but instead "in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3)." Even when things aren't making sense to remain calm (PANICKED!? I'M NOT PANICKING!), ask God for His Peace that surpasses all understanding, so that you, too, can usher in that Peace in whatever circumstances you are (Philippians 4:7).
Questions for Discussion:
Why is it so hard to embrace growth within us at times when we know God will yield a better "us" in the end?
Do you think relationships are prone to deteriorate? Why or why not? If so, what causes relationships to decay over time?
What are practical ways to overcome "trials of many kinds" that can help you spiritually mature in stride?
Father God, you lived a perfect life and we are blessed to have you as a perfect example of what we ought to live our lives like. Help us to plant our roots in you so that we will not be threatened by the changes and trials that life throws at us. As we pursue you in this next season of unknowns, help us to trust in you and your good work in us for the day of glory. In Jesus' name, Amen.