Trained by Life's Challenges

  • 25 January 2018
  • Randy Wollf

Mature spiritual leadership is forged in the crucible of difficult conversations, the pressure of conflicted relationships, the pain of setbacks, and dark nights of the soul. — Peter Scazzero

The school of hard knocks has a way of teaching us deep lessons. 

James encourages us to be joyful when we encounter difficulties. The reason: the testing of our faith produces endurance, which leads to spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4).

Peter shares the same view. He says that trials refine our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Paul reminds us that "our light and momentary troubles" are producing eternal benefits that far outweigh the discomfort of the moment (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Yet, how do we respond well to life's challenges? The writer of Hebrews encourages us to endure hardship as discipline (Hebrews 12:7). It's important to recognize that the writer is not saying that all hardship is discipline; he's simply asking us to view it in that way—to see difficulty as an opportunity to learn and grow.

I like to golf. I'm not the best golfer in the world—a fact that was clearly demonstrated during one of our annual Wollf Golf Tournaments. One of the tee boxes had foot-high hedges that stretched for about 20 feet along either side. I promptly drove my first ball into one of those hedges. It was embarrassing, but those ball-sucking hedges were not done with me yet. I drove five balls into their clutches. As I went to retrieve my fifth ball (now lying 10 shots and not even off the tee yet), my dad and brother overhead me muttering, "What is God trying to teach me?"  

Even though I can't remember how deeply I was pondering the question at the time, it's not a bad question to ask both on and off the golf course.

The writer of Hebrews goes on to talk about our loving Father who disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. It's a painful process. Yet, it can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

We are trained by life when we humbly respond to both painful and pleasant circumstance and earnestly seek to learn God's lessons from both. This often requires prayerful processing guided by Scripture, the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of supportive confidants.

I am told that Caribbean pine trees routinely withstand fierce hurricanes, long periods of drought, and even fire. But one thing they cannot tolerate is cultivation. In a well-kept yard with plenty of water and fertilizer, they often die.

We need adversity to grow stronger in Christ.

As Helen Keller testified:

6 Guidelines for Running the Christian Life Well, Part 2

  • 29 January 2016
  • Randy Wollf

Every Christian has moments of feeling tired of living the Christian life. Thankfully, Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us several ideas for how we can run the race of the Christian life well. Each guideline keeps us running while also equipping us to maintain our pace. We looked at the first three ways in an earlier blog, so we will now identify the final three guidelines. 

4. Run With Perseverance

"And let us run with perseverance..."

I’m a sprinter. When I was younger, I was fast; but I was a terrible long distance runner. The Christian life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We’re called to run in a disciplined and steady way that allows us to persevere to the end. The goal is not to get there as quickly as possible or by any means necessary. The goal is to stay the course and to savor the journey as you travel. 

6 Guidelines for Running the Christian Life Well

  • 25 January 2016
  • Randy Wollf

group of runnersDo you ever grow tired of living the Christian life? Does it seem hard and challenging at times? Yet at the same time, perhaps there is a deep desire within you to run the race of the Christian life well. You want to please the Lord and bring honour to His name, but you find that your tank is often running on empty.

Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us six ways that we can run the race of the Christian life well. Each way keeps us running while also equipping us to maintain our pace. In this blog, we will look at the first three ways.

1. Remember the Faithful Ones

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,"

The great cloud of witnesses likely refers to the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. Enoch walked with God. Noah obeyed God even when it didn’t make sense to do so. Abraham left his home and later was willing to sacrifice his son because he trusted God. Moses abandoned a life of wealth and prestige to follow God.

Yet, the faithful ones mentioned in Hebrews 11 are not the only people of faith that we can look to as examples. I can think of a number of people who have impacted me because of their faith in God. They, too, are part of the cloud of witnesses. Their example inspires, guides, and challenges me to be faithful.

2. Throw Off Hindrances

"...let us throw off everything that hinders..."

Have you ever had to run through an airport because you’re late for your flight? I’ve had that happen a few times. And when it happens, I am never ready for a mad dash to my plane. I’m not dressed to run. I usually have a small backpack and a carry-on suitcase. Needless to say, I don’t run very fast with these extra items.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us to throw off the things that hinder us from running the race of the Christian life well. These can be good things like work, leisure activities, relationships, and even ministry. Yet, anything that becomes more important than God in our lives or distracts us from God is an idol. It is hindering us from running our race well.

What is hindering us or could hinder us from fully living out the Christian life? As someone has said, “The good is often the enemy of the best.” Let’s hold onto God’s best for our lives.

3. Get Rid of Sin

"...and the sin that so easily entangles."