From a perspective of physical fitness, if you were to go to a gym and pay a trainer to help you achieve increased endurance, strength, and flexibility, you would do what they told you to do, not come up with your own plan and then be mad at them that you didn't get the results you sought. And as they encouraged you with their words, you would push through one more rep, one more second on that plank hold, or one more minute on the treadmill because you would see the exhilration on their face as you crossed a previously unsurpassed threshold. That look of supreme satifaction in your achievement would make the discomfort worth it.
So, if we can agree that this is what we do for others and what others can do for us, why on earth do we wimp out on what God calls us to do when we know He, above anyone else, is for us not against us?
It wasn't until I was reading today that I have begun to understand that the obedience that delights God is the obedience that comes from a place of love, not obligation or self-protection. And it was at that moment I realized that the joy of the Lord could be my strength. If I could just picture His face when I'm being asked to do the hard things, couldn't that be just enough to get me through it? Wouldn't that be Him cheering me on, encouraging me as I crawl to the finish line, never once leaving me to fend for myself, but being there the entire time reminding me how much He believes in me even when I don't believe in myself? Shouldn't that alone be enough motivation to pick up my cross and follow Him anywhere?
But more importantly, if all that's not enough, then what does that say? Why do I hold on to what I know isn't good, or healthy, or beneficial? Do I really prefer being miserable and unsatisfied more than giving up what I know will lead to freedom? How does that even make sense?
It would be great if we could say that we had no strongholds in our lives. But honestly, I don't think any of us can. Oh it might not seem like you have one, but if there is anything you would not want Jesus to ask you to lay down from this moment on until you walk into eternity, you've got one. I've got several. But with His help and His radiant smile, I'm going to push for one more rep, one more second, and one more minute because the look of joy on His face is more than enough strength for me.