Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6: 2 

There are times when having some of the weight of the day lifted is not only helpful, but it can be almost life saving. Sometimes that involves something as simple as having another person come to me and offer to help with a task, talk through a situation, or pray with me for an answer. My shoulders lift a little higher, and my heart can beat a bit slower from the relief. On other days and in other times, I wind up being the one with a part of my friend’s load of bricks on my back; for, there seems to be a wonderful balance to the way that life goes in this regard. God doesn’t give us more than we can handle; however, I think that He looks at our capacity to take on weight based upon both our own strength and endurance and upon that of the other people that He will bring into our lives. 

God desires and plans for people to have a form of healthy interdependence that multiplies each of our strength, endurance, and effectiveness in ways that are supernatural. The Lord makes us sensitive to the needs of others, and He gives us the ability and the sense of security that are required to be vulnerable with others, too. One of the distinctives of the Kingdom of God is that none of us are all sufficient; yet, none of us are without capacity to help others. We are each uniquely, specially, and specifically given personal gifts and areas of strength that when combined create an unbeatable group that is a living, human image of Christ. 

Christ’s law is one of grace, love, and selflessness. Although it does not remove the stresses and struggles of living in this fallen and fractured world, it does provide the freedom, the skill, the strength, and the support to go through that life with our heads high and our hearts made lighter. This lightness is of an unworldly, a heavenly, form, for it can exist in the middle of pain, crisis, and the hardest of times. It is born out of the certainty that Christ has walked the same path that I am following, that He is walking with me in the here and now, and that I am joined on my journey by a world-wide community of faith. Jesus calls each of us to seek the opportunity to walk with others and to support them in handling the burden that they are carrying, and He asks us to trust others enough to open our hearts to let them help to shoulder our weigh with us.. Although, this may sound like a strange prayer request, I think that Christ will smile if we ask Him to bring us another person’s heavy load for us to help carry today.


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For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12: 11

There are disciplines that I find relatively easy. These include things like brushing my teeth and washing what hair I have. Then, there are others that are very hard to remain faithful to; these are exercise, avoiding certain foods, and getting enough sleep. Although my doctor and dentist might disagree with me on this, all of these are of little importance when compared to the discipline that God wants to bring into my life. I would guess that most of us can make similar comments about our own spiritual journeys. Remaining faithful and committed to righteousness and to its practice is not easy to do.

Unfortunately, it seems clear that living in a fundamentally righteous manner does not come naturally for most of us. It seems that we all have areas and aspects of our lives where people will have a hard time seeing the true image of Christ when they encounter us. Since all children of God are called to be His hands and feet, to live as an expression of His love and grace among people who desperately need Him, and to continually grow and develop in our relationship with Him, God puts extra effort into bringing the discipline that this sort of living requires into each of our lives.

This process requires us to experience blood, sweat, and often bitter tears; yet, it is absolutely necessary in order to gain the depth of understanding of God and of His will that leads to a life that is peaceful and productive in His eyes. Discipline is made easier as we stop fighting against it and start working with the changes that it demands. Christ asks us to start simply in this process of transformative change; so, He asks us to give just one troublesome habit of thought or action to Him. Then He will start to transform this aspect of us into His way of walking through life. Christ promises that if we plan to stick with the process of change through the hard work days, we will be able to delight in the joy and the peace that His Spirit will bring to our weary hearts as we dwell in the soul-deep peace that flows out of righteous living. 

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1

All that it takes to live well in God’s eyes, at least as they are understood by the Apostle Paul, is to think and act exactly as God would in the various situations and circumstance in which we find ourselves. This is not such an enormous task, is it? As anyone who has even the slightest desire to do this sort of thing can attest, living out godliness, that is, walking through life as a perfect image of Christ is not only challenging to do, but it is an impossibility. No one can do this, and no one other than Jesus has even come close. Thus, we go from the example of absolute perfection on the one hand in Christ to the flawed performance that all of the rest of us exhibit on the other hand. The contrast is stark, and the failure that we all know could be overwhelming if we were to let it be so. But that is not the way that God wants for things to be, and that is not the place that Christ leaves us, either.

Jesus went to the cross so that this flawed and failed reality would not continue to be the one that all of humanity inhabited. The blameless and perfect One paid a price that each and every one of us who has walked this earth or who will ever do so has earned the obligation to pay. However, God desired to close the enormous gap that sin had created between Himself and us, and that desire was so great that the Father gave the Son over as payment for that eternal debt. In like fashion and with complete accord, Jesus, the Son Himself, surrendered to the will of the Father and completed the arduous and painful journey that was set out for Him from the beginning of earth’s history. So, we are set free from overbearing guilt, shame, and the debt of sin. We are granted a new life in Christ, and we are led into being purposeful followers of Christ’s calling for each of our lives.

So, we will never be perfect followers of Christ, and no one will exist in a sinless state in this life. However, in Christ, we put on that new image of redemption that allows each of us to leave behind our old ways of viewing life and of interacting with people. Now our hearts are opened up to viewing all others as people to be loved and to be cared about and for. As Christ truly gave Himself up for me and for you, so too, we are called upon by Christ, and we are empowered by His Spirit to give up our fears, concerns, inhibitions, and prejudices so that we can see all of the people on this earth as God’s own dear ones that need love and understanding. Thus, there is no person who is too different, unclean, professing an unreachable view of God, hurtful beyond redemption, or who possesses or exhibits any barrier or impediment to being approached in love. We can all imitate Christ in reaching out in love to all others. This is the great possibility of faith in Christ. He has opened those doors for us, and His sacrifice has already bridged the great divide that Satan has attempted to create between people. All that we need to do is to trust in Christ enough to walk out onto the bridge that He has constructed for us to use. 

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness

will find life, righteousness, and honor.

Proverbs 21: 21

 

There is an old idea in the world of sports. What you focus your eyes on is what you will hit. So, if you are shooting a basketball, be sure to look intently at the basket. Likewise, a pitcher in baseball sets his eyes on the catcher’s glove. The same sort of concept is true in most other areas of endeavor as well. In a real sense this is what setting goals is about in business, families, and other organizations. We determine what we desire, and we state that as a goal in order to remain true to our intended course of action and to achieving the stated end without getting distracted and drifting off of that path.

 

The same sort of thinking is valid in our spiritual lives as well. In fact, I think that setting the right goals in this area is even more important than it is in these others. However, we often struggle with understanding and establishing the sorts of goals that God wants for us. God is more concerned with where our eyes are focused than He is in the number of times that we do something or than the frequency of an action or activity. The Lord wants to be the One who we set our eyes upon as we go through our days. His nature and character provide us with that perfect image of the person that we can be. In Jesus we see the living embodiment of all that makes us truly human and that sets us apart from all of the rest of Creation. So, Christ leads us into living as people who are made in God’s image.

 

Going before us we see a man who lived as God intended us all to live. Although Christ’s perfection and sinlessness is beyond our capacity and capability to achieve, we can desire and seek to live in a manner that continually sets aside more and more of our old selves and that is filled by Christ’s Spirit with His nature. We are called to live righteously. Thus we need to know God’s truth and seek after it in all areas of our lives, and we must be committed to its highest calling without regard to personal cost and without compromise. At the same time, Christ wants us to be as focused and committed to living as kind, gracious, and understanding people. He desires for us to be people who have strong characters and soft, warm hands to embrace and to sooth people who are in pain as a result of sin’s relentless terror campaign. So, as we set our eyes on Christ, we will hit the target that is His perfect will.

 

It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2: 13

 

When I was a youth, there was a summer where growth and change took over my body; I grew three inches taller and actually lost a considerable amount of weight in just a few weeks. From my viewpoint, I knew that things were changing, but my sense of the change was less than that of people who saw me after it had happened. I did experience pain, for my joints ached; and I had some really awkward moments; since, my hands and my feet did not know where they were in relation to the rest of the world. God does some remarkably similar things in us. I doubt that He will make you much taller, but He will give you the confidence to hold your head a lot higher. He won’t necessarily cause you to lose weight, but He will carry the load of life for you. Just like in my growth spurt, you may not notice the dramatic ways that you are changing, but others will see a new person emerging.

 

In Christ, we are new persons; people who now have our identity in Christ. We have been made right and righteous, and our relationship to God has been restored. Whether we are four, forty, or at any other age, and throughout all of life, we grow and mature as the Spirit of Christ does the amazing and loving transformational work that He has planned for each of us. You see, every personal trainer, mentor, guru, yogi, pastor, and coach who has ever worked with people possesses nothing more than a mere shadow of life=changing ability of God. He knows us from the heart out, and He plans for our greatest good in ways that are beyond the capability of any human.

 

The growth pains and awkward moments that do come as we are on this life-long path of transformation are simply minor bumps in the road. They are reminders of how far we had to go and of how very far we have come in the journey of being transformed into the living image of Christ. This change that is afoot in our bodies, minds, and spirits is there because God loved each of us totally and willed that it would be possible. The change occurs and continues as we accept this love and yield ourselves in order to allow Christ the opportunity to bring about further transformative change.