Good Morning Brothers…
The thermostat read -4 degrees. I stepped outside to grab some firewood to get the stove going. My wife was lighting the stove upstairs and I was trying to whip up a fire in the big stove downstairs. Even though we both have jobs, we heat our home with wood and do not turn on the furnace. This seems like a good thing, until it is -4 degrees and the house is cold. Heating my home with wood reminds me of hunting and trapping, in that, it takes discipline to do it everyday, no matter the weather. One of the secrets to staying warm in a house, that employs wood stoves, is to chop the wood. I don’t care how cold it is, after I swing the axe for 20 minutes, I’m plenty warm. My high school age daughter hasn’t figured this out yet, she like’s to wrap herself up in a blanket and stare at the wood stove. I wonder if I’ve let her watch to many Harry Potter movies and she is trying to conjure fire?
The day before, my 9 year old boy and I spent about 7 hours in a box blind trying to give him an opportunity at his ‘first’ deer. He was wrapped up in a ‘mummy’ sleeping bag (thanks older brother) at kept quite warm. In fact, he napped most of the afternoon while dear old dad kept a watchful eye. I was reminded of all the times I told my daughter to “Stop shivering, it’s not that cold.” She would always respond with, “Dad, I can’t help shivering.” Well…she is right. I couldn’t help shivering either. As I sat there and shivered, I wondered if I was only passing on the “Curse of the Empty Freezer” to my youngest son. There is certainly something to be said for perseverance and grit, however, they don’t always reward with immediate success. I like what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Remember when our Dad’s, or our Teacher’s, or our Coach’s would tell us to “suck it up” this builds character…? Well this is essentially what Paul is saying. Although, Paul tells us why character is important. Character leads us to HOPE, and HOPE leads us to Christ. I don’t remember anybody ever telling me to “suck it up” because it will lead me to a relationship with Christ. Maybe they did, and I was still trying to figure out exactly “what”, I was supposed to “suck up”. The point is, that tribulations are good things. They cause us to choose. Will I go spend 7 hours in the freezing cold trying to get my son a deer…or not? Will I go run the trap line again even though I haven’t caught anything in 3 days…or not? Will I dig into this passage in Romans even though I’d rather watch football…or not? Will I pray with my wife and kids before bed even though I’m dead tired…or not?
Scripture has a lot to say about perseverance through trials. One of my favorite verses for this is in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” This verse helps me transition from tribulation – to perseverance – to character – to hope – to Christ. I can almost hear Coach Paul telling me, “Hold on, you’re allright, keep going, keep fighting, keep reading, keep praying, Christ is with you, keep going.” This thought keeps me running trap lines in the dark, in the cold, by myself, because I have HOPE. This thought keeps me sitting in treestands long after the other deer hunters have filled their freezers because I have HOPE. This thought keeps me reading Scripture looking for further revelation and growth because I have HOPE. This thought keeps me praying with my family and friends because I have HOPE.
After running the trap line today (empty) I went by the convenience store to grab a drink before stopping into the shop to write this devotional. The ladies behind the counter were two of my favorites and I have taken their prayer requests often. Today we found ourselves in a conversation about Heaven. I told them I was ready to go and the Lord could call me anytime. One of them agreed but the other was not so sure. I asked her, “If Jesus came to you ‘Right Now’…you would not want to go?” She said, “No…I am not ready to go.” This got my ping pong balls bouncing around on “Why wouldn’t someone be ready?” Which brought me back to HOPE. I can’t help but think that many Christians are still caught in the tribulation – perseverance cycle and haven’t persevered far enough into ‘proven character’ which leads to HOPE. The call of the preacher in Hebrews comes back to me, “let us press on to maturity”, which means we need to “suck it up”.
The voice of the Hebrews preacher rings loud and clear on this cold frigid day, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Hebrews 6:9-12
Staring at the wood stove does not cause it to burn. Looking at the woods from my couch does not harvest a deer. Owning a Bible does not impute the Word. Experiencing tribulations does not mean HOPE, unless we first persevere, become of proven character, and finally realize our HOPE is only in Jesus Christ. Are you ready to go…”Right Now?”