I’m getting old.
Not in the literal sense, I recognize that 32 is still relatively young, but in the mental sense. Really what I’m getting at here is that I’m starting to use the phrase “kids these days” and talk about how things were “when I was in school”. Maybe it’s better stated that I’m starting to sound old…
One of the more regular moments of “when I was in school” for me is when my students talk about their gym/PE class. A lot of them tell me that their GPA is great, except that they have a “D” in gym. All I can think is that gym was the ultimate easy “A” when I was in school! How could it be a GPA ruiner for students today?
The most common response: “I don’t dress out. I don’t want to get sweaty just before (whichever class is next).” Or sometimes it’s, “I don’t run the mile, I just walk it. Running is hard!” or something like that.
It gets frustrating hearing things like that as often as I do. All I want to do is shout, “all you have to do it put effort into it! Just try as much as you can and that will be enough!”
Ah, hypocrisy, thy name is me.
As true as this is for my students, it’s true for every Christian out there. Recently, I preached a sermon on 1 John 1:5-2:1. It’s a challenging passage of scripture. John lays it out pretty clear for us; we cannot be comfortable with any amount of sin in our lives. we should always be striving for eliminate our sin completely.
This is exceptionally clear in verse 1, where John says that he writes this so that the readers “will not sin”. Not sin less. Not overcome most of our sin. Will not sin. What’s expected of us is clear here, as well as when Jesus says it in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We should be striving for perfection. And yet instead, much like my students, we make casual excuses for not putting in the effort that we should. “I’m a gossip, it’s just who I am”. “I’ve been struggling with anger for years and I just don’t think it’s something I’ll get over”. “Lust is a natural thing, I just struggle controlling it”. Thankfully, John continues by talking about how Jesus makes up for our shortcomings, that He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
But we should always be making the effort for sinlessness. Jesus’ sacrifice is meant to make up for our lack of success, not our lack of effort.
But, as intimidating as this can be, we should remember that success is not as important as effort. It’s like a race. We should train, we should work hard, we should be doing everything we can to be in shape for the race, but it’s okay if we don’t win. Jesus has already won, and He wants to add our name to the trophy.
The author of Hebrews puts it like this, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Throw off the sin! Run the race! With everything that we are, we are meant to strive to be sinless, to run this race with all effort. But don’t grow weary or lose heart, because Jesus has already claimed victory.
Run the race with all effort. Do not let sin entangle you. Strive for sinlessness, but if you fail, know that Jesus has already given us the victory.
– Steve Valdez