Probably one of the most popular activities at church parties is volleyball; that is, volleyball in some form. Because we all know it comes in several creative variations: mud volleyball (a personal favorite, although I’ve never had the opportunity…yet), volleyball with a big inflatable beach ball, and even the old-fashioned kind is still just so much fun on a sunny day with the fragrance of grilling happening in the background.
Such was the situation one morning in our church, as we were setting up for our annual Block Party for the town.
With so many preparations whirling around, a small group of us were fixing the volleyball net, well-used as it was with its holes and tears and tangles and knots. It can make one appreciate just how L-O-N-G a volleyball is! There must have been some discouragement as to whether or not it was worth all this time and trouble. After all, we had plenty of other activities, maybe we should just give up and go on to something else. Was this really necessary?
All that, until Janice, undaunted by the effort and words of woe piped up~~
“We can’t quit now; look how far we’ve come!”
Someone else had a similar comment when writing to his fellow comrades in the faith of the new and faltering church. Paul had been through a myriad of challenges by the time he is writing to the Philippians. At the time of this writing (from prison), his C.V. had grown pretty impressive:
“…put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked.”
I’m over my word limit so I’ll summarize the rest:
- Adrift at sea
- Long journeys (no cars back then…)
- Danger from thieves
- Persecution from his own people (that’s never fun.)
- Danger from imposter Christians.
- Long, hard, sleepless nights.
- Gone without food.
- Cold without enough clothing.
Sometimes, okay—many times, life is just hard. And its difficulties aren’t always even connected with religious persecution, like brother Paul. They come in form of bills that need to be paid (since money grows on trees), mundane tasks that need to be faithfully accomplished (how many diapers can one kid go through in a day?), and the morning alarm clock, always the clock. The scowling boss, the irritating next-door neighbor, the bully at your kid’s school…Nowhere in the Bible is following “in His steps” ever billed as a “tiptoe through the tulips”.
And yet, Paul says~~
“But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”
Sometimes it’s actually beneficial to look back, not wistfully nor with regrets, but to see progress. However small the untangled knots may be, whatever the mended rips may look like, it’s still forward movement.
Because the end result will bring lots of joy for many others besides yourself! And of course, always in the background Heaven’s grill is preparing a great feast.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27; Philippians 3:1 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.