Nothing stays the same! Just one look at your car will confirm this. The tire tread is wearing thin, the muffler is rusting out and the engine will only go so many miles. Our houses are limited by the same principle. The paint peels off, the roof leaks after a few storms and the tile and carpet don’t seem to stay clean for more than a couple of days. In the kitchen, the milk goes sour, the bread molds and the peach that looked so delicious three days ago starts to rot.
Even things we leave completely alone, like the pictures on the wall or the books on the shelf, collect dust, change color and become old. Half our time is spent washing clothes, cleaning the house and repairing things that break down. We do this because we know that unless we continually work on maintaining our possessions, we surely will lose them to deterioration.
Exactly the same is true for our spiritual lives. Look at your life and your ambitions today. Look at the ones you had when you first understood that Jesus wanted to use you to help touch the world for His kingdom. If our commitment and our call to serve God are left unattended, they will slowly deteriorate and be replaced with excuses and a thousand other things to do.
As time has gone by, your once-tender heart can become unmoved by the truth that multitudes suffer without knowing God’s love for them. Your eyes can be dry as you look at your world map and think of those affected by war, poverty and despair when they were once moved with tears. Where you used to consider it a joy to give each month toward those ministering hope in Jesus’ name, you can become sorry that you made that commitment because you would rather spend that money on yourself.
Remember when you couldn’t wait to attend the prayer meeting for missions or to spend an hour alone in intercession for the lost world? Now you can come to the place where you find it difficult to fit the prayer meeting in your busy schedule, and you have to kick yourself to get out of bed for a five-minute prayer.
Believe me, we have all faced this at one time or another: Without constant and deliberate commitment to God, we will lose ground. We will then argue for our rights and our freedom and justify our lack of time and interest in the cause of Christ. Finally, our other involvements will become more important than the call of God on our lives.
Let me ask you, what caused a man like Adoniram Judson, a missionary to Burma in the 19th century, to be so different from us in his level of commitment? What gave him the strength to go through incredible persecution and suffering, burying his first wife and three of their children in Burma?
Each person has his own struggles and problems. I firmly believe Judson was able to bear even the greatest of losses and pay the highest of prices because he had made a lifetime commitment to bring hope to the Burmese or to die trying. He deliberately kept his focus on his call and purpose, rejecting everything that would distract him. God saw his heart and gave him the necessary grace to finish the race.
Another model of focused commitment is the life of George Whitefield.
George Whitefield, the great British evangelist, was often falsely accused and maligned. The clergy spoke out against him, artists painted mocking portraits of his meetings, and slanderous tracts were published to attack him. But when his friends urged him to defend himself against the lies he refused. “I am content to wait till the judgment day,” he said, “for the clearing up of my character. When I am dead I desire no epitaph but this, ‘here lies G. W. What kind of man he was the great day will discover.’ ” He had committed himself to the Lord. He was looking beyond this world.
“Though [Whitefield] wrote Journals of his ministry during its first three years, he thereafter refused to take any steps towards making a correct knowledge of his life available. With his eye fixed on his accounting in heaven, he sought no justification of himself on earth” (Arnold Dallimore). What a contrast with the hypocrites who justified themselves in the sight of men—but God knew their hearts (Luke 16:15). And He knows our hearts too.
Our greatest problem is that we continually lose our focus. We allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the world, by our mixed-up motives and by our lack of discipline. It takes a radical commitment to live for God and what He has called us to. Whatever part you have to play in God’s plan—be it to go, to intercede, to give, to send—make it the focus of your life. Start measuring everything that comes your way by this question: Will it further the cause God called me to, or will it be an extra weight and additional distraction in running the race? Learn to walk away from things and even people who will take up your time, your emotions and your money and thus hinder you from fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.
Wearing out the saints (Daniel 7:25) slowly is the master tactic of the enemy. Don’t let him! Instead, like Judson and Whitefield, keep your focus and run the race with endurance.
1. Brown, How Saved Are We?, p. 70.