You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:1
An unknown author tells how his grandfather worked in a blacksmith shop when he was a boy, and how he had toughened himself up so he could stand the rigours of blacksmithing. He developed his arm and shoulder muscles by standing outside behind the house and, with a five-pound sack in each hand, extended his arms straight out from his sides and held them there as long as he could. After a while he tried ten-pound potato sacks, then fifty-pound sacks and finally he got to where he could lift a hundred-pound potato sack in each hand and hold his arms out for more than a full minute!
Next, he started putting potatoes in the sacks.
I suspect we’re all like that at times. We know how rigorous life can be. We want to be strong. We go into training. We pick up the potato sacks of education, work, and family responsibilities. We try to toughen up for inevitable tests and temptations. We know that we’ll only succeed by the sweat of our brow. And we’re prepared to hold the potato sacks as long as God doesn’t put any potatoes in them!
But empty potato sacks don’t build muscles. They don’t develop the strength of character that’s needed to deal with the vagaries and vicissitudes of life. As my rugby coach used to say, “No pain, no gain.” Our intellectual, emotional, and spiritual muscles are only strengthened when we “face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2); when we struggle to pick up the sacks of loneliness, heartache, sorrow or suffering; when we “endure hardship” (2 Timothy 2:3); and when we run “the race marked out for us” Hebrews 12:1.
So lift the sackful of potatoes. Don’t throw in the towel. Trust in God. Be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 2:1. Persevere (cf. James 1:4). “Fight the good fight” 1 Timothy 6:12. And even though you’ll sometimes feel like giving up, remember that “no test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message).