In all my 43 years on this earth, of all the experiences I have had—every line of work, every effort for success, every hardship, every good idea poorly executed, every blessing taken for granted—there has been no trial as great as following in the shadow of Christ. To follow after such a man as He, the Bread of heaven, is to go against one’s very own nature. It is to look into a mirror and choose to willfully go to war with one’s self. It is written that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, but if we are to fully surrender our lives to Christ, we must hate the very flesh that we selfishly protect and serve. We must willfully choose to deprive ourselves of the very things our bodies and minds crave.
This is the great race—a declaration of war—that Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Are you going through that glorious contest right now? Are you running the race? Are you guarding the faith? Are you fighting the good fight? Do each of you covet that crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give on that day to all who love His appearing?
If any of us are to have any hope of entering the rest promised to us, we must learn to overcome. We must learn to lean completely and fully on the strength and faith of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We cannot afford, especially in the times in which we are now living, to be like Peter upon the roaring waves of the Sea of Galilee.
Following the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus instructed His disciples to board a ship and cross the Sea of Galilee while He remained behind to send away the multitude and to pray. A windstorm arose on the sea during the voyage, and the small ship was tossed among the waves. To add to their distress, the disciples were confronted with what they thought was a spirit, and they cried out in fear. What they saw was Jesus walking on the water. Although the Saviour announced that it was He, that they need not fear, some on the ship were skeptical. Peter challenged, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And Jesus responded, “Come.” Matthew 14:28, 29
Peter left the boat and, like Jesus, walked on the water. But when Peter looked away from his Master to the buffeting winds around him, his faith wavered, and he began to sink helplessly into the water.
This is one of the most profound illustrations in the Bible about how we all must approach every minute of every day, every trial, every tribulation, every season of blessing or hardship—by beholding the goodness of Christ.
Though met with storms, defeat, fear, temptation, failure, when our hearts grapple with the darkness of surmounting hopelessness, Jesus bids us to come to Him. Above all else, our eyes must diligently and faithfully remain on Him, and our feet be placed in His footsteps.
I want to share a true story that made national news back in 2013. Larry Swilling and his wife, Jimmie Sue lived in Anderson, South Carolina. Jimmie Sue was born with only one kidney, creating a serious problem when that kidney began to fail. Doctors told them that Jimmie Sue’s only hope would be a kidney transplant, but 96,000 other Americans were already on the wait list.
Of course, Larry would have gladly offered one of his kidneys, but unfortunately, he was not a match. After 57 years of marriage, he was not about to give up. He created a large cardboard sign to wear over his shoulders with the words “Need Kidney 4 Wife,” along with a phone number. He then began to walk the streets of Anderson, South Carolina, pleading for someone to donate a kidney to save the love of his life. On some days, for an entire year, the then 77-year-old Larry walked as many as 15 miles in the sweltering heat—with bad knees, after completing a full day of work!
Eventually, a local news station ran his incredible story. More than 2,000 phone calls came in, and about 100 people went through testing to see if they were a match. Finally, a retired Navy lieutenant, Commander Kelly Weaverling, age 41, was found to be a match. The successful operation took place on September 11, 2013, and both parties fully recovered. Most people would not even give their pocket change to panhandlers, but Kelly was willing to give one of her vital organs to save a stranger—all because Larry would not quit asking.
The Bible says that if you ask persistently, you will receive. “I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs. So, I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you.” Luke 11:8, 9, first part
One of the hardest and near impossible feats for a prideful heart to accomplish is a total and complete surrender to humbleness. Pride does not seek assistance. It does not relinquish recognition, nor does it subscribe to admitting failure. But in order for there to be a renewing of Spirit, in order for there to be rebirth, our cups must be emptied so that the Lord can pour into us a newness of life. There is no hope for any of us if we do not ask the Lord for assistance, if we do not ask for His victory over sin and the strength to overcome the snares of the fowler through the power of the Holy Spirit. We must allow ourselves to become broken vessels made afresh, restored, and ready for new wine.
“Solomon was never so rich or so wise or so truly great as when he confessed, ‘I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.’ ” Prophets and Kings, 30
“ ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence,’ is the counsel of the wise man; ‘for out of it are the issues of life.’ As man ‘thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The heart must be renewed by divine grace, or it will be in vain to seek for purity of life. He who attempts to build up a noble, virtuous character independent of the grace of Christ, is building his house upon the shifting sand. In the fierce storms of temptation, it will surely be overthrown. David’s prayer should be the petition of every soul: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ And having become partakers of the heavenly gift, we are to go on unto perfection, being ‘kept by the power of God, through faith.’ ” Messages to Young People, 285
“Yet we have a work to do to resist temptation. Those who would not fall a prey to Satan’s devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest. ‘Girding up the loins of your mind,’ says the apostle Peter, ‘Be sober, … not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in … your ignorance: but like as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living.’ Says Paul, ‘Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.’ This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influence of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward, and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things. And we must give diligent study to the word of God. ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word.’ ‘Thy word,’ says the Psalmist, ‘have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.’ ” Patriarchs and Prophets, 460
“Through nature and revelation, through His providence, and by the influence of His Spirit, God speaks to us. But these are not enough; we need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual intercourse with our heavenly Father. Our minds may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In order to commune with God, we must have something to say to Him concerning our actual life.
“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.
“When Jesus was upon the earth, He taught His disciples how to pray. He directed them to present their daily needs before God, and to cast all their care upon Him. And the assurance He gave them that their petitions should be heard, is assurance also to us.
“Jesus Himself, while He dwelt among men, was often in prayer. Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, ‘in all points tempted like as we are;’ but as the sinless One His nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin. His humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble, sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer.” Steps to Christ, 93, 94
Are you spending your time in fervent prayer and supplication? Do you take time out of your day to seek the Lord? Do you pour out your heart to Him with all sincerity, an intimate honesty, and desperate need? Do you give Him everything, holding nothing back, but laying every dirty, ugly, and wretched rag before His throne, seeking spiritual cleansing and righteousness?
“Our heavenly Father waits to bestow upon us the fullness of His blessing. It is our privilege to drink largely at the fountain of boundless love. What a wonder it is that we pray so little! God is ready and willing to hear the sincere prayer of the humblest of His children, and yet there is much manifest reluctance on our part to make known our wants to God. What can the angels of heaven think of poor helpless human beings, who are subject to temptation, when God’s heart of infinite love yearns toward them, ready to give them more than they can ask or think, and yet they pray so little and have so little faith? The angels love to bow before God; they love to be near Him. They regard communion with God as their highest joy; and yet the children of earth, who need so much the help that God only can give, seem satisfied to walk without the light of His Spirit, the companionship of His presence.
“The darkness of the evil one encloses those who neglect to pray. The whispered temptations of the enemy entice them to sin; and it is all because they do not make use of the privileges that God has given them in the divine appointment of prayer. Why should the sons and daughters of God be reluctant to pray, when prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven’s storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence? Without unceasing prayer and diligent watching we are in danger of growing careless and of deviating from the right path. The adversary seeks continually to obstruct the way to the mercy seat, that we may not by earnest supplication and faith obtain grace and power to resist temptation.
“There are certain conditions upon which we may expect that God will hear and answer our prayers. One of the first of these is that we feel our need of help from Him. He has promised, ‘I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.’ Isaiah 44:3. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, who long after God, may be sure that they will be filled. The heart must be open to the Spirit’s influence, or God’s blessing cannot be received.” Ibid., 94, 95
In 1526, while on the second of three expeditions to conquer Peru, explorer Francisco Pizarro heard that his weary crew wished to take a relief ship from Peru back to Panama. He unsheathed his sword, drew a line in the sand, and said, “Comrades, on that side are toil, hunger, desertion, and death. On this side, ease and pleasure. There lies Peru with its riches; here Panama with its poverty. Choose each man what best becomes a brave Castilian. For my part I go to Peru.”
With these words, he crossed the line and was followed by thirteen shipmates. They went on to discover the vast riches of the remarkable Inca Empire. By remaining vigilant to the end, even in the face of adversity, Christians will also find their rich reward at the end of time. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” Revelation 21:7
It should be our greatest hope that we will endure all temptations and find ourselves approved, and able to receive a crown of life. I trust that this is the hope of each one of us today.
Let us daily pray and ask God to give us strength and make us a people after His own heart so that we may not be found wanting on the day of His judgment. So that we may say on that glorious day, as Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
Jerry Dillon and his family stepped out in faith and moved to Wichita from Washington State. He and his wife Sunny joined the staff at Steps to Life in November, 2021. Jerry is a Bible Worker, studying to become a minister, and is the Ministry’s Director of Audio & Video. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.