Resistance is Futile?

Resistance: I’ve been pondering it recently.

A river will run down a hill to the lowest point in the easiest way possible – with the least resistance. It’s just a natural process.

river2

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are days where I want my life to run down the easiest route, with the least resistance. When the alarm goes off there are some days when all I want to do is hide under the covers, pick the easy life and let life run down the easiest route possible.

But the path of least resistance isn’t always the best one. Anytime we aspire to something that’s greater than our comfort, we encounter resistance:

Resistance obstructs movement only from a lower sphere to a higher. So if you’re in Calcutta working with the Mother Teresa Foundation and you’re thinking of bolting to launch a career in telemarketing… relax. Resistance will give you a free pass.”

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

I’m not trying to make a judgement here on telemarketing; that’s not the point.

Resistance comes to me primarily through fear and inadequacy. The little voice in my head tells me “you’re not good enough to aspire to be that, or do that. You might as well just give in now.” Weekly, and sometimes daily, I feel an insidious fear as I face different circumstances or events: I don’t know if that will ever change. But one thing I do know: if I give in to resistance and choose the easiest path I will slowly and surely die.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who faces resistance – it comes to us all in different guises.

So, if resistance is all around us, what can we do about it? Here’s a few things that help me….

  • Acknowledging it

Recognising resistance, and my natural inclination towards the easy route, is an important first step. If I can’t even recognise when I’m facing resistance I’ll never be able to do anything about it.

  • Remembering my “Why”

What’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing? When I feel fearful about something, for example, I come back to my “why”, so that I measure the cost (fear) against the gain:

 “Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

Meg Cabot

The judgement that something else is more important is called “vision”: it’s the reason why, despite fear, I will still continue to do something. To rephrase Meg Cabot: “The cautious don’t live because they have no vision to take risks for.”  Henry Ford still threw up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five, and when it comes to public speaking it’s a similar dynamic for me. But I continue to do it because my vision is greater than my fear. My vision to encourage others to walk closer to Jesus, is greater than my fear of public speaking. Most of the time……

  • Hard Work: one foot in front of the other

Overcoming resistance takes hard work. When I was training myself to run I always had the literal picture of putting one foot in front of the other. It was simple. But hard.

trainers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One foot in front of the other: that was how I learnt to run. Simple but hard. Hard work is not the same as striving, by the way. When I look at the lives of the early apostles they worked hard; really hard. And they also operated in the power of the Holy Spirit, in God’s grace. Grace is not opposed to effort. If we want to conquer resistance it will take hard work.

  • Finding my “champions”

Continuing with the running example… I’d leave home for a run with Rich and the kids cheering me on and I’d come home to find the same. We can’t do stuff alone; we’re not meant to. If we’re going to combat resistance we need a faithful few who will be our champions. And I also like to picture the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 11; the saints who’ve gone before us who, by faith, finished the race. As we run the marathon of our lives, they’re cheering us on saying, “You can do it. By faith I finished, and you can too. GO ON!!”

  • Knowing my “Who”

All the stuff above is important. But the “Who” is the missing piece. My “Who” is God. It means that even on the days where vision is gone, I’m tired of putting one foot in front of the other, and I’m not sure who’s championing me I am still certain of one thing. I’m certain of who my “Who” is. I’m certain of who my life is for. I fail each and everyday. But each and every day I start again, in His new mercies, to try to live my life as a love offering to Him.

Colossians 1 says:

continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard

The word steadfast here means “loyal”. To be loyal means to be “Faithful to a person or a cause; firmly in alliance to somebody or something.”   Who are we being faithful to? No matter what the cost, or level of resistance I face I will aim to be stable and steadfast for God, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing He is infinitely more stable and steadfast towards me.

The saints in Hebrews 11 fought resistance by faith in God. Abraham, by faith,  left the comfort of home and “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country.” It would have bene a lot easier for him to stay put. But he heard the call of God, and obeyed.

Those saints met resistance with faith; not faith in themselves but faith in God. And faith always comes by hearing by the word of God, written and spoken (Romans 10:17). When I know God’s word I can step out in faith in response to that.

And in Jesus, of course, we have the greatest example of one who left His rightful place in Heaven and chose the hard path – humbling himself to become babe, boy and man, and then surrendering His life on the cross, overcoming death and sin. It’s His power that lives in me.

As my husband would say……BOOM.

 

 

So how about you? Where do you encounter resistance? What’s your response to resistance?

There’s always a choice

There’s always a choice.

I remember the first time those words really hit me.  In many ways they were an offense to my inherently victim mentality. If there was a choice then I couldn’t always blame others for my situation, my circumstances, and my response. If there was a choice then it meant responsibility: the ability to choose my response.

But as much as those words were offensive they were also incredibly liberating. Because if there was a choice then my life no longer needed to be defined by external circumstances. As Victor Frankl said:

The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

I realised I have a choice each and every day. A choice to:

forgive or become bitter

love or hate

build up or tear down

forget or remember

give thanks or remain ungrateful

keep going or give up

pray or panic

surrender to God’s way or continue in my own way

In many ways each of these choices feel fairly insignificant. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt as a disciple of Jesus it’s this:

the grand gestures don’t really count for much. The one-off moments of victory are exactly that: one-off victories. But the seemingly small decisions to forgive, to love when I’d rather not, to pray, to persevere – it is those decisions that cultivate a life that slowly looks a little more like Jesus.

A few weeks ago I sunk into an all-time-low. I couldn’t see a way-out. I became lost in my own thoughts, in hurt, disappointment, unforgiveness and many other equally pleasant emotional responses. At the same time I was in the midst of a running programme. The first time I went  running I was left red-faced and out of breath after just 60 seconds. Perhaps this is why I always chose to run in the dark. But as my fitness increased and I looked back over the weeks of training I realised that I was able to run for 5,10,20,30, and now for 45 minutes because I simply chose to put one step in front of another and keep running. The programme took me through a gentle pace of gradually increasing my fitness and I just chose not to give up. And in my aforementioned all-time-low I ran like crazy. Everytime I ran I knew that God was teaching me: “This is how I want you to live as my disciple. Follow me. Put one foot in front of the other and don’t give up. Just keep going”

The apostle Paul had this thing nailed. He knew the importance of small choices, of putting one foot in front of the other, which is why He wrote things like:

“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”

And He’d also nailed the not-being-defined-by-circumstances-thing as well :

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Paul says that he “learned” how to do these things which suggests that there was a process of Him getting to this place rather than sitting back and somehow hoping he’d reach a place of contentment. He was able to do this through Christ and the empowering of His spirit but this wasn’t in opposition to effort or making choices.  ’

As Dallas Willard said:

 grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning. Earning is an attitude, effort is action. Without effort, we would be nowhere. When you read the New Testament you see how astonishingly energetic it is. Paul says, ‘take off the old man, put on the new.’ There is no suggesting that this will be done for you…. We all know that Jesus said, (in John 15) ‘without me you can do nothing’. We need to add, ‘if you do nothing, it will be most assuredly without him.

http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=92

How about you? What are the small choices you need to make to put one foot in front of the other?