Tug of war is a test of strength. It is an actual sport and was at one point an Olympic game. There are rules and tactics involved, none of which we were aware as children when opposing hands were pulling on opposite ends of a toy. As I remember, the only rule was “do not involve the parents” as this would cause the game to be over with no victor achieving the prized plaything.
When purposely playing a game of tug of war, it was easy to understand this test of strength. Pull harder than the person on the other end of the rope in order to make them cross the line or drop the rope and you win. There were seldom more than two people involved in this game as I remember, so the outcome would usually be swift as I would be pitted against my older brother (stronger) or my younger sister (weaker).
I can’t remember the last time I played tug of war, and have no desire to do so now. Yet I find myself in this mental and spiritual test of strength more often than I like. Bear with me while I make yet another reference to running….(you can insert the discipline of your choice)…
There are days when I lace up the shoes and head out the door with the anticipation of completely enjoying my run. Other days, I lace up the same shoes, head out the same door, constantly repeating “I can do this…..I can do this….” I know why I want to run. It’s a bigger reason than just enjoyment. If enjoyment were the deciding factor, I would not run that often. There’s no game of tug of war happening on the days everything feels right – I’m well rested, no aches or pains in my muscles or joints, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping – you know, those perfect running days. In reality, those are the occasional running days.
But the game is on when my body hurts, or the temperature drops below or rises above what is comfortable, or I’m tired before I start. My mind is often against me as I will myself to get out the door. A voice in my head screams mid-run “STOP! I can’t go any further! It’s too hard! Wait til tomorrow!” The commitment and dedication voice shouts “Don’t give up! I can do this! It will be worth the pain!” This is the test of strength. Which voice will I follow?
I take myself through a quick assessment during this tug of war. Are my legs too tired to continue? No. Is my heart rate dangerously high? No. Am I sucking air so much that I can’t speak? No. Is there anything physically wrong with my body that would necessitate that I stop? No. THEN WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY HEAD?? Why is my brain trying to sabotage my fitness goal?
Perhaps you can identify with this tug of war?
We’ve made our commitment to Jesus. We read His word. We know it is the truth and we are diligently applying His principles to our lives. Some days this is so easy! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s not hard to live like Jesus!! Some days.
Other days we know our commitment hasn’t changed. We are deeply dedicated to our walk with Him, but voices in our heads are screaming “This is too hard! I can’t do it! This hurts too much! I will obey tomorrow….” His word to us hasn’t changed, yet our minds turn against us and oppose the very thing we know we are called to do!
“The mind of the flesh – with its carnal thoughts and purposes – is hostile to God…” Romans 8:7
The apostle Paul knew well this game of tug of war. He felt the same frustrations of knowing what he should do and yet his mind leading him in the opposite direction (Romans 7). He also knew that he had been given the victory in this test of strength: We can change our minds.
Forgive those who hurt us? Love those who are unlovely? Obey when it hurts?
What quick assessment can we do to change our minds?
How much have I been forgiven? Everything.
How much am I loved? Immeasurably.
How much did His obedience hurt? Indescribable.
He has made a way for us to find His good and acceptable and perfect will for us – by renewing our minds. Our lives are changed when we follow the voice of His Spirit in us instead of just the voices in our heads.
“…you are not living the life of the flesh, you are living the life of the Spirit…” Romans 8:9
“…be transformed, changed, by the renewal of your mind – by its new ideas and its new attitude…” Romans 12:2
There is great satisfaction in returning from a hard run that I had to push through to complete. I know that I will reap the rewards in the end. There is a much, much greater satisfaction from having obeyed God when it was hard and it hurt. The rewards of soul peace and inner rest are ours now and forevermore.