The Good Struggle
John Telgren

Someone asked C.S. Lewis, "Why do the righteous suffer?" "Why not?" he replied. "They're the only ones who can take it." How very true. According to scripture, the difficulties we face are part of what God uses in order to strengthen our faith, form his character in us, build endurance, and things of this nature.

This reminds me of those trainers who say, "No pain, go gain!" Training is not a pleasant experience. It is hard, difficult, and sometimes downright painful. If it were not for the perspective that God gives us on them, we would curse it as evil and do everything we could to avoid it. But notice what scripture says.

"... let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:1b-2).

The word translated "race" here is the word "agon" in Greek. An interesting choice of words. "Agon" means, "struggle, fight, opposition, contest" Look at the other places where this word is used.

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf" (Col 2:1a).

"Fight the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:12a).

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; (2 Tim 4:7).

Notice, it is rendered struggle, or fight. So this is an interesting choice of words in Hebrews 12:1. It is not a casual run, but a strenuous struggle. It is a grueling race. Not a pleasant experience. But notice what is at the end of the race. It is the "joy set before" us.

Later in the chapter, the text speaks of this struggle as "discipline."

"It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom {his} father does not discipline? ... He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Heb 12:7, 10b-11).

This is significant. These passages indicate that the struggle is not a bad thing. God uses it for good. The struggle of Christ in verse 2 was the cross, and God used it for good. This is what God does. The struggle of Israel in the wilderness when they went hungry was for good (Dt 8:3). When Paul left Paul with his thorn in the flesh, it was for good (2 Cor 12:9). God is a sculptor that takes his hammer and chisel to us to shape us into the image of Christ even though it may not be a pleasant experience.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).