As I walked past an outside wall of the office building where I work, I was amazed to see a beautiful flower growing up through a crack between concrete slabs covering the ground. Despite its deprived circumstance, the plant had found a foothold, rooted itself in the dry crevice, and was flourishing. Later, I noticed that an air-conditioning unit located directly above the plant dropped water on it throughout the day. While its surroundings were hostile, the plant received the help it needed from the water above.
Growing in the Christian life can sometimes be difficult, but when we persevere with Christ, barriers are surmountable. Our circumstances may be unfavorable and discouragement may seem like an obstacle. Yet if we press on in our relationship with the Lord, we can flourish like that lone plant. This was the experience of the apostle Paul. Despite the severe hardships and challenges he faced (2 Corinthians 11:23–27), he wouldn’t give up. “I . . . take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” he wrote. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:12, 14).
Paul realized he could do all things through the Lord who strengthened him (4:13), and so can we as we press on with the help of One who gives us strength.
This is a day that You have made, Father. Thank You that You’ll be near me in whatever I face today.
God provides the strength we need to persevere and grow.
Today’s reading contains the most personal statement Paul makes in his letters. In the preceding verses (vv. 4–6), he unpacks his Jewish heritage, religious training, and great zeal for Judaism. The startling candor comes in verse 8 when, reflecting on what had defined his life prior to encountering Christ on the Damascus Road, he writes, “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Garbage—that’s strong! All the things that had driven him to persecute and kill were now counted worthless compared to the value of Christ. This speaks to the extraordinary value of relationship and rescue over religion and ritual. And that relationship with God through Christ is the strength that fuels our hearts in all the seasons of life—whether good or bad.
For more, check out the Discovery Series booklet Following Jesus: Relationship or Religion? at discoveryseries.org/q0215.