“Keep on keeping on!” As the days, months, decades, and scores of calendar years roll by, this counsel to stay the course seems foremost on my mind.
I'm aware that I need to be steady, to stay faithful, continue in the direction God has been leading me for a lifetime. No deviation. No detour. No lagging behind in the course ahead for the rest of the way of my earthly journey. My commitment is not up for review.
According to the words of Jesus, “No man [or woman] putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). I'm not agriculturally savvy about plows. I do know that the average farmer today would be using a mechanized plow, probably power-driven and huge. Even a home gardener would likely have a plow with a self-propelled engine, a far cry from what a plow was like in Jesus' day. Nevertheless, a plow of any sort, even one that is horse-drawn, requires some hands-on guidance, eyes looking forward focused on some point ahead so the plow would stay on course.
The “looking back” warning implies that if we look back in regret that we put our hand to the plow in the first place, we are not worthy disciples. If we continue to plow while looking back over our shoulder to what might have been had we chosen otherwise, the consequence is we’ll be plowing crooked rows. At best we might be laughed at or ridiculed; at worst we would be poor role models for others on our common journey to the Kingdom of Heaven.
If the journey of life has turned out to be a long one, it is a loving gift and blessing from God. At the same time, it becomes an endurance test because of increasing physical challenges, limitations and diminishing strength. I have never regretted putting my hand to the plow from my youth and committing myself to Jesus Christ and His will for my life. I don't look back in that sense, although an occasional glance backward brings regrets that I haven't been as faithful and quick to obey Him as I should have. The apostle Paul strongly advised, “forgetting what lies behind.”
I notice that my hand holding the plow handle trembles. It is not as steady as in my youth nor as strong as in my prime years. I have to be on the alert that my spiritual strength doesn't lose its stamina nor become shaky as I hold on to the Faith plow. I need large doses of spiritual staying power for the long haul.
For those of us who have been on life's journey for a long time, it isn't easy anymore to grip the plow handle or other things with a strong grasp. It's much easier to begin to drift spiritually, to wobble in our walk, become lax in standing tall for the faith principles and actions which we so firmly defended in years gone by. It's a slippery slope when we begin to “lose our first love” (Revelation 2:1-7) for the Lord and allow our devotion to become routine. We need a warning bell to tell us when the fire in our hearts which flamed so brightly in the flush of our first love fades into barely glowing embers. We may be the last to notice from whence we have fallen, but others are aware of it. And the Lord knows when our ardor for Him cools.
I do want to be “fit for the Kingdom of Heaven” as Jesus promised would be the reward of persevering plow-holders. I will enter that Kingdom entirely by God's grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. But I don't want to lose the prize of His high calling by failing to plow a straight furrow all the way to life's Finish Line without looking back. I want to reach forward and keep my eyes on what is Up Ahead. I want to hold on, persist, prevail, to attain. I want to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
It becomes more difficult to stay the course as my strength and stamina decrease. With John the Baptist I declare, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Saint Paul points me in the right direction: “My adequacy is not in myself but in God.” “His power is perfected in my weakness” (2 Corinthians 12: 9,10). “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses.” (I still have some work to do on my “well content” attitude.)
When I become faint and weary, and my hands on the plow handle become too weak to hold on tightly, I ask the Lord to place His hands over my hands to infuse His strength into me. Then the furrows of my life will remain straight and true, prepared for the planting and harvest of others.
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