In my freshman year of college, students were encouraged to join intramural sports. While I like to watch sports, getting all hot and sweaty in 96 degree weather was not at all appealing. So, I decided on archery because it was less strenuous and I could stand around and do it. Things were going well until the flag football coach cornered me in the gym. He asked why I didn’t go out for football. He said they needed more guys, and that it was great exercise.
I can still remember the whine in my voice and the look on his face when I told him that football was just too hard. His exact response escapes me now, but I do remember that he repeated the word “hard” more times than I can count. Somehow, the discussion moved from optional sports selection, to a near-federal case about making critical life choices.
His face turned red and the jugular veins in his neck protruded as he decimated my argument against flag football as an intramural choice. He made a pivotal point when he said flag football is not as hard as Army basic training that many of my peers were enduring. Yes, they had it harder, no question. Enough said.
Within a few minutes, I had strapped on the flag football gear and was doing laps with my fellow college teammates. It turned out to be hard, but fun. I didn’t die of heat exhaustion or anything fungal. In the end, I actually lettered in football and have the certificate to prove it.
But one thing the coach said has gone with me all my life, “Dave, you should do something hard every day.” Now I have to admit that that has not been my daily goal. Being in the ministry for fifty years is hard enough. There are days when I would rather quit than go to the monthly board meeting, or the annual church business meeting, or the midnight auto accident scene. Too many times I left a tedious marriage counseling session to visit a hospice where a church member hovered on the edge of eternity.
But to purposefully look for something hard to do every day seems, uh,…really? The point the coach was making was that far too often, we seek the easy way out. We do not consider what is best for us overall, but what has the least toil and sweat. By avoiding the hard things, we “settle,” instead of enduring.
It was the great inventor Thomas A. Edison who said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” Or, as an old country parson used to say, “Those at the top of the mountain didn’t fall there!”
Too many preachers today infer that the teachings of Jesus are more warm and comfy than hard and challenging. Untrue! Jesus’ teachings are often quite difficult to live out in real life. Consider Matthew 5:27, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Or Matthew 5:29, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”
Jesus taught in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you.” And in John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Some people today will dismiss the teachings of Jesus as important, but they will then lose the hope of Salvation that Jesus offers.
Indeed, living in agreement with our modern society may seem easier, but the results will lead to turmoil and loss. Instead, follow the teachings of Christ. It will be harder, but you will reap an eternal harvest of blessing.
So, like coach says, “Do something hard everyday.” It’s good for you.