“Do your utmost to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:21).
REACHING FORWARD REQUIRES EFFORT. If it was important for Timothy to get to where Paul was before winter, it is all the more important for us to get to where God is before it is too late. On a higher level, God would surely say to us: “do your utmost.”
The modern assumption, of course, is that difficulty and pain are to be avoided whenever possible. Ease and pleasure have come to be thought of as almost unqualified goods. But the modern assumption is questionable. Historically, as well as biblically, wise people have always understood that there are some things worth enduring difficulty and suffering pain for. The easy chair may be enjoyable at day’s end, but the main part of life involves getting up and making a serious effort to accomplish worthy goals.
If the goal is heaven, we do need to be reminded that we can’t get there by our own effort. If we are saved, it will be by the grace of a Father who was not willing to leave us in our lost condition. But if God’s love for us was active, our response to Him must also be active. He will help us do whatever needs to be done (Philippians 4:13), but He won’t force salvation upon any person who doesn’t care enough to seek Him diligently (Hebrews 11:6).
When Paul wrote about “reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13), he used some vivid language in Greek. The Twentieth Century New Testament brings out the strength of Paul’s metaphor with this translation: “straining every nerve for that which lies in front.” Going to heaven is not for the runner who casually strolls toward the finish line; it’s for the one who strives forward — exerting significant, sober-minded effort.
The course of least resistance is the road to ruin, almost without exception. Mark it down: if we don’t accept the pain of discipline, we will suffer the pain of regret. So let’s not avoid the hard work that God gives us the privilege of doing. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God,” Paul said to Timothy, “a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15). If we go forward with anything less than diligence, we will not be pleased with the results. We will, to use Paul’s word, be “ashamed.”
“Everything requires effort: the only thing you can achieve without it is failure” (Anonymous).