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I was speaking at a Christian conference center in the Midwest; actually, speaking at least three times a day there! Don't feel bad for me - feel bad for the people who had to listen to me all those times! After about three days, I decided to grab some break time to do something I had wanted to do since I arrived. I wanted to climb this monster sand dune that's not far from the conference center. It was just sitting there all week saying, "Climb me, Ron!" So I grabbed a couple of friends and we started trudging up this huge mountain of sand. At first, we were charging up the dune, all full of energy. But if you've ever climbed a sand dune, you know it gets pretty exhausting pretty fast. After a while, you could hear the huffing and the puffing and you could feel the steps slowing down. My climbing partners were starting to lose their enthusiasm for the rest of the climb - especially when they looked up and saw how far we still had to go. So I encouraged them to stop for a minute and rest, and to look down. We needed to look at how far we had come - not just how far we still had to go.
It could be that you're climbing a pretty steep slope right now. It's been a long climb, and as you look ahead, you've still got a long way to go, maybe spiritually, maybe emotionally, maybe in getting through a time of great pain, a great need. Maybe it's in working through some family problems. And right now you're battling some discouragement, some feelings of giving up, maybe just some deep weariness. You're discouraged by how much is left to do; the amount of ground you still have to cover. And it might be bringing you to standstill.
I want to encourage you to hang onto our word for today from the Word of God like a drowning person would hang onto a life preserver. It's Philippians 1:6. "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." See, what Jesus starts, Jesus finishes. He's started something in your life, and He's not about to stop before He finishes it.
You can draw from that promise the courage to take the next step, and to keep going when you feel like quitting. That day we actually finished our climb - that great sand dune conquest. And the view from the top was inspiring; not to mention the exhilaration and the satisfaction of knowing that we had reached our goal, no matter how hard it was.
What helped us finish may help you finish, too. If you focus on how far you've got to go, you'll be discouraged. But you need to look back at where you were before you started climbing - way down at the bottom of that mountain, looking at climbing the whole thing. Look at how far you've come! Look at how far Jesus has brought you! The same Lord who brought you from the bottom to this point will take you the rest of the way!
Something else helped us that day we climbed the big dune. We didn't keep looking at how far we had to go - we concentrated on taking the next step. God has promised strength for our days, mercies that are new every morning, a cross you pick up one day at a time. So all you need to do is take that next step. Don't get all weighed down thinking about all the steps ahead, just that next one. The Bible says, "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way" (Psalm 37:23).
Yes, it has been a long climb, and yes, you have a ways to go yet. But look at the work Jesus has already done; look at how far He's brought you. Just keep taking that next step. Your Lord has promised that He'll take you all the way to the top!