I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? (Galatians 3:2-4 NIV)
If you have just joined our study of Galatians and want to better understand the contrast of righteousness by the “spirit” and that by the law, go the Stories of Value site and scroll through the last few day’s devotions.
Today I want to focus on Paul’s last statement about suffering for nothing. There are many examples of this principle in our culture…
The other day I heard an update on one of our country’s military operations overseas. The report expressed concerns about the ability of leaders to govern after our troops are gone. A core principle was that we don’t want all of the pain and loss we have experienced in the conflict to be for nothing.
Suffering isn’t usually something we desire, but we are able to accept it if it leads to a favorable outcome. But suffering for nothing is downright depressing.
Evidently, the Galatians had already suffered as a result of their decision to follow Jesus and life by grace. We can assume Jewish Christians had been verbally attacked by their brothers who were horrified to see them worshipping with uncircumcised Gentiles. And we can only imagine what it was like for the Gentiles.
Verbal attacks aren’t as serious as death threats (which some might have received), but they can destroy families, friendships, and careers. The easiest thing for some of the Galatian Christians to do would have been for them to succumb to their critics and adopt whatever form of righteousness necessary to keep the peace. But that would have been a denial of the cross, and the all-sufficient payment Jesus made there for sin.
“Have you suffered so much for nothing?”
I think this is a good question to ask ourselves anytime we are tempted to give up a worthwhile fight. Are you battling a sin or addiction? Are you trying to repair a relationship? Are you attempting to live our Christian values in a hostile environment? How far have you come? How many battles have you fought? Don’t give up! Don’t let all of the pain, sweat and tears you have endured to this point come to nothing.
I am not talking about circumstances we can’t control. In life, we lose a few battles through no fault of our own. Rather, I am thinking of those “foolish” surrenders, when we fight a good fight but put out the white flag in a moment of weakness.
I suppose we are all going to have to decide for ourselves which battles are worth fighting. But believe me when I say the spiritual ones are among the most important. In my experience, when we give in to Satan, there is still no peace. Instead, we discover we have more battles than ever.
Dear God, teach me to be slow to surrender. In Jesus’ name, Amen.