I’ve found myself reflecting a lot, lately, on a conversation I once had with a sibling in Christ. We were on the subject of “unsavory thoughts” and how insidious they are—how difficult it is to get ahead of them. After a lot of banter about the subject, I reminded my friend that no matter how overwhelming those thoughts seem, we can still lead them captive in obedience to Christ.

“I know the Bible says that,” my friend complained, “but I don’t think I can do that. It’s just so hard!”

Well, yeah, I remember thinking. But since when does that mean it can’t be done?

Where in the world did we get this idea that something is “right” or “from God” only if it’s easy? How many people have chosen to walk away from their relationship with God because one of His commands, His requirements for a godly life, was too hard? And if God was real, He would never ask them to do something so difficult—Q.E.D., God must not really be real?

A lot of mainstream Christianity—in an effort, I suspect, to draw more converts—has begun to define the Christian walk as a health-and-wealth package. If you swear your fealty to Christ, it’s nothing but sweet benefits for the rest of forever. But that’s not really true, is it? We’re the same broken people after we come to Christ as we were before. With his help, thankfully, we have a means to truly repair that brokenness; but it’s a long road, and for the most part, it’s not easy. Convicted, transformed, ushered toward the light…we have to fight those insidious thoughts, those sinful impulses, every step of the way. And I’ll admit. It is not easy. At. ALL.

The Apostle Paul compares doing the work of the Lord to running a race. Full confession: I am not a race-runner. I am not a sprinter. I do not even run to my mailbox. Running and I are not buddies. But I do have several friends who are passionate runners, and one thing I’ve gleaned from conversations with them is that, even when you LOVE to do it, running is not easy.

Are there things you can do to make it easier? Totally! Getting in shape, staying fit, eating well, and training are just a few things that my friends have done to help peak their performance. But even when they’re in their prime, I’ve heard them say that somewhere along the racecourse—whether it’s the first, second, fifth, or fifteenth mile—it starts to get hard. The lungs and legs are burning, all those muscles are taxed and tired and you might just want to sit down…or walk all the way to the end of the race.

But that’s not what running is about. Runners don’t run because it’s easy. They run because on some level, they have the passion to do it.

Our spiritual journey is the same way. People like to call it a spiritual “walk.” It’s not. It’s a spiritual “RUN.” It’s a race—not against the other runners, but against ourselves. To outpace our Old Man Nature, to reach the finish line without giving up, requires perseverance. It demands that we push through the burn.

Will this be easy? No way! Are there things we can do to make it easier? You bet! Staying active in prayer, keeping our lives in shape with Scripture, feeding our hearts and minds on good company…these are all things that make the race easier.

But the race is still a race. God did not call us to run it because it was the easy thing to do…but because it’s the right race to run. For that reason, we can’t allow ourselves to sink into that quitter’s mindset of taking the easy road. Our racecourse does not run that way. It goes over hills and into valleys and up and down mountains. It takes us to breathtaking heights we would never achieve otherwise.

It’s not an easy course to run. But I promise you, it will always, always, be worth the burn.F