It used to take me exactly three minutes to walk that big hill in my neighborhood. That big hill, my nemesis, would take me three minutes exactly — no more, no less. No matter how fast I walked, how heavy I breathed, how hard I pumped my arms, I simply couldn’t beat the time. And while I couldn’t beat the time, I did notice after a month or so, that my breathing wasn’t so heavy. It still took me three minutes exactly (no more, no less) — but when I got to the top I didn’t double over trying to inhale as much oxygen as possible. This was progress. I celebrated. I stopped trying to beat the time, and just focused on the fact that it was getting easier. A little tiny bit, but easier nonetheless.
For weeks I continued to focus on the fact my heart was getting stronger, and my lungs getting fuller capacity. Instead of competing with myself over time, my goal became an easier trip uphill. Not a faster one, but an easier one.
The thing with that hill is that it’s so steep that it will never be totally easy. It will never be exertion-free, painless or without challenges. It’s a hill. By definition, it goes up. And up is a climb, no matter how strong you are.
There are always uphill climbs. There are always challenges that leave us breathless, relationships that make our heart hurt, situations that will just take time to overcome. But slowly and surely, as we continue to just keep moving and stay diligent, we begin to progress. Eventually we see that this one challenge didn’t take our breath away as much as we thought it would. We notice that this time our heart doesn’t hurt quite as badly as it did the last time. That those circumstances didn’t devastate us as they would have before.
Amazing things can happen when we remain diligent. We can rebuild the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 24 says, “The men in charge of the work were diligent, and the repairs progressed under them. They rebuilt the temple of God according to its original design and reinforced it” (13, emphasis mine). Their diligent work had rebuilt God’s temple…so that it looked like it was intended to look from the beginning. And it wasn’t just rebuilt, it was reinforced, to prevent it from being shaken again. Ezra, too, tells us, “The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction” (Ezra 5:8, emphasis mine). Not only was the temple being rebuilt, it was progressing rapidly.
We know we are now the temple (1 Cor 6:19). God doesn’t reside in a physical building…he resides in us. We are the house of God. Our diligence rebuilds this temple. Our diligence reinforces its original design. Both physically and spiritually, we rapidly progress when we stay focused, armed with tenacity and perseverance. Psalm 125:1 says it perfectly, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”
Out of sheer curiosity the other day, I decided to time myself up the hill. I had no expectations that it would be less than three minutes, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see anyway. I started off with my face set like flint, and just pushed myself up — higher and higher. When I got to the summit, I looked at my watch. Unbelievably, I had shaved eight seconds off my time. Eight whole seconds! And I rejoiced. I rejoiced because I believe God used that physical progress to show me a spiritual truth…that maybe, finally, this temple is making progress, too.
“And now I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them.” (Heb 6:11-12, MSG)