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Out Our Way: The hardest trail will end - 2 Timothy 4:1-5

 

Last updated 10/24/2020 at 10:02am

Out our way, long hours in the saddle make for a hard day - especially for an amateur cowhand like me who spent most days at the study in an office chair. Charlie was far more used to it than I was, and I tried to keep up, but, I confess, I was bone-tired and sore as the sun began to go down. It seemed like the cattle would never get to the next pasture, that there were always two pairs or more who decided to bolt away from the herd and whom I had to chase. And Doc's reputation of having "four left hooves" was reinforced over and over again as he stumbled and tripped while cantering or galloping after the strays. Then came the rain and the wind. Will this trail never end?

I thought about that old song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" and the doomed cowboys wailing how they've "got to ride forever on the range up in the sky." But I wasn't chasing "the devil's herd across the endless skies," I was moving a fairly docile herd of red Angus over the fenced in pastures leased by Big Mike. It just  seemed endless. My ride was a long and hard one, but not endless and not hopeless. There was a trail's end; I would eventually be dry; the aches and pains of the day would pass, and tomorrow would be a new day. It just didn't feel like it just then. 

In the early Church, I suspect more than a few believers wondered if their hard trail would ever end. The secular and pagan world scoffed and even persecuted them. False leaders arose and the gullible people flocked to them, not to seek the truth, but to hear what they wanted to hear. Then as now - even in the church - many were led astray. Paul saw it while imprisoned, and all the disciples, with the likely exception of John, died for the faith. Yet those who have studiedza the early Church as well as the witness of the scriptures discover they never quit or lost hope.

In Rome, during the height of the anti-Christian persecutions by the elites of the day, it was written by one observer that when Christians were martyred in the Colosseum, the impact on the pagans was so great that "more Christians left the Colosseum by the public gates than had entered it through the dungeons." In any case, there is no question that in the end, Christ and not Nero was the victor. That hard trail did have an end.

Now, today it may seem we are on another endless hard trail as we see the nation being divided by factions who seek power, not justice. As Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them." (Matthew 7:16). People don't talk or discuss, they scream slurs at each other. Politicians run for office not offering their own record as proof they would do the job well, but simply by accusing their opponent of being the devil incarnate. The Desert Fathers and Mothers warned Christians to beware of such tactics, noting the Enemy can attack from the right as well as the left, and the gullible are easily fooled. History has proven the great Ammas and Abbas to have been correct. Yet, the faithful somehow managed to stay on the hard trail to the end. 

So, here we are on the hard trail that seems to just keep getting worse all the time. Will it ever end? The answer is "Yes," but also "Not yet." I know - I am weary, saddle sore, wet and cold, too. It would be so much easier to abandon the hard trail for an "easier" one. But we who truly "ride for the Brand" know we must not. And we also know the hardest trail will end in God's time.  

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Brother John

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The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way."

 

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