I bought a new pair of tennis shoes this week. The old pair are over four years old and they still look great. But my feet hurt when I wear them. As soon as I put the new pair on, I knew why. The arch support was completely gone in my old ones. I turned them over and looked at the soles and all the grip had worn off. But the tops look good! Sometimes we can look good too, but life isn’t as good without the arch support of friends nor as safe without the grip of God.

God is practical and wants what is best for us. The command to forgive is part of God’s desire for the very best for us. The value of forgiveness is primarily for the victim rather than the perpetrator. A lack of forgiveness halts healing and wholeness. Forgiveness doesn’t diminish or ignore the sin against us. Forgiveness means finding freedom to have better things on the forefront of our minds. We still remember the event to protect ourselves in the future, to learn from it, and to creatively move forward in life as a victor instead of a victim.

We all want to live in Hebrews 11—that is, the first part of the chapter! That is where people had faith and accomplishments, successes and victories resulted. We easily forget how many struggles some of these heroes of faith dealt with on the way to their shining moment. Then there are the “others.” They had faith—perhaps even more commendable faith—because they had faith when the results didn’t look good from any earthly perspective. They were afflicted, destitute and mistreated. Success and failure are how we rate things. God rates faith regardless of success or failure.

David Brooks wrote, “You build character by struggling against internal sins—not by accomplishing great external feats. If you don’t believe in sin, you won’t build great character.” I John 1:8 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Recognizing the truth about ourselves is essential to building character. The Pharisees could find fault in everyone else, but they were blind to their own sin. They sacrificed their own character pretending to be perfect. Outside challenges and trials build character because they often reveal internal sins we must overcome.

Our daughter, Rachel, keeps a verse from Isaiah 7:9 on our kitchen blackboard. It was a word to the wicked King of Judah, Ahaz. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” On the heels of that comes the great sign and prophecy about the birth of Jesus being Immanuel “God with us.” The way we stand firm in our faith is not primarily through self-discipline and endurance as important as those are, but rather through clinging to and surrendering our lives to Jesus who is God with us.

In personal finance we talk about the difference compound interest makes. Even though one day is not significant, many days make the difference. Today I subbed at a school and worked with some children I haven’t worked with since last school year. Even though it was a “Friday,” I was impressed by how much these children had matured and grown up. Our spiritual growth may hardly be noticeable on a daily basis—and we may occasionally have a “Friday.” God takes a long view. As we cooperate with Him, He nourishes compound spiritual growth in our lives.

Sometimes we need to be told bluntly what we already know by experience yet refuse to admit. Life is an obstacle challenge. Quit expecting it to be easy. Without opposition there is no life. You don’t get to ride down the slide if you haven’t climbed the ladder to the slide deck first. The seed doesn’t become a plant unless it pushes through the ground first. Paul says we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Even our thought life is an obstacle course to overcome! Every obstacle is an opportunity that offers growth and life.