The forest is dense. Vines and underbrush twist around your feet like a tangle of Amazon snakes. A menacing thorn bush reaches forth its talons to pull you back from your destination. Wincing against the pain, you tear free from its grasp, leaving small scraps of your wardrobe behind. Tiny trickles of blood ooze from the thorn slices, and you pause for a moment, assessing the situation and wondering if it will pay to venture forward.
Just a little farther.
It won’t be long now. The destination lies just ahead.
You weave around a maze of trees and push through a pair of hedge-like bushes before you see it. In the center of an immense clearing stands an ancient tower. With a base firmly established, the majestic structure stretches to the clouds and beyond. Streams of sunlight splash giant patches of gold along the white marble surface.
You dash across the clearing, emerald blades of grass bending beneath your feet, and breathe in the tantalizing scent of success that wafts down from the tower’s summit. Gulping in a mouthful of the sweet oxygen, you press forward – running, breathing – harder than before.
Just ... a little ... farther.
The tower is closer now. Just a few yards ahead.
You reach the mountainous base and tilt your head back – farther and farther – until you’re nearly bending backwards. Still you cannot see where the tower ends. But you can’t stop, can’t rest. You’re so much closer now.
With a determined sigh and another deep breath you enter the winding stairwell, grip the cool railing, and begin your ascent. Higher and higher, round and round. Step after step, hundreds of them, until finally you reach the first tier. The name of this level is etched in large letters along the wall: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.
You rest for a moment to absorb the scenes swirling around you. Faces of friends and family and a few acquaintances fade in and out. With smiles and thumbs-up they encourage you, informing you that your hard work will take you far.
You could stop here, could revel forever in their pats on the back and assurances that “you’re doing such a great job”, but you don’t stay long. This is only one level. You have farther to go.
You mount the stairs again. Round and round, higher and higher, faster and faster until the dizzy circling sets your head to spinning. Your muscles scream in protest, ablaze from the exertion. Your chest heaves and aches and grapples for air. The steps grow steeper now, demanding more effort than ever. It seems like years since you started out. Perhaps you should go back. Surely there are less steps going back than going forward. Perhaps ...
No! Just a few more steps. The next level has got to be just ahead.
You push yourself, at last rounding the corner into the next tier. “ADVANCEMENT” is its name. All at once you notice how far you’ve made it. Look at all the steps you’ve mastered! Look at all the people coming up after you. A few of them are beginning to slow, and some look as though they may turn back.
“Hey!” You call joyfully. “Don’t give up yet! I made it up those steps. You can too. Just a little farther.”
Somehow this phase of your journey has boosted your endurance and optimism. With heightened purpose you tackle the next set of steps and soon arrive at the level entitled “ACCOLADES.”
And well-titled is this new stage, for in it you cannot move an inch without being congratulated for all that you’ve accomplished. Microphones are thrust all around you by curious interviewers who yearn to discover the secret to your success.
But you’re not finished yet. Another doorway catches your eye. Another flight of stairs. The endless stairwell has become natural to you by this time; the anticipation of whatever lies ahead has you captivated. No longer do you feel the stinging lungs and fiery muscles. No longer do you notice the gradually steepened steps.
At last you see the top – the crown of the tower. A blazing inferno laps at the walls just ahead, and for a moment you shrink back. But then you remember.
This is the place where your achievements will be tested. They must pass through the fire; they must measure up to an eternal standard.
And calling from beyond the fire, a reassuring voice reaches your ears. “Come forward, My child. Just a little farther ...”
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:11-13, ESV
“... Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith ...” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB
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