One of my favorite books is called Stepping Heavenward. My mom gave it to me as a gift for my tenth birthday, and I think I’ve read it almost twenty times since then. The author, Elizabeth Prentiss, wrote the novel as though it were an intimate diary of a nineteenth century girl. This diary records the life of Katherine Mortimer, beginning on her sixteenth birthday and ending well into her marriage years.
Katherine is passionate, restless, and often stubborn in nature, but her most earnest desire is to be like Christ and to live in such a way that pleases and glorifies Him. As she grows into womanhood and beyond, her faith is ever more challenged.
When I first picked up the book nine years ago, I could not relate to most of Katherine’s life. As I grow both in the Lord and in life, I find that there is always something new to learn and to compare to my own life every time I read it again. The story of Stepping Heavenward is not just Katherine’s story–each of her trials, doubts, fears, and joys are integrated in the life of every Christian.
This life here and now is a struggle heavenward.
You are no longer your own. I am not my own either. I (this implies you as well) was bought with a price: the precious blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I belong to Him and Him alone, so I owe Him everything–my love, worship, devotion, service, my entire life. Yet I was born with a natural tendency and (actual) desire to shun God and live for myself, indulging in sin.
In following Christ, I have betrayed my sin nature. God has awakened me to the reality of it, so I despise it. I at last see the stark contrast of His holiness and justice to who I am and how I live, and it is devastating. It is overwhelming. And it is so humbling. Believers feel the weight of sin like no unbeliever ever could (Ephesians 2:1-4), and as we mature in Christ, our sin will become all the more evident and distasteful.
In spite of all this, God has declared me righteous. He sees my sin–He knows my deepest thoughts and intentions–yet He chose me to be His servant. Because Christ lived the perfect life and then died in my place, my identity is now in Christ alone, not in myself. My life is hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3). I often forget that, then worry over whether or not I’m doing enough good for God. 😦
Although no amount of good works can or will guarantee my salvation, I still owe God my entire life. 1 John 3:9 says, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God” (ESV). Every day is a constant and continual struggle against sin, but I am not without help!! No Christian could never fight sin on their own. From the time we were saved, we’ve had the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9). Although my struggle against sin shall always last until the end my earthly life, the Holy Spirit enables me to gain victory over it (Galatians 5:16-25).
“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~Romans 7:21-25 (NIV84)
And then, when Christ returns or when my earthly life has passed, I shall be eternally free from the burden of sin!! That is something I definitely look forward to. I will be able to worship, serve, and honor the Lord without any guilt or stain of sin.
Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
P.S. Read the book. You won’t regret it.
It took me over a MONTH to get this post completed and published. A week into writing, I deleted it and started over, then I wrote and rewrote everything (again), practically agonizing over every sentence. Being the first post, I was nervous, excited, and a little worried–even though I doubt my readers will number more than what I can count on one hand. I think now that this one is over and done with, I shouldn’t be as sluggish. 🙂 Thanks for reading!