How do we endure?
I am having a really hard time writing this post. I’m not struggling because the content is too deep or I don’t exactly know what to say or because I am somehow conflicted on the topic. I’m struggling because I just want to close my computer and do something that doesn’t require thought or effort. It has been a long week at the end of a long month in an already long year and I just want to take it easy for awhile. This is all the more ironic given todays topic and the fact that I choose my topics well in advance of writing.
I wonder, have you ever felt this way? I often think I’m alone but have a hunch that the feeling of wanting to just quit and walk away is pretty normal. Now, for those who may be worried, I’m ok just like you’re ok when you get tired. I’m just tired. Thankfully I have a framework, a list of perspectives, that help me to keep moving forward when it would be easier to do just about anything else. And, thankfully, this list was developed:
a. From the Bible
b. Before I needed it
So the question today is this: “How do we endure?”
Let me give you a few verses and then the steps I take when I just don’t want to do it anymore. (If you are reading this blog then I have used those steps today and can personally attest to their effectiveness.)
How do we endure?
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
How do we endure?
1. Realize that we are in a race.
At the end of verse number one we are told to, “Run with patience the race that is set before us.” One of the challenges we face in this race of life is that we don’t always realize we are in one! We go through life doing whatever it is we do to fill our days without considering where this string of days will take us. We hope we will end up in a good place but never really think about how that happens! And then we’re confused and overwhelmed when life becomes difficult and requires more effort than we anticipated.
If you and I are going to push forward when it would be easier to quit, we to understand that we are in a race. And not just any race; we are in a marathon that will require focus and participation throughout our lives. That’s what the word “patience” let’s us know. In order to run this race we are going to have to endure!
2. Understand the race and where it came from.
Understanding the race and where it comes from is absolutely essential if we are going to endure. Since this is not a Bible commentary blog I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but there are two things you need to see at the end of verse one:
There is a race that is set before “us”. This race is ours! It belongs to us! It can be so easy to dismiss a meaningful life as being for someone else but the wording here is very clear. We have a race, give to us, that we are responsible to run. We can choose not to run the race, but we must make that decision knowing that we are choosing to stop doing what we are called to do!
This is a race that was “set” before us. The race of your life is not something that you fell into. Likewise, the race of life is not something, if you want to live to your created potential, that you choose. This is a race that was set, given, established FOR you. I love this phrase because it reminds me that God has a plan for my life. I am not an accident and I don’t have to simply hope that everything will somehow work out. If I am focused on living the life that I was uniquely created to live then I can move forward confidently knowing that the Creator is the one who set the path in front of me. And so can you.
This is your race to run established by the one who created you. While you can go another way, or simply stop moving forward, you must at least acknowledge that there is a plan for your life and it is up to you to pursue it. This does not remove free will. Knowing that there is a path set before us simply calls us to exercise our free will in favor of God’s plan even when the future is uncertain or difficult.
3. Remove the unnecessary baggage.
When we realize that we are in a race and on a path established by God then a very natural response is to eliminate anything that would keep us from running that race. What do you have in your life that is keeping you from pursuing God’s will? What’s holding you back, slowing you down, or depleting the energy needed to keep running? Get rid of it! I like that the verse tells us to eliminate both “weights” and “sin”. There are some things in all of our lives that are not necessarily sin but still keep us from doing what God wants us to do. If you are going to endure you are going to need to eliminate anything that might slow you down.
4. Know who came before us and find a connection to the past.
When I get tired and don’t want to keep moving I start to believe that I am the only one who has ever felt the way I’m feeling. It doesn’t make sense but I can justify quitting by at least pretending to believe that I am the only one who has ever done this and, therefore, have the right to decide when enough is enough. Learning about those who have come before us is extremely powerful. We need to learn the stories and understand the challenges of those who have blazed the trail that we are running. One of the great things about the Bible is that it tells us so many stories about regular men and women who struggled just like us but kept moving forward.
Verse one begins with a very powerful phrase: “Seeing then that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” Before we are told to run with patience, to endure, we are told to look back and see how many others have already finished this race. How do we endure? A big part of the equation is realizing that you are not alone and that, even though the road may be difficult, others have successfully come this way before.
5. Follow the leader.
“Looking unto Jesus.” Again, there is so much that could be said here, but for our purposes I will simply point out that we were not called or created to run this race alone. So often we feel like the best we can do is stumble our way through life and hope we somehow make it. This is the reason endurance is such a challenge. We don’t know where we are going! That’s what is so great about the Bible’s recording of the life of Christ. It is recorded so that we have a Leader to follow. We are not on our own. As we learn of Him and follow Him we will end up exactly where God wants us to end up.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
6. Understand that our mind is the limiting factor.
In verse three we are told that the reason we need to follow the example of Jesus is so that we do not become “wearied and faint” in our minds. Here is the principle: If God has called us and placed us on the path that He wants us to run, we have everything that we need to finish. UNLESS we allow our tired spirit and mind to tell us to stop. There was a saying we sometimes used in the Marine Corps: “Your body will go where your mind will take it.” I’m not sure how scientific that is, but I do know that our minds quit long before our bodies. So it is as we run the race of life. Don’t let how you FEEL keep you from doing what you KNOW you have been called to do.
7. Keep Moving Forward.
So much of life comes down to this: Just keep moving forward! If you know that you are where God called to be and you are following the example of Jesus, the only thing left is to put one foot in front of the other. This can all seem so hard, and enduring is never easy, but there is so much peace when we know that we are fulfilling our God Created purpose.
Keep moving forward.
How do we endure? We follow the steps outlined in these few short yet powerful verses and trust God for the rest.