Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…
I am so ready for autumn.
Despite the fact that we are past the half-way mark of October here in Tennessee, summer still clutches the land in hot, greedy fingers, baking the earth and dulling the splendor of many leaves. Oh, am I ever ready for him to go!
I, too, am in a different season of life with some remnants of the previous period still clinging, hesitant to depart. Still, I can sense the slow decay of years creeping into my body and the exuberant arrogance of adolescence creeping into my children.
As the reality of age sinks in, I am beginning to truly see the overwhelming need for endurance in my walk with the Christ — and in everything else. For well over a decade now, I have run this race and now I find myself on a long stretch of the narrow path far beyond the starting point and yet equally far (it is likely) from the finish.
There is no going back, not that I would want to. My life before Jesus holds nothing of interest now. There is literally nothing to do but press on, pushing through the teenage angst, through the crazy of our schedules, through the wild fluctuations in hormones and need and nearly everything except for my Jesus. This is where it gets real; where tenacity is the only thing that gets my tired old bones out of bed to spend time with Him each morning. This stretch of road requires endurance.
It’s no small wonder that I think of running this race in somewhat literal terms. Being physically fit has always been fairly important to me, and when youth was my season, it was also easy. Before I knew Christ, it was to the gym I turned when I found myself dealing with deep-seated anger issues — working my body until I literally did not have the energy to sustain fury any longer.
Then I had two babies, then meningitis followed by another baby. Enter migraine and the beginning of the slow decline. I had to learn to lessen the intensity and so I took up walking, often with my dogs.
After several years of wonderful, sunrise walks and talks with my Father, I began to have pain in my left foot. Typical of me, I ignored it for months until the swelling became ridiculous and the pain developed both depth and intensity.
Finally fully annoyed, I had it checked out. Diagnosis: arthritis in the joint of my big toe. The podiatrist told me that running is actually easier on this joint than walking. So guess what? I started running.
Running worked splendidly for some time until I was hit with sacroiliitis. Oh well, I can still do pushups and burpees so long as I keep that big toe joint from bending, right? Wrong — tennis elbow saw to that.
So I started swimming.
At my age, fitness is not a game; it’s a requirement. Should the Lord decide to prolong my homecoming, I would very much like to be able to pick up my grandchildren and play with them on the floor. And so I will not go down without a fight.
Just so, the season is changing in our culture. While some vestiges of respect for Christianity remain in America, more and more often Christians are viewed with open scorn or worse. The whole idea of God and Jesus no longer carries the weight of reverence it once did.
Thanks to social programming, most people know little of God except what they read in internet memes or hear in passing. Even among professing Christians, few have read the entire Word of God; fewer still in its original, ancient languages. On top of that, there are any number of distractions to pull at our attention and prevent us from maintaining that absolutely vital connection with the Lord.
But my friends, this is where it gets real. Now, while we can see the bald truth behind Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian church to “make the best use of the time because the days are evil.”
This is the stretch of the narrow road that requires endurance.
Newt Gingrich is credited with saying, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of the hard work you already did.”
As a disclaimer, I know nothing of the man, but whether he is a lunatic or a staunch and steady guy, the quote is no less true. Brothers! Sisters! We are called to endurance! Sacrifice is a part of who we are if we are truly in Christ. To live as He did would be to endure anything, everything, even undeserved mockery and bodily harm for the sake of God’s good name.
The fact is that following Christ will cost us — and will likely cost us in increasing measures. Are we willing to pay? Are we willing to ask God to open our eyes and see at our own sin, no matter how painful, and to repent? Are we willing to lay aside our comforts in order to fast and pray? Are we willing to skip that TV show or the extra 30 or so minutes of sleep so we can read His word with a prayer on our lips, seeking His wisdom and guidance within its pages?
This is when it counts; here. Now. When it is not easy. That’s what endurance is all about.
So let’s do it! Remember, spiritual fitness is no game, either. Let’s run together, challenging one another, motivating and pushing each other to greater and even greater heights of faith. Together, let’s praise God for the trials we meet, knowing that each one is producing His character in us. And whatever we do, let’s cling to our God and resolve not to go down without a fight.