My oldest son, Rob, played soccer and ran cross country in high school. Etched as a joyous memory in my mind is the day when he and his five teammates won the Louisiana AAA HS State Championship. What a great day that was! Upon completion of the race, one of his teammates hobbled over to the fence and collapsed, leaning his back against it. It was then that everyone learned he had suffered a tibial stress fracture.
What gave that 18-year-old young man the relentless resolve and endurance to keep going in spite of the pain? It was for his teammates and the prize he and his teammates would share. Endurance takes mental, physical, and spiritual fortitude, discipline, and strength. It is a total workout.
In times when we as Christ-followers are mentally, physically, and spiritually fatigued or overwhelmed from troubles, pain, and suffering, or maybe just weary or weakened from daily demands, we also have to have the staying power to persevere and endure whatever comes our way. We push through with that inner strength and resolve that comes from deep inside one’s soul and heart, a strength beyond the one who has to endure. Our Heavenly Father helps us when we are weary and feel we can’t keep going.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” (Psalm 28:7 ESV).
Throughout New Testament, the Apostle Paul demonstrated endurance time and again in the midst of pain, persecution, and perils: beatings, stoning, and imprisonment. (II Corinthians 11:24-28.) He knew where his strength to endure until the end would come from.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).
Our youngest son, Andrew, who was an Airborne Ranger, told us that this is the verse he claimed as he persevered and endured Ranger School training.
Paul knew when it was getting close to the time of his departure. He was in prison, awaiting his execution. But he remained steadfast in his faith and endured to the end, knowing he would be receiving his reward in heaven for remaining faithful and finishing well.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8).
What example from Paul can we learn and live out from just those two verses?
1. Paul fought the good fight. As Christ-followers, we must remain strong and steadfast as we fight spiritual battles against an unseen enemy who assaults us almost daily. These assaults are personal and well-planned. Notice it is the good fight. We are to push through whatever comes against us as those who believe and live the good news of Jesus Christ. We can stand firm against our foe because we know we have a helper, the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to endure. There is an assurance of victory and reward that awaits those who endure and persevere to the end.
2. Paul finished the race. It may be a difficult and long race, but we must press on to the finish like Paul. The one who is competing is trained and disciplined not to look back, to keep looking and straining forward toward the goal. Paul didn’t look back. He kept his eyes fixed on the goal. He suffered for Christ. He endured to the completion of his race, sharing Jesus with anyone and everyone, and achieved his reward “on that day,” the day of victory when Jesus welcomed Paul into his heavenly home.
3. Paul kept the faith. Paul remained ever faithful in spite of adversity and under the sentence of death. His race consisted of a lot of walking too. On his missionary journeys, he used the Roman Road network (and sometimes the sea) to travel across Israel, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. It has been estimated he traveled 10,000 miles for approximately 30 years spreading the gospel. In spite of hardships, he is attributed with writing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament. He never wavered in his zeal to remain faithful to the end. He was all in!
What do we need to do to be all in? How do we get to the point in our faith journey to finish well, endure “whatever” to the end, persevere, and be ready for “that day?”
“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, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
For those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior, He is waiting at the finish as we enter heaven to receive our crown of righteousness. Keep on keeping on, my friend. It will be worth it all when Jesus welcomes us with outstretched arms!
Mary Bass Gray is the Spiritual Advisor for the Humble Faith Ministries’ team. She is a wife, mother of three sons, mother-in-love, Nonnie to eight grands, and Daughter of the King. She resides in the High Country of North Carolina with her husband and lab/beagle baby, Sully. She enjoys looking her window every morning and being surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation and the majesty of His mountains.