Today, we’re wrapping up this series on the “fruit of the Spirit.” We’ve been looking at some of the fruit in the life of a person transformed by the Holy Spirit. People who are being transformed by the Holy Spirit have a mission passion, holiness of heart and life, spiritual freedom, and their lives are characterized by generosity.
Take a moment and think think about someone you know who seemed to handle adversity extremely well. No matter what happens to them, it seems, they rarely complain, they always have a smile on their face. Think about that person for a moment. What was it about them that makes
them able to handle adversity?
“Hard times bring out the best in people and the worst” (Winston Churchill)
Then think about the adversity you’ve experienced in your life. How have you handled it? Have you responded well? Is there anyone besides me that can stand to build more endurance?
Just this week (recent weeks, in fact), Joleen and I have needed a great deal of endurance! We have a lot of schoolwork to complete, that’s due tomorrow. God seems to always come through, doesn’t he?
The hard reality is: Life is hard! It’s full of tests! So we’d better develop endurance!
I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know how people make it without God.” I agree completely, but apparently you don’t have to be a follower of Christ to be able to handle adversity. There are people in the world, it seems, who somehow manage to survive. But, I believe that Christ-followers ought to handle adversity better than anyone; they ought to have more endurance than others, because God is our Helper and Sustainer! So, let’s talk about building endurance. What does Scripture have to say about endurance?
There are so many stories in the Scripture of people who have endured through all kinds of adversity. I think of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Joseph is a great story. And, of course, the greatest example of endurance is Jesus.
But today, I want to look at Paul. Paul experienced a tremendous amount of adversity in his life, most of it because he was fully devoted to being led by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ in the world!
In fact, in one of his letters (2 Corinthians 11.23-28), Paul lists some of the troubles he’s experienced as a Christ-follower: Jailed multiple times, whipped too many times to count, faced death again and again, 39 lashes, 5 different times, beaten with rods, 3 times, stoned once, shipwrecked, 3 times, found himself in many dangerous situations, faced danger from Jews, Gentiles, even so-called Christians.
Finally, he says, “I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.”
Paul knew something about trials and troubles. And, fortunately, he also knew something about endurance!
Full-on for God!
The thing I love about Paul is his all-out passion for God. He held nothing back! Christianity is either a full-on adventure of following God, or it’s nothing! Wesley distinguished between “almost Christians” and “altogether Christians” (or we could say, “casual Christians” and “complete Christians”).
The life of following Christ is a journey. And an important part of that journey is endurance!
Read Romans 5.3-6 and notice the process Paul describes. Paul gives us a good picture of the process we experience in the life of following God.
Suffering > Endurance > Character > Hope
Suffering leads to endurance. If we’re going to grow as Christ-followers, it all starts with a willingness to obey God, even if that obedience brings hardship and trouble. We’ve got to be ready to suffer for Christ!
“Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” (J. Willard Marriott)
I love the word “endurance,” as well as it synonyms: perseverance, patience, fortitude, and steadfastness.
Why build endurance?
Because life is a marathon! In life, we need to be marathon runners, not sprinters. Now there’s nothing wrong with being a sprinter, unless you’re running the race of life!
When I was a kid, I was a sprinter, and I was usually the fastest kid (or one of the fastest) in my class! But I remember my first long distance run in elementary school. I must’ve started out as a sprinter because halfway into the race I was in dead last, way behind everyone else. But in life, we
must be marathoners, because when we’re on the long journey, we’ll get tired, our muscles will burn, and we’ll be tempted to quit, wondering if the journey is worth it! The journey can get pretty uncomfortable at times. Life is hard, and following Christ is even harder!
So we must build endurance. The more endurance we have, the longer we’ll last, the farther we’ll go. Small trials won’t derail us as quickly, and we’ll have more “oxygen” for the journey. We’ll be
healthier, and most importantly, we’ll finish the race (which is really what it’s all about)!
Athletes and weightlifters know that the way you build strength differently than you build endurance. To build strength, you lift heavy weights, but do fewer reps; to build endurance, lift lighter weights, but do more reps.
“Endurance is related directly to the ability to tolerate high levels of fatigue and all the discomforts that come with it.” (Sportislife.com)
When building endurance, muscles literally go through a transformation. As you do rep after rep, you actually increase the number of capillaries in the muscle, which increases blood flow and oxygen to the body. The end result is that you can endure more.
And there’s another benefit: Most endurance athletes (such as runners) have slower and deeper respiration than the average person. I heard recently that 99% of our energy should come from breathing, but most of us access 10-20% of it. Also, we eliminate most of the waste/toxins from our bodies through breathing: 11% by way of the commode, 19% through perspiration, and 70% through breathing. Amazing!
I love that because, in the Scriptures, God is Spirit, wind, and breath. At creation, God breathed into Adam and Eve the breath of life. In Ezekiel 37, in the valley of dry bones, God breathed new life into
the dead bodies. After the resurrection, Jesus breathed on his
disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And a few days later, on
the day Pentecost, there was a rushing mighty wind, the Spirit and
Breath of God! Just as we should get virtually all of our energy
through breathing, spiritually we should also get our energy from the
Breath of God, the Holy spirit.
Well, endurance is very important to our physical bodies. But it’s even
more important to our spiritual bodies! Here are some tips …
Begin with the end in mind
Know that it’s not an easy journey to follow God! And building endurance is hard work!
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans
for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Bounce, don’t splat!
There are two kinds of people: Bouncers & Splatters. Splatters hit
bottom and splat; bouncers hit bottom and bounce back up! Robert
Schuller calls it “bounce-back-ability.”
Don’t take shortcuts
There will be many detours along the way, but beware of so-called shortcuts! Never look for the easy way out!
“The frontiers of the kingdom were never advanced by men and women of caution.” (wife of Archbishop Mowll)
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” (J. Oswald Sanders)
Improve your AQ (adversity quotient)
“The measure of how you respond to adversity.” Resiliency.
Paul Stoltz, who wrote Adversity Quotient, says there are three kinds of people: Quitters, Campers, and Climbers. Paul was a “climber”! Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
“True service is never without cost.” (J. Oswald Sanders)
“Scars are the authenticating marks of faithful discipleship.” (J. Oswald Sanders)
Stick-to-it-iveness is another word for endurance. How willing are you to stick to it, to stick to the journey? (Post-Its vs. Duct tape)
“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (Galatians 6.9)
“But those who endure to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24.13)
Don’t “hit the wall”
Athletes know that if you continually push yourself too far, you’ll hit the wall. To guard against hitting the wall, we need to practice the sabbath.
“People either grow or turn rancid and sour” (Peter Drucker).
Enjoy the journey!
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1.2-4)
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Philippians 4.4)
Because the way is unpredictable, we need trust — to trust God!
“There are many things in your life that you cannot understand. But be patient, for when the hand of God is upon something, it may grind very slowly, but it will form the finest thing possible if you dare to wait until it is completed.” (Smith Wigglesworth)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3.5-6)
“The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalms 37.23)
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus, Matthew 11.28)
“… be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Jesus, Matthew 28.20)