On New Years’ Eve, I woke up with the overwhelming desire to run. I’ve always enjoyed running but haven’t always done it consistently. I hadn’t run for over a year, yet it was a joy to head down to my little apartment complex gym and run a few miles on the treadmill. I’ve kept that trend going pretty consistently since then. Most mornings, before work, you will find me running on the treadmill. Miracles do still happen, folks!
Some days, it’s effortless, and I fly through my run. I feel excited and like I can conquer the world. Other days, even running one mile is a battle. On those days, I have to really learn the importance of endurance. I think it makes a lot of sense that Paul used a few different sports metaphors throughout the Bible to explain our pursuit of Christ. They’re pretty apt comparisons.
When I’m running, I have to endure by my own willpower.
But I can endure the things of life through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again: we don’t suffer because it’s fun, nor do we look for suffering. Instead, as we passionately pursue God and live like Jesus, suffering will naturally come. These are difficult moments. They’re hard trials, but we can rejoice because of Christ.
What I love about these verses in Romans 5 is that we don’t rejoice, suffer, endure, or hope of our own will. We aren’t responsible for muscling out or manufacturing these things in our lives. Instead, because of God’s love, Christ’s sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s residence within us, we can do all these things.
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” 2 Timothy 1:8-9 (ESV)
Paul was clear in his letter to Timothy about where our endurance comes from: God’s power. This is great news because my natural instinct is to get out of whatever uncomfortable situation I find myself in. I have a strong sense of self-preservation, so the avoidance of suffering is high on my priority list. But because of God’s presence in our lives, we can endure things that we would give up on if it was entirely dependent upon us.
Suffering isn’t a happy topic to talk or write about, but it’s an important one. It’s found in many of the books of the New Testament. We see that Jesus suffered for us and the disciples followed in his footsteps as they followed his ways. The act of suffering isn’t joyful or pleasant, but it helps us maintain our dependence upon God. It reminds us who is in charge and who is the Lord of our lives. Thankfully, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can endure. We can remain fixed on the person of God and his Kingdom even when things are difficult or bleak.
Let’s pursue Christ wholeheartedly. And set our eyes on the Kingdom of God, giving us the perspective and perseverance to endure.
How do you think suffering and endurance are related?
How has your dependence upon God helped you endure?