Authored by Mara Hodler
I use workout videos a lot. (Okay, it’s more truthful to say that if I work out, I use a workout video.) I am especially fond of the workouts that have a countdown bar on the side, so I know exactly how many seconds of the exercise I have left and how long I have left in the workout overall. There’s just something about knowing I only have 10 seconds left that helps me say to myself, “Hey, you can make it for 10 more seconds.”
Some of my workout videos don’t have the countdown bar, which means I don’t know how long I have left on the exercise. Sometimes I’ll quit five seconds before the time is up because I feel that I can’t hold that posture another instant (or do another push-up or whatever the exercise is). When that happens, I find myself thinking, “I probably could have made it for five more seconds!” So why do I take the easy way out and not endure just a little bit more?
It takes a mindset switch from one that says, “It’s hard. I did some. I can stop now,” to one that says, “I can do this. I will not quit.” It’s much easier to push myself when I know exactly how much longer I have to push. Blindly pushing takes much more grit.
Endurance is a key element in fitness, and one I am working to obtain. It is also a key element in a life of faith. The Bible uses words like “patience,” “steadfastness,” and “endurance” in relation to the concept of faith.
I have to admit, I don’t love the idea of endurance. Toughing it out when it’s hard, hanging in there when things are difficult, sticking to something that’s not turning out as planned, is not an easy thing to do. But the Bible has some pretty cool promises for when it seems hard to endure:
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”1
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”2
Both of these scriptures let us know that there is a reward for hanging in there and enduring whatever it is that God is calling us to bear. It’s one of those if/then clauses you can often find in God’s Word.
We can all accept the concept of endurance when we’re talking about fitness, athletic training, or conditioning for combat. No one would think much of an athlete who tries to compete in the Olympics without first building their stamina and skills through an intense training regimen. Anyone who cares about their physical fitness will work to develop their endurance—from the amount of weight they can press to the length of time they can hold a pose or the number of laps they can run. This is all the more true of a soldier. He would have to be crazy to think of going into battle without first struggling through some of the most rigorous endurance and combat training. The more specialized a position the soldier is hoping to fill, the more intense his training will be.
You can probably think of how “endurance training” is relevant in your life. Maybe it’s the amount of focus you need in order to understand a scholastics subject that just does not “click” with you. Maybe it’s learning to have a gracious and positive attitude toward a health issue or physical disability. Perhaps you have a tough living situation that does not seem to offer the promise of getting better anytime soon. It could even be as difficult as enduring ridicule for your faith and personal convictions. Whatever it is you are faced with, remember that “after you have done the will of God, you will receive the promise.”
I read a true story of a Chinese Christian who was sent to a prison camp. The camp authorities kept making his life hell, torturing him, leaving him out in the cold, and basically pushing him to give up and die or to renounce his faith. But each day when things were so extremely difficult, he would tell himself, “I will die tomorrow, not today.” By pushing himself to hang on just one more day (over and over and over again), he eventually made it to the end of his incarceration without renouncing his faith. In fact, in the end, his faith and his testimony were stronger than ever!
Endurance is one of the qualities that produce rich faith. When an athlete wins a gold medal, he or she gets a lot of respect. Everyone knows that the athlete has had to endure an immense amount of physical hardship and training to get into the Olympics, and even more to perform better than the stiff competition. The same kind of credit goes to those whose faith has endured through some tough things. It’s easy to recognize that there is a depth and richness to that faith that doesn’t come cheap.
All that to say, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in situations that require all your “staying power” and then some! The Bible goes so far as to tell us that we should be excited when our faith is tried! Why is that? Because after each test of our faith, there is a reward—be it character, a better understanding of things, and perhaps even tangible blessings. Whatever it may be, it sure is worth it.
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”3
What’s more, you’re in good company. Everyone whose character and strength you admire has been through the same rigorous endurance training. Before you know it, you will be able to encourage someone else to “hang in there” because you have seen the rewards of endurance in your own life. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”4
1 Hebrews 10:36 ESV
2 Galatians 6:9 ESV
3 Romans 5:3,4 ESV
4 Hebrews 12:1,2 ESV
Read by Amber Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International