“Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” Hebrews 10:36 (NLT)
The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines endurance as “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” I enjoy riding my bicycle, in fact, I will usually ride several thousand miles per year. However, without making any excuses, several years ago I emerged from a two-month span in which I rode only a few times. The first thing that I noticed was that I had no endurance. Whereas, previously, I would have ridden 30 or 40 miles without thinking twice about the effort involved, it only took a handful of miles to bring me to the state of exhaustion and suffering. I have been aware for some time that it takes more effort to build up endurance than it does to maintain it. To gain endurance requires effort and a willingness to suffer.
Our present circumstances require that we pay close attention to our capacity to endure. Although not true for everyone, during this pandemic many do not have as much to do as would normally be the case. With regular activities prohibited or curtailed, we could find ourselves slipping into unproductive habits that could rob us of our capacity for spiritual endurance.
While I was not riding the bicycle, I was not acutely aware of my lack of endurance, but as soon as I began to make the effort to resume riding, my ignorant bliss was exposed. Likewise, in our spiritual lives, we will be unaware of our limited endurance until we are put to the test. Physically and spiritually, when we do not actively exercise our bodies or our faith we will have the tendency to put on weight which further limits our endurance. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NLT). To increase our capacity for endurance we must make sure that we are not carrying any additional, unnecessary weight that will slow us down.
The capacity for endurance requires diligent effort. Athletes train conscientiously in preparation for the contest because they know that if they wait until they are tested to build endurance, they will most certainly fail. A wise person will submit to tests of increasing difficulty in order to be prepared for the ultimate tests that lie ahead. “For you know that 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 perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3–4 (NLT)
Athletic endurance is increased by gradually pushing the limits farther and farther whereas endurance in the Christian life is gained by drawing closer and closer to Christ through prayer, by meditating on His Word, by denying ourselves and taking up our cross and especially by waiting on God. “…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (ESV). Not only will we be able to run and walk without growing weary, when we wait on God, we will be able to soar. Don’t wait until it becomes obvious that the race is on but begin now by training diligently and “run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”
It is not time to relax and let things slip. It is the time to press in and build endurance.