Quick question. What are the two words that you would never want to see next to each other in the Bible? Take a minute to think about that.
I am not sure how I would have answered that a few days ago, but one of the words that I don’t want to see is a word that I won’t pray for. And the second word is something that I prayed for a little over a year ago, and then asked Why.
When I was growing up, I was a perpetual quitter. Those two words were never in my vocabulary, or an aspect of my life. I basically quit everything when things got hard. I didn’t like conflict, and I definitely didn’t like not being good enough.
I quit dance because I didn’t want to perform on stage in front of the crowd. The stage was made for those who were confident.
I quit color-guard in high school, after dropping the flag twice during championships. Performing was for those who weren’t going to make simple mistakes during the most important performances.
I quit theater group, again that whole performing in front of a crowd thing. Again, the stage was made for those who were confident, not those who were shy and afraid of a crowd.
I quit sailing because I was made fun of when my arms weren’t long enough to reach down off the dock and fill a bucket of water. I wanted to belong somewhere, I wanted to be liked and to fit in, so this was crushing.
The list could go on. But I want to point out what the root of me quitting was in all these circumstances. Fear. Insecurity. Disappointing others. And not being good enough.
But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
Patient- able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Endurance- the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.
My definition of patient endurance would be standing firm through the difficulties of life without becoming annoyed or anxious, for the sake of Christ. And this sounds nice, and probably something that many of us want to strive for. But it is harder to do.
If you are like me, problems, difficult situations, never being enough, and suffering make me want to hide. I don’t want to face them head on (but I will tell you that you should), I don’t want to endure or perservere, and I definitely don’t want to finish my race. No I want to quit.
Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 2 Peter 1: 5-7
Here is Peter, writing to those who carry his faith. He had some strong warnings about false teachings, but strong encouragement for Christ’s followers. Including ways to supplement their faith, and one of the ways was to have patient endurance.
I will tell God, I will risk anything to follow Him (and mean it with my whole heart), and then just as quickly begin to consider that commitment. Is it worth it, if it is so hard? I am not good enough, brave enough, or strong enough for what He has for me. I am not built for this.
Actually I am, but not because of my own strength, but because of His. I don’t have to worry about not being enough, if He has told me that He is. I don’t have to run in fear, when He tells me to step out in faith. And I don’t have to give up, when He tells me to patiently endure. Perservere, stand firm. Be strong and courageous. I don’t have to succumb to my weakness, when I can rest in His strength.
One of the hard truths that Jesus has for His followers is that no man who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Jesus is speaking about a farmer using a plow on a field. The goal is to make straight rows in the earth, and you do this by looking directly at a distant object. Jesus is talking about a farmer who is constantly looking back at things, instead of keeping his gaze on the distant object. The Greek words for “looking behind” is continually looking back. And the result isn’t straight rows, but a curved mess.
This makes me sad, because of how often I don’t want to endure. How often I want to walk away, have excuses for not doign what He asks, and look back instead of looking directly at Him. I can give you a million excuses why I should run from His ways, and you could too.
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. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Hebrews 12:1-2
But these 3 things help me to patiently endure:
Knowing Who is at the finish line. Hebrews 12 compares our life of faith like running a race. A race that God has before us. He is the end goal. He is at the end. He is our ultimate hope. And He is there.
Keeping your eyes on the perfecter of our faith. Jesus. Hebrews also tells us that we run our race by keeping our eyes on Jesus. He is what keeps our paths straight. Like the farmer, if we take our eyes of Jesus to look behind, our path will become crooked and curved. But when we keep our eyes on Him, we run straight at Him with no distractions, and nothing to slow us down.
Knowing that He patiently endured. Anything that we can endure will always pale in comparison to the cross. But because of the joy set before Him, He endured, even disregarding the shame. I like that He disregarded shame. I have to go back to my arms being too short to get a bucket full of water. I guess a part of me quit because I felt shame. I wasn’t good enough. But Jesus was mocked and scorned, and still endured the cross.
And because He did, we can.
Beautiful one, there is joy set before you. A joy that will only be obtained by running your race, by standing firm, by patiently enduring.
So run your race, knowing that He is there.