The race of endurance
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
I opened my eyes this morning and thanked my Abba Father for the new day. I told Him much I love Him and how much I appreciate His grace that is new each morning. As I lay there in bed I wondered why my body was so slow to respond today. While I still had a few minutes to spare before I had to get up, the thought came to me that life is an endurance race. It is a marathon that will continue until the day Yeshua comes to take us home. In this race there are tests, like hurdles that we need to get over. We are all confronted by different types of tests: relationships problems, rejection, infirmity, persecution about our faith, finances, marital problems, addictions... there are so many different hurdles!
But we also have to make sure that we don’t bring these things over ourselves. We do this when we don’t recognize the flaws in our character, in order to repent and change. David described these things as “presumptuous sins.” It is sin that we commit when we presume that our conduct is acceptable to God, when in fact it displeases Him. Very often these sins will stay hidden if we don’t choose to humble ourselves underneath God’s mighty hand, and invite Him to search our character and to lay bare our inmost motives. Just like David prayed “search me O Lord...” we also have to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our subconscious mind with all the pain and emotions that are hidden in there.
As I was still laying in the bed this morning, thinking about the race of life, this was the cry of my heart: “search my soul, O Lord!!”
A good place to start after you allowed God to search your heart, is to do as the Word instructs us: “believe and repent.” We must believe that God will show us what is hidden in our heart, and that He wants to forgive us. Then we need to repent and be cleansed from that sin or the attitude in our heart through the blood of the Yeshua. Repentance is such a powerful tool, because when we repent we take the weapon of accusation and guilt out of the enemy’s hand; but we have to be mature enough to recognise that the sinful attitude of our heart is not from God – and then allow Holy Spirit to search our heart and to teach us His ways.
Even Yeshua was put to the test, just as we are – but He did not sin in any way. Do not measure yourself against men. Only look unto Yeshua, for He knows everything about you. This race is only about you and Him.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
So, what is the right way to respond to the tests and trials we face? There is only one way, and that is to lay aside every weight that wants to pull us down, to repent of the sin that so easily ensnares us, and to run with endurance the race marked out – looking unto Yeshua, the author and the finisher of our faith.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I conclude from this Scripture that there is a difference between sin and weights. Weights are not sins, yet they would hinder us from consecrating every effort of our service to Yeshua. As athletes taking part in a race, we cannot run as effectively with weights around our arms and ankles. We have to strip off these weights if we want to run the best we can.
One of these weights is TRUST, or more accurately – our lack of trust. When we struggle to trust God with our life, and rather trust in our own strength, the misplacement of our trust becomes an unbearable burden.
Other types of weights include: social obligations that have no spiritual significance in our lives but only steal our time and energy; worry and anxiety about money, health, family, and politics; idols (anything that becomes more important to us than obeying the will of the Lord); gossip and slander; disunity in families; judging others – and so I can go on and on.
Ask yourself this question: how much time and attention do I spend on these “weights” in my life? Does it bring God any glory? Am I being spiritually built up by what I spend most of my time on?
With this I’m not saying that everything we busy ourselves with should be “super spiritual”, but the motive of our heart should be pure. Even if I go for a jog I can glorify Him in my actions, by worshipping Him for His beautiful creation that I see around me.
One of the characteristics of an “overcomer” is to be able to endure. These days endurance is a very rare attribute in our society. We have learned to do everything the “2-minute noodle way” – quick and easy! That is just the thing about endurance, you only learn to endure through long-suffering.
When Yeshua took up His cross and stated walking towards Golgotha with a broken and beaten body, He was tested to the limit. As He was hanging on the cross He cried out in agony: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” But He endured till the end – for you and for me. That is why I can stand up each morning and thank God for His grace even if my body feels a bit worn down – because I know I can’t turn around. I won’t stop or give up. I won’t give up on God’s promises, and I won’t give up on Aldo. There is no short cut – the only way is the way of endurance and long-suffering.
And yes, there will always be hurdles that we need to get over. Endurance is an essential element of victorious Christian living, and it can only be cultivated by actually enduring through difficulties. Once we accept this fact, we can begin to respond with the right attitude to each test that comes our way - and not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).
We have to “let patience (endurance) have its perfect work in us”, and we must continue till the end. When the purpose of God’s will has been fully worked out, the test will be passed. God has never told me at the start of a test, “Retah, this is going to endure for so many months.” No, with the test of endurance also comes a test of our faith. We need to place all of our hope in Him, knowing that He is our strength and our shield. Through the hardships He is busy working on our character defects, and polishing us like diamonds. When you quit half way through a test, you are just going to have the write the test again until you pass. It is for our own good that God does this, because He doesn’t want to leave us in our old condition – He wants to transform us into the image of Christ.
In my own life I can see that sanctification is a process. I still hide from some painful emotions at times, and I also know that I don’t walk in complete victory in some areas of my soul yet. But when I read 2 Pet 1:5-7 I see seven steps that lead me upward from the foundation of faith, to the supreme completion of Yeshua’s image: add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. This gives me hope, because it reminds me that I shouldn’t give up when I sometimes fail. It is all a part of my journey. In my weakness, His strength is made perfect.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We had the “around the Dam” race in our neighbourhood this weekend. Our small town of Harties was bustling with joggers, and supporters cheering them on. Their shouts of encouragement were an amazing sound: “Come on, you can do it! Only a few more kilometres to go! Almost there – don’t give up!” There were many different distances to choose from, but the most challenging of all was the 50 km endurance race.
The test of endurance always feels the toughest in our areas of weakness. Maybe it might be a battle with unforgiveness, hatred, anger, pride, addiction, lusts of the flesh, anxiety and worry... you will know. Whatever the area of weakness may be, it will be exposed when we are confronted with the challenges in life as we endure to the end. So how can I judge you when you are just another athlete running next to me on this journey of life? Let’s help each other with prayer and love.
I know that in this season of my life Yeshua it teaching me the importance of this Scripture: Retah – Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).
I can see that God’s hand is busy moulding me through this process of endurance. I can hear it so clearly in my spirit: “There are no shortcuts Retah. You have to deal with it step by step.”
Dying to self makes the process of endurance so much easier, because I know that I don’t need to be anxious about anything for God is greater and bigger than any situation that I might ever face.
Aldo and Ma’am Patrys have taken up walking as their exercise routine. Every alternative day they walk long distances in the quiet streets of a security complex near our home. On the other days he goes to gym with a personal trainer. When they arrive back home after their walk he is out of breath and tired from the exercise – but he doesn’t miss it for anything! When he walks into the house he tells me in detail in his slow and drawn out words about everything he saw. “Mom, there was a buck that jumped out from behind a bush right as we were passing by! And the birds, Mom... wow, there are so many!” He then describes the birds in the finest detail to me. (Aldo and Ma’am Patrys walk in an eco-estate complex, with selected “wild animals” that range free in the estate; like many variety bucks, and zebra’s – it is also a bird sanctuary. So to all our international friends, no – the elephants and giraffes don’t roam about in South-Africa as I have heard before.)
I hear every detail of his “daily” race, even about the lady who drove past them and waved. It is a difficult race for Aldo, because he doesn’t only hear the sounds of the birds chirping (natural sounds), but he also hears the sounds in the spirit – and sometimes it is the hurtful sounds of the arrows of slander and gossip that are aimed at him. He has learned to focus on the beautiful things that are a part of his race, and not on the things that try to weigh him down. I never ever hear him speaking evil of someone else, or that he complains that his road is too difficult. When you ask him how he is doing he will always say in his slow way, “ve...ry, ve...ry, g..ood, th...a...nk... y...o...u.”
It is not necessarily a good thing that he doesn’t say when he is hurting, because we want him to deal with his pain that he locks away deep inside of him. But he is just so grateful for life that he doesn’t want to go to those places of hurt voluntarily. I can see God’s plan with Chantel in Aldo’s life. Her unconditional love helps him so much in his healing process.
I stared at the roof for a few more minutes this morning, just thinking about the race that still lies ahead. With so much peace in my soul I climbed out of bed and knelt down. “Thank You Abba that I can place this race in Your hands again. Please direct my footsteps by Your truth - step by step. And above all, I pray that You will be exalted in everything I do.
I bless you for your race of life. Remember, you are allowed to get tired. Get some rest, drink a bit of water – but don’t quit. I bless you today with a prayer to keep on enduring: May we run and never give up!
Retah and family.