August 28, 2017

Persevering to Persevere

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It was another lesson learned the hard way. During my freshman year at college my dorm was challenged by another dorm to a track meet. My assignment? To participate in a relay by running one lap around the track. Even though I had not run track in high school I figured I was in shape and one lap wasn’t too much for a young buck like me. So at the appointed hour I stood at the starting line and on cue took off. I was feeling great at the quarter mark as I was getting into a nice rhythm and believed this would be a sweet run. My mind told me I was already half done!

Then I hit the half way mark – and suddenly everything changed. My legs felt like they had just been injected with cement. My stomach was hardening but churning. My lungs were constricting. My head was pounding. My mind turned negative and blared “Man, you’re only half way! You’re going to be sick!”

At that moment I knew it was either fail and be embarrassed or gut it out no matter what the consequences. I somehow gutted it out – and I won’t share all the consequences!

The whole experience provided a life lesson: Persevering in preparation for perseverance is the key to perseverance. We cannot just turn on a perseverance switch and muster what it takes to persevere. As I analyzed my run I realized three things were lacking. My body was not in shape for the task so there was no inner reserve to call forth, my mind had not been trained to focus on the  positive, and I had no one to help me before or during the run – I had no coach or encourager.

Those lessons come to mind when I read Hebrews 1:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Consider how my learnings apply to spiritual perseverance. We cannot just turn on a switch and be strong on demand. We must persevere in preparation for perseverance.

Three things must be present to persevere:

  • First, we must be in shape spiritually. Daily disciplines are what develop inner strength and reserves. We cannot, at a moments notice, throw off everything that hinders and get rid of the sin that entangles. That requires a daily routine of spiritual exercise.
  • Second, we must fill our minds with the Word of God. Our minds cannot recall what has not been implanted there in the first place. If our focus is on Jesus everyday we will not need to refocus in the heat of the race.
  • Third, we must work with a team. Coaches, encouragers, and accountability partners are essential. And when we need to persevere they will be the living witnesses motivating and strengthening us through their encouragement and prayers.

Persevering in preparation for perseverance is the key to perseverance. If  you want to be ready, take the time to prepare. William Longstaff said it  poignantly when he wrote the hymn “Take Time to be Holy.” Contemplate the first two lines of each stanza:

“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word…

Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone…

Take time to be holy, let Him be thy guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide…

Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.”

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