“… giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, Rather, as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger . . . with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:3 -10, NIV)
The Christian of today needs to have the zeal of a zealot, the spirit of a soldier, the guts of a gladiator, and the attitude of an athlete. But that’s a lesson in itself.
To endure. It is the ultimate test of faith, because the very definition of endurance – to undergo hardship without giving in – implies no promise of pay-off, no sense of a beginning, middle, and an end. A true test of endurance leaves few clues about how long you’ll have to hang on. It offers no light at the end of the tunnel, no marker by which to measure that last, labored sprint to the finish line. If you could see the finish line, it wouldn’t be endurance.
The Bible lists endurance as a gift, on the same short list as faith and love. Yet, if you are going through extended tough times, you may be saying to yourself, Endurance – a gift? A booby prize, maybe.
Have you ever wondered as you drive cross-country, as you drive at warp speed with bugs exploding like paint balls on your windshield . . . what this journey must have been like for early settlers who made the trek in covered wagons, with no comfy Motel 6′s along the way, no Burger Kings, no roadside attractions. Just miles and miles of prairie. How did they endure, bouncing along in their buckboards, under constant threat of Indian attack, with no clear idea where they were headed or when they were supposed to stop?
Fortunately, being stranded on the prairie is one endurance test you and I will likely never have to face. But we’ve all suffered trials – spells in the wilderness we thought would never come to an end. My own life, like many of you, has had its share of pain. Most of it came from my own lousy choices, (by the way, as I found out, Stupidity is not a spiritual gift) but the heartache was just as real.
Some of us make nice quiet little mistakes that hardly go noticed; but some of us, like me, make those loud, in your face, “hey look at me” mistakes. Something I have learned though, is I MUST endure it, learn from it, get up, and not walk… NEVER walk, but always get up and RUN! Get back in the race!
We don’t have time to walk in this life. Save the victory walk for Heaven when you can walk without being attacked. You haven’t accomplished anything yet. If you’re still here, then you’re still in the race!
I didn’t handle things quite so gracefully. I whined and pouted. I stomped my feet and shook my fist at the heavens. Life didn’t turn out like I expected, and I couldn’t seem to let that go. But slowly and over time, God changed my heart, and still is each and every day.
Hebrews 12:29 “for our God is a consuming fire.” When I started to fizzle out, nothing left… He ignited me again. If you will just let Him in, He will always let you win!
James 1:12 (New American Standard Bible)
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
What is it that you’ve had to endure? Chronic illness? Unemployment? An aging parent’s slow deterioration from Alzheimer’s? When you find yourself faced with what seem like never-ending periods of disappointment and hardship, rather than question His divine judgment, pray for the strength to endure. Then be open to the lessons this experience may have to teach you. The next time you’re tempted to think God has singled you out for the “booby prize” of endurance, consider this challenge from the Apostle Paul:
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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV)
Herb Lusk, now a preacher but was a professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles, was known as the “Praying Tailback.” He tells a story about a player he saw on his own team that was a lineman.
This lineman went in front of him to block for him, and Herb says he saw this players’ finger bend all the way backwards against his hand when the opposing player hit him. After the play, Herb says he looked at the player with the severely dislocated finger… the skin stretched, the bone visible just under the skin, obviously with torn tissue inside and swelling… and Herb says he just about fainted just looking at it.
Then he watched as this man with some obvious pain reached over with his other hand and grabbed the finger, jerked it back into place and put his hands back on his knees, ready for the next play.
After they went to the sidelines, Herb says he was just sure that he would see this player calling for a medic or some kind of medical attention because the swelling and bruising was awful… but instead, this player called out for someone to bring him some tape! They brought him some duct tape, he wrapped his finger and hand until you couldn’t see his hand, then ran back out onto the field to finish the game and started clubbing people with that hand!
Now folks, that’s the kind of Christians we need to be! Take the hits, endure the pain, keep your eye on Jesus and win the game, and God will keep us going and will heal us in the end! Endure!
In professional football, they measure their effectiveness and strength by what they term YAC-Yards, that is, Yards After Contact. Their strength and endurance is measured by how many yards they can get after they’ve made contact with the opposing team. Making yards, progress, is easy through the hole when you’re not getting hit. Anyone can do that… it’s how many yards you can make after you’ve been hit, when the bottom falls out. Every child of God should be able to make YAC-Yards… After you’ve been talked about; After you’ve been put down; After sickness…
Job said “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Though he slay me, yet will I Trust in Him.”
I was reading some history about a prize fighter from years ago, John L. Sullivan, at that point he was the best Heavyweight Champion. Now, there was a pip-squeak guy that had been set-up to fight John L. Sullivan, and they gave this guy 1,000:1 odds in this fight. They knew that he wouldn’t even last the first round.
The 1st round, John L. Sullivan hit him so hard his whole body shook!
When this fighter returned to his corner, his trainer asked “How ya doin’?”
Fighter – “Doin’ alright, but when he hit me I felt that hit from the top of my head to the bottoms of my feet. But I said to myself, ‘If I could just go one more round’.”
The 2nd round, John L. Sullivan hit him so hard that it lifted him clear off the mat, and he came down and he fell on his back… saved by the bell, they drug him back to his corner again.
His trainer asked, “Do you want me to throw in the towel?!”
The fighter answered, “No, let me see if I can do it just one more round.”
He went back out and John L. Sullivan hit his eyes so hard that they were swollen and puffy and he couldn’t see. Back in the corner, they took razorblades and they slit his eyes so he could see.
His trainer asked, “Do you want me to throw in the towel?!”
He said “No, no, no… Just one more round”
The next round he got hit so hard that he was literally praying that it would be the knock-out punch, but it didn’t knock him out! And he was saying to himself, “If I could just make it one more round”
This was the longest prize fight in history at that time.
He went back out the next round and got knocked down 3 times! And guess what he said?
Just one more round!
The 20th round – he came out barely standing, bloody, and bludgeoned, trying to cover himself, and guess what he said?
Just one more round!
25 rounds of fighting, beaten down and over and over again saying to himself what?
One more round!
Over and over again he said to himself… One more round!
Bloody & bludgeoned – one more round!
Eyes puffed & swollen, but – one more round!
Legs weak, but – one more round!
Too tired to stand, but – one more round!
And that last round he came out and hit John L. Sullivan and knocked him out cold!
I don’t know anything about John L. Sullivan personally, but we have someone who wants to beat us down and destroy us also; the equivalent of a John L. Sullivan in our midst, and his name is Satan; but he’s a liar and the Truth is not in him and I say to you, when he hits you, I want you to say;
Just one more round, that’s all I want,
Just one more round, just let me stand, just one more round, just give me the strength!
Just one more round, one more round, one more round…
And you will knock him out.
Matthew 24:13 (New American Standard Bible)
13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Matthew 10:22 (New American Standard Bible)
22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
2 Timothy 2:3 (New American Standard Bible)
3 “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 13:7
7 (Speaking about Love…) “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Hebrews 12:4 – 7
4 “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;
5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6 FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7 “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
James 5:11 (New American Standard Bible)
11We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.
1 Peter 1:25 (New American Standard Bible)
25 “BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER
And this is the word which was preached to you.”
We don’t endure alone; God is with you every step, even when you don’t look to Him, even when you don’t see Him, when your pride blinds you, anger and not understanding burns inside you, and humiliation deflates you… Jesus understands, as He carries you in His arms gently through it with compassion for you that you can’t even begin to understand, but He does.
So, just pray for the strength to go “one more round.” In the last round of this life, you can win by knocking out the adversary. You will take some hits in this life, and you will hurt, those are just simple facts that we as humans must face and understand. Endurance is our weapon, our developed skill of taking the hits, still making forward progress… those YAC Yards… and finishing the race. Endure! Gain stregnth! And win!
Make this your daily mantra; Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome! No matter what the challenge or how hard the difficulties, get over them, under them, around them, or through them! Never let your situation redefine who you really are! Beat the odds, meet the challenge, and win by pure endurance… a single blow knock-out!
You, and only you, determine the outcome of a challenge. You have the strength. You have the power. You have a promise from the very one who created you. Even death cannot win. Now, you have a choice… do you make YAC Yards? Do you keep getting up for one more round? You can beat whatever is against you, whatever is hurting, challenging, closing in, and trying to keep you beat down. You have the strength. Use that unwelcomed gift of endurance and get back up where you belong!