“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
Hebrews 10:36 NJKV
The starter called for the competitors to line up. Whoever won this competition would receive a prized medal. He lifted the gun, and quickly my ears reverberated at the loud noise. I dove off the starting block and swam as hard as I could. Nothing could stop me until I touched the finish line. No one but me could win this battle and I had a strategy. I had to pace myself for the many laps ahead before exhaustion set in. With tireless help from my father, I had trained hard and long, building confidence and endurance. Yet I knew even if I did not place, my father would be there to encourage and reassure me.
As I glided through the water with smooth strokes, I recalled my father’s words, “Keep the pace no matter how difficult it seems. Don’t look to your right or to your left but keep your mind on what I have taught you. Trust me and you will finish strong.” Little did I know these words would prophesy to me later in life.
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
Proverbs 4:25-27 NIV
Endurance does not come easy. Each of us experiences times of anguish, tears, trials, and sorrow. Most of these times it is easy to slip into a pity party, but as believers our emotions should progress from a state of woe to faith in God as we turn our eyes towards the One who can carry us through that difficulty. It is through these trials that we develop endurance. In the midst of the battle, we can either close our hearts and minds to His help or cling tightly to our Helper and stay the course. We need not look to the right or to the left but keep our eyes fixed on Him. Through perseverance, we cultivate a dynamic devotion of trust and growth.
Why does the Lord allow these trials? So that we can learn to endure, develop deeper faith, and draw closer in our relationship to Him. When everything is going our way, it is easy to coast along or forget Him. We begin to rely on ourselves and think we’ve got it. His desire is to be with us and to show us His love, trust, and faithfulness. He wants us to rely on His words and directives. If my father, who was my coach, allowed me to do things my own way, then all was for naught. I would have missed out on growing my trust in his coaching, receiving his words of wisdom, and depending on our relationship. I would have made mistakes since I would not have recognized his voice of wisdom. Winning over the opponent would have been out of the question. When we apply this same principal to the Lord it is no different. We need to train our ears to listen to His words. We need to put into practice all that He has imparted to us and also remember that whatever happens, His love for us never waivers.
I remember getting so angry and tearful with my father when I felt he was pushing me too hard. Yet the more he challenged me, the more I learned to endure and trust him. I respected and loved my father and now realize that everything he was doing was for my good.
This principle is the same with our relationship with the Lord. We run the race of endurance, trusting in His faithfulness and listening to Him. I am honored to be a daughter of the Most High. Spiritual training and endurance through long and difficult trials is hard; yet in the outcome we become winners. Understanding the Lord’s training comes with a deep love for us even when it is difficult and brings me to tears.
I trained almost daily with my father. With our spiritual Father, we should likewise look for his guidance and training daily so we learn to endure the painful trials life may bring. At the end of my training sessions, my father would lower his hand and lift me out of the water. He would hug me and tell me what a good job I had done. The same is true with the Lord. After our training sessions, He lifts us out of the pit, hugs us, and tells us, “Well done.”
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
Matthew 25:23 NKJV
Because of my father’s instructions and guidance, I walked away encouraged. Learning that endurance paid off. No matter how difficult the training was, my father was on my side.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness. . . .”
2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV
When we persevere through trials, listening to the voice of our heavenly Father, we develop faith and confidence in our relationship with the Lord. He promises us that if we keep the faith, we will win the race.
Lord, I know in my heart that when hard things come my way, You are always there. You desire a deep, abiding relationship with me, and you love me deeply. I thank You that as I endure trials, You will never leave me. Instead, You give me assurance and love me through the difficulties. You will give me the strength to endure and persevere. Forgive me if I try to do things on my own, for Your ways are far better than my ways. Teach me Your ways, O Lord, and help me develop the endurance needed to finish my race. Amen.