Enduring the Race

Written by Sherri Bergmann

Some have added growing closer to Jesus to their new year’s goals—a goal we all should have on the top of our list. Yet, it can be the hardest to attain.

The apostle Paul understood this and said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

In the book of Hebrews we are challenged to “…lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith….” Hebrews 12:1-2

Challenges Beyond Our Control
Paul knew we encounter challenging events in our life beyond our control such as disastrous weather, the outbreak of viruses, massive layoffs, inflation and more, and that such events could turn us away from God. He encouraged us that with Christ in us, we can overcome difficult situations.

Challenges In Our Control
When we disobey Christ, we make decisions that harm us and others. Drugs. Infidelity. Lying. Stealing. The destructive list goes on. If we don’t remove what separates us from Christ, we will sink until we hit rock bottom. Paul pleaded to show that Christ is the better way to live.

Because removing weights to follow Christ may be difficult, Paul gave a good tip on how to start: to forget what is behind us. Our past and our regrets can weigh us down. If we turn to God, and ask for His forgiveness, he forgives and forgets our sins.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:17-18

Since God doesn’t hold us hostage to our past, neither should we. We can move forward renewed in Him. Yet, because we may fall again, we can turn to Him and rise again. Remember, it’s about direction, not perfection. 

The righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” Proverbs 24:16

Ways to Train to Endure: 

  1. Pray!
    Prayer connects us to God and gives Him an opportunity to respond and build a relationship with us.
  2. Read the Bible, His Word.
    His word endures to help us. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:35
    Memorize His words to remember them at the right time.  
  3. Pull down strong holds and take every thought captive.
    The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
    This is real strength training. Our actions are guided by our thoughts. 
  4. Resist the devil.
    Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
    Satan wants us to lose the race, and everything we have.
  5. Wear God’s armor.
    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil... Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:11, 14-18

Finding Joy in Challenges
The more we exercise the response of obedience, the more we see His way produces a better outcome.
 
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

As we grow in Christ, we lose fear about facing trials because we know Christ will get us through them, and we gain confidence for the next challenge. Joy results from having this victory.

We Can Be Conquerors
As it is written, For your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:36-37

Evidence of Endurance
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:11-12 

The Prize
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

What makes the Christian life exciting is to experience how close we can grow to Christ until we see Him face to face. 
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