“By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:19 ESV).
Jesus had been teaching about the end times. Wars. Earthquakes. Famines. Persecution. “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:17-19 ESV).
Whenever I am feeling discouraged about the state of our planet I find solace in this passage of scripture (Luke 21:5-37). Sure, Jesus foretold a lot of awful things. But those awful things point to His return! For me it also provides motivation.
I spent years in bitterness and anger, sitting on the couch, becoming a bigger man, if not better. For me, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I really didn’t see the point of trying. But then I started exercising because my doctor told me that I was diabetic. I started small, walking on my breaks at work. I couldn’t go very far, and I certainly couldn’t go very fast. Eventually I began entering endurance activities: a hundred-mile bike ride and a half-marathon for charity, and a half Ironman. This Sunday I will be running my first full marathon.
Endurance sports have enabled me to look at this world differently. And, as He often does, God uses the circumstances of our lives to teach us things.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV emphasis mine). I have certainly seen this scripture fulfilled in my life. I will turn 50 in November. My body continually surprises me with new kinds of pain. When I was young, running hard produced sore muscles. At 49 it has created new ways to hurt.
While it never really occurred to me that “suffering produces endurance,” it has been borne out in my life. Physical suffering while training for a marathon has helped me see that all suffering produces endurance. When we think that we can’t take any more, or go any further, we find in Christ a reason to continue.
I can’t pretend to know or understand all of the things that may be going on in your life. And while I may have gone through some of the same things, everyone has their own private pain. No one’s circumstances are exactly the same. But I do know what it’s like to come to the end of the rope. It is perhaps clichè, but endurance ties a knot at the end of the rope and holds on.
So whether your struggles have to deal with the knife-edge state of our world, sickness and disease, poverty, or any other thing, I want to encourage you to hold on tightly to the promises of God. The longer you hold on, the more God develops your character. And with character comes hope.