But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
This past weekend, my boys came down with the stomach flu while we were visiting my parents. My sister was there too, with her five month old daughter! As it was impossible to drive the 35 miles back to our house, we hunkered down at Mom and Dad’s–4 pairs of hands for two expulsionary kids. Around one o’clock in the morning, as I was throwing yet another pair of pajamas into the wash and my mom and I were spot cleaning the carpets by flashlight, the thought entered my mind that life is simply a matter of endurance. You just endure one thing after another until it’s over and then you go sit on a cloud and play some harps–the end. It was in this moment of self-pity that God slipped the above scripture into the back of my mind (He always has to meddle in my middling!) I realized that life is indeed about enduring, but not in the whiny “my kids have the stomach flu and it really sucks” sort of way I was thinking. Jump with me for a minute to the book of Mark.
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way” “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
Mark 1: 2-7
I don’t know about you, but I love John the Baptist. This guy did not give a fig about what the world thought or expected of him. From the time he was formed in his mother’s womb he knew his purpose and he lived it out with confidence and gusto. Not only did John know his purpose, he knew his place in the grand scheme of things. And, he understood a thing or two about the nature of endurance.
Looking at these two passages of Scripture, two things become clear to me. First, life is about enduring, but not enduring in the sense of “woe is me, my life is not working out the way I planned”. Rather, as Paul writes, we endure the way a marathon runner endures the rigors of a race. We “press on” toward our goal through whatever challenges life may bring.
Second, our goal in pressing on is, like John, to prepare the way for the Lord. God called us, his people, to go forth and show his love to the world, to spread the good news of salvation, of hope, of mercy, of grace to as many people as we can. Enduring is not about cleaning up runny poop in the middle of the night, or figuring out how to buy your kids more toys that they don’t need, or stepping on the scale and having it yell, “Ouch!” Rather, those who truly grasp the concept of endurance are those who are adopting a family for Christmas, who are providing meals for the hungry in their community, who are traveling to other continents to engage in the hard work of building wells, churches, community centers and homes. Those who truly grasp the concept of endurance are those people who are training for races in remembrance and the hope that their efforts will mean no other family has fear when the doctor says the biopsy does not look good. They are the people who make time to listen to a friend in need, who find ways to bring holiday cheer to those who are lonely or alone, those who campaign for laws that will positively benefit children and the poor of our nation. And they do so regardless of the cost to themselves and regardless of what other people think of them and regardless of the challenges and stumbling blocks placed before them.
I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of life I want to endure. I want to press on down the path that prepares the way for the Lord!
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Through endurance, we bring hope. Please, God, let me endure!!
Blessings and Peace,