I have struggled with low self-esteem since childhood. I have tried to overcome it by impressing, achieving, and conforming. But I couldn’t seem to impress or achieve enough to rest in just being me.

When I became a Christian in my twenties, I heard about how much God loved me and how important I was to him. But it seemed that a lot of this teaching just lodged in my head and did not seem to penetrate to my heart.

Meanwhile, I continued to strive for worth, approval, and achievement, but in Christian ways now. At the heart-level I still did not have a strong sense of being loved and important to God. One idol I adopted was to substitute the identity I got from the church, for the wonderful identity God gives me from being his child.

My Christianity was knowing the truth and then doing it, largely in my own strength. I was unaware of whether I was trusting God and his Word to do it. 

As the years went by, I was alert to anything that was useful in growing in my faith and helping others to grow. One day, a friend introduced the idea of going to seminary and studying Spiritual Formation.  It soon became apparent this was God’s leading, so I enrolled.

One of the first things I discovered was that I had a heart. Up until that time I assumed that if I knew the Bible, and applied it, then I would trust it. But no. Many times, I was surprised that my head and my heart disagreed. I was introduced to a new world of my heart and discovered idols and lies that were holding me back from growing in my faith.

Some of those lies included that I am what the church thinks I am, not what God thinks I am. I am only as important as my achievements are in the eyes of man. And I am only safe when I have good circumstances, not because God is with me.

I was fascinated by the unseen world of my heart and surrendered myself to learn to live in the truth at that level, no matter what the cost.

By this time, I had gotten pretty good at getting my needs met through the lies and idols in my heart. So, it has been particularly hard for me to die to these sins. In my desperation, I have experienced new life as I have earnestly prayed and leaned on God to show up in places where I have died to the old ways of getting my needs met.

Evidence of the resurrected life includes my growing desire to only do the tasks God gives me, in his power, and for his purposes. Another evidence is that we do life together now. I not only live life for God, but also with him. And I’m growing in finding my security through God’s presence, and not in good circumstances.

We talk to ourselves all day long. Some things we say are true and some are lies.

When I was a child, I told myself I needed to be taller to be important. That was a lie. Instead, I needed to tell myself the truth that I was important even though I was the shortest kid in the class. Because I believed this lie, I struggled with self-esteem through much of my early years.

As an adult, I told myself I could do any job. But that was a lie. I boldly applied for many jobs just because they were promotions. I told myself once I got the promotion, I would be able to figure out how to do the job. But that didn’t happen. There were a few jobs I just couldn’t do – and I had to endure much pain and humiliation to discover this.

In recent years, I have told myself I was immortal. But that was a lie too. I’m not. It took a life-threatening physical condition for me to face the truth I was going to die someday. This lie had kept me clinging to life too much and hindered my hope of living in a future life that is far better than this one.

So, why do we lie to ourselves? 

Sometimes the lie may feel better. “You can do any job you set out to do.” Feels good, doesn’t it? But is it true? No, it isn’t. But God says we can do any job he leads us to do if we depend on him (Philippians 4:13). May we tell ourselves the truth when we are contemplating a new job and avoid the pitfalls of a bad decision.

Another reason we lie to ourselves is that our culture has so much “fake news” in it. We become brainwashed into thinking like everyone else. We are surrounded by lies because the culture is strongly influenced by Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).

A third reason we don’t tell ourselves the truth is our pride. We deny the obvious – that there is a God. When God tells us we are important and acceptable to him, we reject this truth and instead lie to ourselves that we can impress and achieve our way to respect.

So, how do we learn to tell ourselves the truth?

We will need to become aware of the conversations we have with ourselves. We will need to exam our self-talk to ensure it is truthful. “We are destroying speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). We can correct any lies we are telling ourselves, for depending on them will surely lead us the wrong way.

But first we must know truth. A good place to go is the Bible (John 17:17). As we increase our knowledge of the Word, we will need to practice it in order to gain an experiential knowledge of truth. Not just a head knowledge but also a heart one from which we genuinely embrace the truth from deep within us.

Another source of truth is knowing ourselves – what we want, what’s our passions, and our strengths and weaknesses. These truths are hard to know for we often deceive ourselves. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB). But as we ask him, the Holy Spirit will reveal to us what we are really like.

Finally, the Bible says “as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7, NASB). We need to think about was is true, right, and noble so we can tell ourselves the truth and not speak lying words (Philippians 4:8). A quiet time every day is helpful to meditate on scripture to transform our self-talk into life-giving conversations with God. 

In closing, quiet yourself for a minute or two and focus on what you are feeling. Experience the dominate emotion for about a minute. Then, ask God to help you identify what thoughts are causing this feeling. Are these thoughts true? If not, ask God what the truths are.  Correct your self-talk by denying the lies and telling yourself the truth. Pray he will help you to tell yourself these truths often and enable you to depend on them.

May this exercise help you to stop lying and to better tell yourself the truth..

Do you feel like quitting sometimes? What’s the use?, you may think. I will never meet my goal. So, what should we do when we feel this way?

Probably the greatest political leader of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill, said in a speech when facing the wrath of the Nazi’s,

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

And he didn’t give in and led England to help save the Western world from being overcome by the Nazis. He persevered.

What made Thomas Edison keep trying to invent the electric light bulb after 10,000 failures? Perseverance.

But where does this perseverance come from? Why do many of us fail to persevere?

One reason is we don’t focus on the prize–the reward of not giving up. I had to do this in high school when my letter in cross country hinged on the final race of the season. I needed to finish ahead of a particular runner in a two-mile race to win a letter. As we entered the last part of the race I was ahead, but exhausted. Then I heard his pounding steps closing in on me, and I feared my letter was slipping away. I then reached deep within myself for just enough strength to speed up and  discourage my challenger  from overtaking me. After the race, I lay on the ground for a half hour trying to catch my breath. But I was rejoicing because I had won a letter. Keeping my eye on the prize enabled me to find the strength and courage to win the race.

Likewise, in the race of life we need to keep our eyes riveted on the prize, too–a successful life in the eyes of God. We can be unwilling to endure the pain and fail to see the value of receiving God’s praise of “Well done, my good and faithful servant….Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:21, NLT).

Instead, we often focus on our worries and making money or gaining influence, which sap our strength and keep us from finishing the race a winner (Matthew 13:22).

One thing to keep in mind to help us continue living a responsible life when it is hard, is that it makes us stronger. A caterpillar becomes a healthy butterfly by struggling to break free from its cocoon. Likewise, the trials and tribulations we endure and overcome equip us to face even greater challenges in the future.

Many of the blessings God promises only come to us if we endure in relying on them. Recently it dawned on me that one of the reasons I haven’t experienced more peace is that I haven’t relied much on this promise: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27, NAS). “But where is it Lord? I seem to have a lot of anxiety for a person who has been given so much peace.” Then, it hit me. I don’t have more peace because I don’t expect it and rely on it.

Also, when we look away from the pain and fixate on the good that God promises from the pain, we can maintain a better perspective of it. Rather than “cursing the darkness” and despairing over it, we can give thanks for  the good God is doing through it as he promised in Romans 8:28.

Our ability to persevere is enhanced when we accept that life is difficult. We assume that life should be easy and comfortable. And when it’s not, we think that something is wrong. But famous Christian psychologist and author, M. Scott Peck,  wrote “Life is difficult and when we accept the fact that life is difficult, it’s not so difficult.” Acceptance of our pain as a necessary part of living helps us to not to be so frustrated by the setbacks we face.

May we press on and complete the journey that God has planned for each of us. May we persevere and not give up. May we live in the reality that our suffering is not in vain. “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NLT).

Choosing to be More

Do you measure your worth by what you do? Do you feel more important when others notice your achievements? Do you think, “I am what I think others think I am.”?

If you do these things, is your truth really truth?

Early in my career I was an engineer because I needed to regard myself as important by gaining the approval and respect of others. My need to fill the hole of low self-esteem was so great I ignored the reality I didn’t like engineering. I thought my worth was determined what others would respect. But I was wrong.

When I became a Christian in my mid-twenties, I had to make a choice – Do I trust in doing the job God wanted me to do and gain his praise, or do I chase the praise of others and disobey God.

For the most part I chose to follow God’s will and do his sometimes obscure and frustrating assignments. I sometimes chose to become less in the eyes of others. And that has hurt at times.

However, several times I have chosen to get out of God’s lane and pursue great things for myself. How did that work out? Two job downgrades, an early retirement, and a few jobs that were way-over-my-head. I did this to avoid thinking I wasn’t very important.

Many of us are led astray from simply knowing and doing God’s job for us. Instead, we seek the fame, fortune, and pleasures of this life that distract and sap our energies and keep us from experiencing a more rewarding life. We seek to gain more, but attain less.

We may pursue being fulfilled our way – not God’s. But God designed us and knows best how we should live this life. We seek to live in our strength and avoid God’s powerful and rewarding path. The result will be a disappointing life and a horrible eternity.

In order to choose to be less in this life, we need perspective. This life is not all there is. It is a drop in the bucket compared to the forever of the next one. $10,000,000,000 is nothing compared to the value of being in heaven forever.

We have to go beyond what we see and rely on what we don’t see; which is the high value of doing our obscure tasks here for future glory and honor as part of the royal family in heaven. The rewards of the next life is the treasure we need to set our sights on – not the temporary glitz and glamor offered by the few short years here.

We will have to swallow our pride and allow God to give us what we need most, like importance, acceptance and love. What we need to do is to cooperate with God in developing our relationship with him so that we can experience him meeting these needs in a satisfying way.

May we keep our focus on Christ and his future blessings to endure the hardships of this life as Moses did. “He chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking to his reward” (Hebrews 11:25-26, NIV).

Let us choose to be less in this life, and allow God to take us on a supernatural journey that will enable us to become far more in the next.

What is a step you sense you need to take today to be more in the future, but maybe less now?

Facing Our Fears

Do you face your fears?

Or, like many of us, do you run from them by ignoring, denying, pretending or distracting yourself?

In the short run, it makes a lot of sense to avoid the pain of feeling our fears. Who likes pain? However, by doing this, we fail to experience  and understand the deeper things we are afraid of. This keeps us from resolving them and from realizing that many of our fears are driven by lies and false dependencies.

For example, recently I faced considerable anxiety about the results of a CT Scan. I examined my thoughts behind the fears, which included, I’m going to require surgery and that’s bad. The scan will discover other things wrong. Surgery is dangerous and painful.

As I examined these thoughts, I discovered that several of them were false or exaggerated. I then calmly told myself the truth as I understood it about each thought, and my anxiety was reduced.  I eventually decided to face minor surgery. If I had refused to face my fears, I may have not chosen surgery which could save my life in the long run. I would have probably listened to my anxiety, which were driven by mostly lies, and avoided surgery.

So, how do we find the courage to face our fears?

First, we need to be aware of our fears and why we have them. We may find that our reasons we are afraid just aren’t true. For example, we may be asked to be interviewed about our thoughts on a new program at work. Immediately we may think, What happens if I say the wrong thing? What happens if I make a fool out of myself? What are people going to think of me?

Then, we can access the more mature thinking we have and challenge some of our alarming thoughts. So what if I say the wrong thing? If it’s what I believe, it has merit. Someone thought I would say something worth listening to or they wouldn’t have asked me. So what if I make a fool out of myself? And how often does that happen anyway? I know who I am and it’s not who I think people think I am. And it’s not that important what people think of me anyway, but what I think of me. This rational thinking can reduce our worry.

Normally, I put my trust in doctors to guide me wisely on medical matters. But they are just human and we all know what that means – they can make mistakes. And that’s scary! So, I have learned to face the fears of medical issues by trusting the God who is the Doctor of Doctors to guide the advice they give me. God doesn’t make mistakes, but works all his advice to accomplish his good. And that makes me feel less scared.

Because of the way I’m made and was raised I carry a lot of fear inside. I am prone to imagine the worst-case scenarios for almost every uncertain situation I face. So, I have had to confront many worries just to get through life, even though most are imagined or exaggerated. This has developed my courage by having to stand my ground with fear, instead of running away.

Joshua was given the frightening assignment to lead Israel to conquer the Promised Land in the face of overwhelming odds against them. God and the people of Israel exhorted Joshua to be strong and courageous despite being terrified. So, Joshua led with great courage and effectiveness because he didn’t let his fears keep him from doing God’s challenging will.

But it’s easier to repress, deny, ignore, suppress, and pretend about our fears rather than to accept and seek to resolve the problems behind them. We can be lazy and choose safety over transformation – and our growth as a person is stunted.

May we choose to face our worries and not hide from them. May God give us the courage to be controlled by the will of God and not our fears. ”So, be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24) and let us face our fears.

We may search for truth about a lot of things. Things like how to best take care of ourselves in a pandemic, which political party will govern best for us, and how to live a happy and meaningful life.

But how do we find truth that will answer these questions? We know our culture is saturated with lies and deceptions. How do we sort the truth from the fiction?

This is not easy. There are many paths that seem right, but are desperately wrong. And often we are drawn to trust in lies rather than the truth.

One of our problems is that frequently we don’t want to know the truth. For example, do we want to know the truth about how to live a meaningful and happy life no matter where the truth leads us? Or, will we only accept the truth if it meets our predetermined requirements? To know the truth about anything, we must love the truth even if it’s not what we want it to be.

When I was a child, I had low self-esteem. But I found a way to fool myself. I could pretend to be more important if I pleased and impressed my parents. This made sense because their opinion is how I determined truth. But did their opinion make me more important? I thought so and began to live like my importance depended on impressing others. Later in life, I learned this was not true.

Another deception we commonly embrace is seeking knowledge to know truth. But much knowledge often leads to depending on lies, not truth. When I was in the military, I thought that happiness came from a successful career of high achievement. So, I prepared myself by going to night school working on an advance degree, improving my public speaking skills, and seeking additional responsibilities at work. And I became a success! But I did not find happiness.

Another difficulty to finding truth is all the distractions we have to wade through to be clear-minded enough to discern reality. Pleasures, desire for comfortable things, and impressing others drive us to feel good rather than discovering the truth.

So, where do we go to find truth? How do we know if it’s the truth?

One way is to test our “truth” against reality.  Does it work? Am I happier? If the answer is “no”, it may not be the truth even though it should be. Deception paints a false reality of the future.

For me, a good source of truth has been the Bible. It doesn’t contain all truth, but whatever it teaches is truth (John 17:17). I have tested it against reality for fifty years and found it works.  

The Bible also introduces us to the source of all truth and wisdom, Jesus Christ. He boldly proclaims “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). What he is saying is that if we want to know truth, listen to what he says to us. He tells us truth not only from the pages of the Bible but through circumstances, other people, and many other ways, for he controls all these things.

He promises us when we do listen to him, then “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Free from what? From being deceived and fooled into giving our limited time and energy to activities that are not best for us.

Since our world is full of lies and deceptions, who we listen to will make a big difference in our destiny. I had to reject the guidance of many people until I heard Jesus inviting me to follow him. Because of wrong guidance for so long, I am still recovering from the false direction I received.

May we all seek truth and reject the deception all around us. God promises us if we seek the truth honestly, we will find it. May we never give up our search for truth for there is always more to find.

We all need to regard ourselves as important. We also long to feel loved, acceptable and safe. When we don’t have these things, hopefully we will begin a search for them rather than resigning ourselves to be unhappy.

Some of us had parents who made us feel important. But parents often fail to give us unconditional importance. So, many of us sought conditional importance in the eyes of our parents that required us to jump through various hoops to earn. And what might those hoops have been?

In my family it was good grades, doing well in sports, and avoiding their criticisms. But no matter how hard I tried, I never seemed to measure up.

Others of us sought approval from relatives, friends, or teachers. But when we think we have earned their approval, we may have asked ourselves, “How do I know what they really think of me anyway?”, or “Is what they think of me the truth?”

As an adult, I unknowingly gave certain people the power to define me. I looked to them to give me importance. But it never satisfied me for long. It never was enough.

I remember for several years I sought a particular leader’s approval to regard myself as important. I didn’t have the confidence within me that I was important based on my opinion. But if he treated me as if I were, I could feel better about myself. But he never treated me as if he thought I was important.

Besides the struggle to convince others to think we are important so that we can feel significant, another obstacle is that we are not needed by most people. “If somehow I can be needed by many people, I would feel more important” we think to ourselves. But we are limited in meeting others’ needs, and it is impossible to be needed enough to feel important consistently. Soon, we are back chasing the bright, illusive butterfly of significance.

We may set arbitrary standards to measure our worth. We think that we need to be an engineer to be successful. Or, we have to become a middle manager by forty to be important. Or, we need to be married and have three kids to attain significance. But when we meet these standards, we soon realize that we are chasing fantasies and want still more.

Others of us search for importance in fame or wealth. But how much is enough to feel significant?

The truth that we are important by just being ourselves alludes most of us. Impressing people, performing well at work and holding leadership positions makes more sense.

However, God has made us this way – to want to be important but never permanently finding it apart from depending on how important we are to him. He says to us who look to him for our importance that we are precious and honored. Where can we find a better reason to regard ourselves as important than being one of his children? “See how much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

He also tells us that he has made us “only a little lower than God and crowned us with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). We are the crowning achievement of his creation! That should make us feel significant.

Therefore, our search for significance can be over. We no longer need to strive for it. We are already important! If God thinks we are important, so we are.

May we turn away from the futile chase to be important. We will never attain what God has given to us as a gift for trusting in him. May we accept the truth – we are important!

What do you rely on to feel important? How is that working for you?

Peace seems to be something we all strive for but never quite find. There always seems to be something to disturb our tranquility. Whether it’s a root canal, unexpected bills, or being injured doing projects around the house, there always seems to be something that makes us feel out-of-control.

As a result, peace often eludes us. The everyday pitter-patter of problems rob us of our sense of being safe. Why do we let this happen? Why can’t we rise above our circumstances and not let our problems make us so worried and fearful?

Professional counselors tell us that it’s not our circumstances that give us peace, but our perception of them. If we perceive our circumstances as greater than our strength to meet them, then it’s logical to be afraid- after all, we are going to fail! So, we lose our peace.

But if we consider our circumstances as being under the control of God, who can do anything, and are confident that he will help us, we can continue to relax and stay calm, and know we are not going to fail.

One year I sought peace from circumstances. It was my favorite time of the year (Fall). I planned a fun Halloween party, and took a trip to the mountains to enjoy the pretty trees. I also did several other things to ensure my Fall would be enjoyable. But no, it didn’t happen. I fell into a depression and despite all the fun things I had planned, I didn’t have peace or joy.

This experience helped me to learn that peace comes from within, not from good things happening. It’s a byproduct of living in the power of the Spirit, who lives within us. Peace comes to us as we rely on God controlling our circumstances and protecting us from our fears and worst-case scenarios we imagine.

Peace also comes to us as we accept the limits God places on our lives. Limits of our control, abilities, and outcomes. We quit fighting for what isn’t and learn is accept what is. We rest in his complete control and trust that he has our best interest at heart. As the verse says, “I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” (Psalm 31:2 NLT). When we continue to strive to serve the idols of achievement, impressing, and comfortability, we remain frustrated and dissatisfied.  

God tells us to give up trying to find peace without him. As long as we leave him out of our lives, we will be anxious. As Augustine observed, “our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Peace is a byproduct of partnering with him in living life. It’s not something we attain by molding and twisting our circumstances so we feel safe. Partnering means turning to him in prayer immediately when we lose our peace. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6,7, NLT).

Peace comes from accepting the frustrating, scary, and bad circumstances he sends us and turning to God to guide and help us through them.

May we all grow in capturing the illusive butterfly of peace. He promises that as we rely on him instead of our good circumstances, we will, at last, escape our fears and worries and find peace.

I recently read my journal from twenty years ago that was written during a difficult time at work. It described the painful consequences of going beyond my expertise to gain a promotion.

I had amassed a number of new responsibilities that would help me to get my position upgraded. The motive behind my actions was to get promoted rather than to serve. Consequently, I was supervising more and more duties I didn’t know well, which gradually made me less competent.

At this time, the department underwent a major reorganization with a new management team put in place. When my new supervisor discovered my lack of knowledge in several areas of my responsibility, she was not impressed.

After a four – month process, I was demoted and transferred to another position in a new department. I felt much fear, sadness, hurt, and humiliation during this time. I thought, If I had only stayed in the job that God had placed me in and equipped me to serve, things would be better. This wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and it wasn’t to be the last. Why do I and many others reject God’s jobs for us and seek to fashion our own careers beyond our qualifications?

Many of don’t stay where God puts us because we want more. We are not content doing what God wants us to do because we want to earn more money or increase our prestige. We rely on the praise of others and the power we gain from the move to meet our need for importance. We are not satisfied with the worth we get from being God’s children. Wealth and praise seems more real.

1 Timothy 6:9 NLT describes this process as follows:

“But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction”.

My career suffered some of this ruin and destruction when I was lured to reach for a more attractive job that was not the one God had in mind for me.

When we seek a wrong job we can be focused on using people instead of serving them. This is the opposite of what Jesus modeled as he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).

We can chase idols that promise to meet our needs better than God. But they don’t. We become deceived into thinking that promotion, achievement, and pleasure will give us a better life than humbly following God step-by-step.

We forget that God controls promotions, and if it is a good thing for us, he will grant them. But until then, we are to “humble ourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift us up in honor” (1 Peter 5:6, NLT).

One thing that can help us to stay where God has led us to is to remember that he has planned specific tasks for each us to do for him. He says this in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which he has created beforehand, that we should walk in them.” He doesn’t want us to do just any good deed, but the ones he has tailor-made for us to do.

It also helps us to know that we are already as important as we will ever be. No additional wealth or someone’s high opinion of us will makes us more valuable. His view of our importance is the only viewpoint that counts – and he sees us as always precious (Isaiah 43:4).

A third way to be faithful to the tasks he has called us to do is by meditating on his word. The Word is the only reliable source of the amazing truth that we are his precious children and are being used by him in his work in the world.

Let’s stay where he has placed us until he clearly leads elsewhere. We need to trust his plan that he knows perfectly how to use us and has our best interest in mind. We will one day see the beauty and wisdom of his plan. Until then, let us live by faith and stay put.

Never Give Up

One of my first experiences with perseverance was when I ran cross country in high school. The races were three miles long, usually running through golf courses and parks.

I never enjoyed running, but I did it for the glory of winning a letter. The climax to my running career occurred in my senior year in the final race of the season. I had to finish in the top seven runners from our school to earn a letter and go to the State finals. As we approached the finish line, I was in seventh place, but there was a runner closing in fast. I knew if he passed me, I wouldn’t get a letter. Although I was exhausted, I drew strength from deep within, and sped up to fool the runner into thinking I had a lot of energy left.

And it worked!

He backed off and didn’t pass me, and I finished seventh. Although it took me thirty minutes to recover from my exhaustion and walk again, I was happy because I had endured.

Like in running cross country, we all are in a race today. This race is described in the following way: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT). 

What does it mean to endure? The dictionary describes it as to remain firm under suffering without yielding; to stay in the race when it is far easier to quit.

To help us endure, God wants us to strip away our bad habits, bad thoughts and sin that weigh us down, so we can finish the race and win.

And what are we trying to win?

One thing is eternal rewards. God give us rewards for serving him in what he wants us to do, in his power, and for his glory.

A supernatural life is another incentive to stay in the race. Only by persevering can we live the powerful life God has mapped out for us, and stand against the ferocious attacks of the Evil One. “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NLT).

So, how do we persevere and continue to follow God’s will?

One thing we can do is to rid ourselves of our idols. They are anything or anyone we substitute for depending on God to meet that need. For example, we all need to feel important. Some us can try to feel important by seeking career success. “If I can become a manager then I will regard myself as important.” But in the process of seeking success, we can turn away from depending on God to make us important, and instead rely on the promotion. We no longer trust in God’s declaration that we are precious to him and substitute an idol to meet that need (Isaiah 43:4). Our dependence on promotion becomes a false way to feel important, and we are slowed down in the race.

Another helpful action is to rely on Jesus to strengthen us. As Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NAS). Jesus is our partner to help us endure and not give up. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NAS). He will take the pressure off of us as we give our burdens to him in prayer.

Finally, we can hang in there and finish the race by keeping our eyes on the prize. Jesus did this by focusing on the joy awaiting him, which enabled him to “endure the cross, disregarding the shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

I endured that cross country race by keeping my eyes on the prize of getting a letter. May we all finish the race of life and not quit before we win the prize.