Archive for January, 2021

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.

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Who Am I?

Growing up, I had a difficult time knowing who I was. I tried to be what got me the most praise and acceptance, even if it didn’t reflect who I was. As a result, I didn’t know myself well and what was right for me. So, when I became adult, I began a search for my identity. I slowly edged away from the belief that I was who I thought others thought me to be.

Many of us spend our lives searching for who we are. Are we loved? Are we important? Are we safe?

We have a variety of ways to answer these questions. But many of them will give us the wrong answers.

Are we loved because someone treats us well? Are we important because we got promoted to a prestigious position? Are we safe because we just passed the annual physical?

We look to circumstances, ourselves and others to give us the answers we seek. But will we find truth there? What happens if someone treats us poorly? Or we don’t get the promotion? Or they find something wrong in the physical that requires surgery? Do these circumstances change who we are?

Our perceived identity will take a beating when we depend on the wrong things to tell us who we are.

A better place to find stability and encouragement is in the Bible. It is there where God tells us we are always important, loved, and accepted because he has given us a new identity if we believe in him (Isaiah 43:4). He is wildly enthusiastic about us, just the way we are!

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But do we rely on these truths?

Sadly, many of us don’t. We are suspicious of regarding ourselves  this way. It doesn’t make sense because it contradicts our trust in earning this high status. So, we keep pursing an inferior identity based on approval, achievement, and other false ways to answer the question of who we are.

We would think it’s easy to rest in our new identity as deeply loved, respected, and protected. But no. It is not easy. That’s why we are exhorted to “Be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:11, NLT) that we will accept our new identity and see ourselves as God sees us.

How much achievement is enough? How much respect from others is necessary to regard ourselves as respectable. And how much control do we need to have over our circumstances to feel safe? These ways never seem to be enough.

So what must we do to cooperate with God in living in this reality? How do we allow God to change our thinking and transform our hearts?

God tells us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” He changes the way we think by replacing the lies we rely on with his truth in the Bible. We cooperate with him when we study, meditate and apply the Bible to our daily lives.

Becoming free of the lies we currently trust is difficult. These lies come from Satan, the world, and ourselves. Paul describes this battle as follows: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NAS).

One of the challenges of doing this is becoming aware of the lies we have depended on for so many years. Trusting in these lies has led us to reject the implications of being God’s children. But we can reach out to the Holy Spirit and he will help us become aware of the lies guiding our thinking and enable us to rest in our true identity (Psalm 139:23-24).

May we grow in accepting God’s viewpoint of us, which is much higher that any identity we could scratch out by our achievements, people’s approval, or positions of power. It won’t be easy. But the rewards are great.

We can at last rest in the peace of being loved by our heavenly Father. We can quit our futile efforts to earn importance in the eyes of everyone and rest in being precious in God’s eyes. And we no longer need to feel inferior, for we have been chosen by God. May we rest in these truths and cease striving.

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