For you have need of endurance.

Hebrews 10:36

I have been running for exercise a little more lately. It seems like a healthy socially-distant activity. And the warm(er) weather beckons.

Even if you’re not a runner, I think you can relate to the experience I’m about to describe. Sometimes I have said to myself, “I’m going to run for 10 minutes on the treadmill.” But then I get to around the 8:30 mark and convince myself that 9 minutes is close enough to 10 or turn down the speed. Or maybe I set out to jog to Ashland and back, but I change it to Laflin en route. And then I stop running a block early and walk the rest of the way to my house because… you know… cool down.

In what ways are you tempted not to run hard all the way through a finish line?

Fatigue sets in. Focus wanes. You get impatient. You want to cut corners. You make excuses. You’re tired. You fizzle out.

We’ve all no doubt had feelings like this during the lingering stay-at-home order. Perseverance is being called for, by government and God alike. It is obvious that right now we need to be steadfast in hope, diligent in pursuing people, relentless in fighting sin, disciplined in Bible intake, faithful in our commitments, persistent in prayer, determined in seeking joy… but it’s hard. Our resolve is weakening. Laziness is calling.

Yet this relatively short season is a microcosm of our entire earthly lives. “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints” (Rev. 14:12). Because only “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt. 10:22, 24:13).

Have you noticed how often Scripture puts its finger on this need of endurance? Here is just a sample:

· “The good soil… are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Lk. 8:15).

· “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit” (Rom. 12:11).

· “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1Cor. 15:58).

· “So we do not lose heart” (2Cor. 4:16).

· “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

· “Keep alert with all perseverance” (Eph. 6:18).

· “…your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring” (2Thess. 1:4).

· “Do not grow weary in doing good” (2Thess. 3:13).

· “Persist in this” (1Tim. 4:16).

· “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2Tim. 2:12).

· “We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:14).

· “We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11-12).

· “…so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:3).

· “We consider those blessed who remained steadfast” (James 5:11).

And specifically the Bible utilizes the metaphor of a marathon to illustrate the Christian life:

· “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

· “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly…” (1Cor. 9:24-26).

· “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Gal. 5:7)?

· “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Ph. 3:13-14).

· “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day” (2Tim. 4:7-8).

· “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

So how do we do keep running with stamina, stay the course, and not stop? Sheer grit and determination? Will power? Rigorous accountability? That may keep us going, but not to the right place.

Part of the answer is found in the next verse of Hebrews 12 – “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2)! Ahead of us at the finish line is a faithful Savior that has gone on before, who endured the cross for our sakes, bearing all the punishment for all our failures, fallings, missteps, and backslidings; who earned our ultimate victory; who doesn’t bark orders and shame us, but who loves us and sweetly calls us onward to eternal bliss with him – the only thing worth chasing after. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Behind us is a trail of grace, many mile-markers of mercy.

And bearing us up all along the way is an “energy that he powerfully works within [us]” (Col. 1:29).

And so, fellow runners in this race of life, I pray that you are “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col. 1:11).

And “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Ph. 1:6).

Press on,

Pastor Nathan