The Lord has used my lack of enthusiasm on the treadmill to remind me of something critical to a walk of faith.
The need for Endurance.
That ability, that will to continue despite boredom, fatigue, pain, or any other adverse condition.
I suspect people who press on with exercise endure because they have a clear vision of their goal. They see those sculpted biceps and abs, and they want them enough to keep on. I lack that vision and do just enough to qualify as healthy.
But I don’t want to be like that in my journey of faith. In fact, the older I get and the more I see the dangers of the times in which we live, the more I realize if we don’t endure, we will live ineffective lives and worse—fold under pressure.
Lots of things discourage us along the way. We get tired of waiting for God to answer a prayer. (Plenty of biblical examples of that happening—remember when the Israelites gave up on Moses and made themselves a golden calf? Or when Saul took matters into his own hands because Samuel hadn’t shown up?)
Or maybe we’ve been in a terrible situation with no respite for so long that we just can’t take another thing. Having never suffered to any great extent, I certainly don’t want to throw any easy words around.
But I do want to know, how do we develop a will to endure?
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a woman I first heard about early in my Christian walk. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how Joni Eareckson Tada could possibly live, much less triumph in the Lord.
Seventeen years old. Outdoorsy. Loved horses, independence. One July afternoon as she arched in a dive from a raft, poised between air and water, heaven and hell, the fullness and vibrancy of life as she knew it was about to die.
She hit her head on the bottom. Unable to move, she floated face down on the surface, hoping her sister would hurry and help. But her sister, unaware, had already headed back to shore.
And then, the smallest of events saved a life. A crab bit her sister’s foot. She turned to warn Joni and saw her, hair spread like floating seaweed on top of the water.
If God could use a little, dumb crab to save her life, why didn’t He control the arc of her dive, you might wonder. I’m sure she did too during the next few years that she struggled to escape the sentence of life as a quadriplegic. Not able to kill herself, she tried to get her friends to help.
Having no euthanizing sympathizers, Joni endured.
Well over forty years now. Her endurance is not simply a matter of resignation though. It is active, embracing life. She’s a wife; she sings, paints with her mouth, has a radio program and runs a global ministry that has brought help and hope to thousands.
Joni’s learned the hard truth of Romans 5:3:
"God used this injury to develop in me patience and endurance and tolerance and self-control and steadfastness and sensitivity and love and joy. Those things didn’t matter much when I was on my feet but, boy, they began to matter after I began living life in a wheelchair. I began to see that this is what made me a truly peaceful person. This is what real beauty was all about. This is what purpose in life involved. Being made somebody special, somebody significant, way down deep on the inside and beginning to share that with smiles and encouragement to others." http://joniearecksontadastory.com/jonis-story-page-1/
You would think she’s proven her faithfulness, earned her crown of endurance.
But in 2010, Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer.
In a PBS interview with Kim Lawton Joni tells us how she and her husband faced her diagnosis of breast cancer.
"I remember one time my husband was driving me home from chemotherapy and I was particularly nauseous, and we started talking about how our sufferings, this cancer, is like a little splash-over of hell, that kind of like wakes you up out of your spiritual slumber like, “Whoa!” And so, then we started thinking, well than what are splash-overs of heaven? Are they those days when everything is easy and breezy and bright, and there are no problems? He looked at me in the rearview mirror and said, “No, I think splash-overs of heaven are finding God, or finding Jesus in your splash-over of hell.”
Still, she and her loved ones must struggle with these ravages of a fallen world. And Tada is the first to say not to put her on pedestal.
So how does she handle it?
Daily, Diligently. With discipline she takes control over her emotions and her thoughts before they run over her.
She doesn’t waste time asking the mysterious “whys” of suffering.
And she sets her eyes on a heavenly vision.
"I began to get a buoyant, lively hope of heavenly glories above. In other words this wheelchair helps me see that the good things in this life aren’t the best things. There are better things yet to come. The good things in this life are only omens and foreshadowing of more glorious, grand, great things to burst on the scene when we walk into the other side of eternity. I don’t have to remind you that sometimes Heaven and Hell are participating in the exact same events in your life but what happens, and who gets the glory and whose motive is brought to fulfillment in your life, is entirely your choice. The grace is God’s but the choice is yours but, oh, what wonderful things happen, when you trust in God and make a choice to go for His plan, to believe in His purpose, to hold on to His motives for your life."
Endurance. Dear friends.
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…--Hebrews 12:1