Win Today with Christopher Cook

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Endurance: Running through Life…Not Away from It

We live in an imperfect world that is populated by imperfect people and imperfect circumstances. Despite careful planning and best intentions, unforeseen detours and unavoidable obstacles will inevitably occur at some point in time. When you feel like you’re pinned down by the maladies of life, do you fall apart or do you rebound with determination—fueled by a real sense of God-breathed hope—to kick the teeth out of the obstacle you’re facing? Your commitment to develop staying power in life won’t necessarily make your problems disappear, but your perspective and attitude about them will equip you with perseverance and endurance for a winning life. Point being, endurance is about running through life, not away from it. If you’re weak in this area, don’t fret. You can strengthen your ability to endure by incorporating the following keys into your life.

Commit to the Long Haul

Winning in life has little to do with how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up. Make the decision to stay in the game no matter how difficult the challenge becomes and follow through with action that affirms your decision. Often, commitment to the long haul is aborted by a fear of making mistakes. Yet, mistakes are not failures; they are mistakes, and they certainly don’t define your worth or potential as an individual. Your willingness to step out of your comfort zone and “keep on keeping on” is an indication that you’re growing and improving. My friend, please don’t cap your potential by giving-up when life is hard, because giving up isn’t an indication that you are defeated; it’s an indication that you simply quit. You will never see growth if you give up in the middle of the fight. Hindsight is 20/20, but that beautiful, priceless perspective will never be available if you quit prematurely.

Have Vision for the Finish

Read carefully: the storm will pass. Bolster yourself by creating an internal vision for crossing the finish line of whatever trial you’re currently facing. It may take a week. It may take two months. It may even take ten years. But it will pass. Having vision for the finish is so much more than positive self-talk and shallow optimism. It’s deep-seated hope in the promise of God concerning you and your future. Philippians 1:6, one of my favorite verses, assures, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” If you need more convincing, Jeremiah 29:11 hits the bull’s-eye: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Anticipate Detours

Pessimism, fatalism, and negativity anticipate trouble and misfortune to appear around every corner. That’s not what I’m talking about. Recognizing that unexpected, inconvenient circumstances will happen in this imperfect world, however, creates an opportunity to strengthen yourself internally by making the choice to persevere with a winning attitude, a spirit of determination, and well-founded trust in God before the roadblock crosses your path. Negative circumstances can either derail you or they can be tools by which you learn and grow. The best news is that because you’re a child of God, nothing is wasted. He will use every seemingly dead end to shape you as a potter shapes clay in creating something beautiful.

Make Every Step Count

One reason runners do not trip over themselves is because they put one foot in front of the other to establish a fluid stride. As one foot hits the pavement, the other lifts in preparation of its next landing. This systematic rhythm creates movement, and movement, momentum. The same principle applies in life: take the step right in front of you. Confront today’s trouble today and don’t waste your time ruminating on all of the potential stress tomorrow may bring. Jesus said it best, as recorded in Matthew 6:34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Unfortunately, careful planning doesn’t prevent unexpected roadblocks. Stuff happens, so rid yourself of anxiety by taking one day at a time, one step at a time. There’s grace and strength available.

Develop the Muscle of Perseverance

Through trial, there is something necessary and powerful built into your character. It is a strength that will sustain you for the long haul and bring hope to others who need it most. Photographer Yousuf Karsh said, “Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.” And though you can’t see in a darkroom, you can trust. Truth be told, muscles are not developed in “Pleasantville.” Muscles are developed through resistance—through hard times. As a society, especially in America where convenience and comfort reign, we shirk inconvenience and pain. Yet, there’s an opportunity in every obstacle if you’ll look for it. I’m not promoting masochism; that would be ridiculous. I am, however, promoting an unswerving belief that every trial you encounter will become a testimony of strength, perseverance, and leadership to your family, friends, co-workers, and future generations. The Apostle James echoes this thought perfectly: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

Take Time to Rest & Recover

Every athlete understands the need for rest and recovery, especially during intense times of muscle training. If you’re facing a very difficult situation in your life right now, you can’t expect to successfully plow through it time and time again without taking regular opportunities to refuel. Expending every available emotional, physical, and spiritual resource is taxing on your body, soul, and spirit. The old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” is true! Rest and recovery creates an opportunity for your perspective to remain clear and your level of endurance to be sustained for the journey. In Psalm 23, David provides incredible insight into this principle:

“The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me…You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.”

Supporting the subject of endurance, notice that David didn’t say, “Lay down and camp out in the valley.” He said, “Walk through the valley.” God sees the end from the beginning, and His intention is always for your good. Whatever you do, don’t quit, because the valley is not your destination! That is precisely why David said, “my cup runs over.” He knew that with God’s empowering strength, he could live a life of overflow even while going through hard times.

It’s Not Will Power; It’s God Power

Because you and I are not perfect, we have limited resources within ourselves. As such, endurance that lasts a lifetime isn’t built upon a shaky, self-sustained platform of will power. While it’s true that some people are more naturally resilient than others, the ultimate source of sustained strength in your life is God Himself. In Romans 15:4-5, the Apostle Paul recorded these words: “Now may the God Who gives the power of patient endurance (steadfastness) and Who supplies encouragement, grant you to live in such mutual harmony and such full sympathy with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus…” Allow me to encourage you to commit your path to Him. Trust Him all the way. He’ll supply the necessary resources for this journey called “life.”

Question: In which area(s) of life do you find yourself lacking endurance?

Photo Credit: darkmatter via Compfight cc

  • Ashli

    Wow Chris, thank you for writing this. It was divine timing, for sure. Such an encouragement that I needed for this difficult season. God bless you 🙂

    This was great… The best news is that because you’re a child of God, nothing is wasted. He will use every seemingly dead end to shape you as a potter shapes clay in creating something beautiful.

    • Ashli, thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that my article encouraged you! I’ll be praying for you!

  • Sharon Stoia

    I am facing another surgery tomorrow for abdominal debulking after doctors removed a large cancerous ovarian tumor in March following surgical procedures in December.

    God knows my heart and hope have been running on fumes since learning I have cancer. More often than not I wonder why I should put myself through such extreme surgery and treatments. Do the means justify the end. This is more than physical struggle. It is mind and heart.

    To say it is timely that I read your story on endurance, would be a massive understatement.

    • Praying for you right now, Sharon! Please take each day, each moment, at a time. Walking through an 18-year cancer journey with my mom taught me so much. You’re not alone in this!