Strength and Endurance . . . But Mostly Endurance
One of my favourite verses in the New Testament is: "The one who endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:14) Not because it's poetic or flowery in its language, not because of its spiritual complexity, but because of its clarity, the simplicity of its promise.
Endure to the end. Keep the faith to the end. Cross the finish line and don't stop or turn around or give up on the race before it's over.
I don't consider myself to be an insanely strong person, physically. I'm fit, sure, but my bench-press numbers would be sadly lacking compared to someone who dedicates their time to building strength and muscle. If I were asked to carry a super-heavy load all at once, I don't know that I'd make it very far. My muscles would be trembling before the weight even left the ground, my mind would be screaming for respite, and if I didn't have a spotter to help me out . . . chances are I'd probably end up crushed.
Spiritually, the case is much the same.
I don't consider myself strong in the sense that I can handle whatever spiritual burden I'm given with anything resembling ease. My life is cushy compared to the lives of many Christ-followers in the world, and yet I still tremble beneath the weight of my little load, my mind still cries out for respite, and without God to help me bear the weight, I know I would have been crushed a long time ago. The Lord is my strength—on my own, I have none.
Which is why I need endurance even more.
In a sermon recently, the preacher shared a thought: he's never been impressed by body-builder physiques, by the kind of strength that can lift a heavy bar, or bench press a certain numerical amount. What impresses him more are the people who don't look that kind of strong, but who can work hard day after day to provide for their families, who can toil and struggle by the sweat of their brows from dawn till dusk, only to do it again the next day. The people whose strength lasts longer than a single push, a single effort—who instead must push indefinitely, pressing toward the mark in a constant uphill battle that bends them, but never breaks them. That wearies them but never turns them back.
That is endurance. That is our heavenly calling. To live for Christ in all aspects of ourselves, and to endure the burdens that accompany it, to draw upon God's gift of sufficient grace to bear the weight, and to keep moving forward, one step after another, no matter how slow those steps are. No matter how long it takes to reach the finish line, the point is that we reach it, with our faith and souls intact, and that takes a kind of endurance that doesn't show on the outside. A kind of endurance that Christ grants to the labourers who ask it of him.
You may not feel strong. Neither do I. Endure.
You may feel like the goal is forever away. Put one foot in front of the other. Endure.
You may wonder where the next step is. Wait for God's direction. It will come. Endure.
Those who endure to the end will be saved.
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