When I hear the word endurance I think of an intense athlete or soldier. Someone who is extremely fit and has spent thousands of hours training both mentally and physically in preparation for a consuming purpose. This person goes hard after his goal, he practices self-control, self-denial and discipline to accomplish his objective at any cost.
God’s Word tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).” ...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…”
Scripture uses the analogies of the athlete and the soldier as well as it speaks of spiritual endurance. Paul tells Timothy to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). He also uses the analogy of athletics… “so I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).
In the New Testament, endurance is the characteristic of someone who has…“not swerved from his deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” (MacArthur, James)
Every follower of Christ wants to endure. No one gets up in the morning and says, “I think I will fail today.” We all want to finish each day well, but sometimes it's just plain hard! Life is full of potholes, difficult terrain and steep inclines. Our endurance wavers and we lose momentum.
Running with endurance is a CHOICE
Running after God is a choice and that daily choice begins with who rules your life, who controls your desires and who dominates your decisions.
We must choose to let God rule our life (Galatians 5:16–25). It is a choice to say “no” to self and “yes” to submitting to God (Matthew 16:24). If I rule my life, then God doesn’t. It’s just that simple.
One author warns; “We will never give proper attention and praise to the Lord if we can’t get our eyes off of ourselves and our selfish desires… there is no end to the ways our self-interest can steal our focus away from God and inhibit our usefulness in the work of His kingdom.”
It’s only when we intentionally yield our will daily to our Lord that we can say with Paul, “For the love of Christ controls us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
1. Choose to intentionally chase after truth
Paul models such incredible intensity as he pursued knowing and obeying Christ singlemindedly throughout his life
“...Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on...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.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Proverbs 4:23 tells us clearly we need that very intensity as we guard our minds because how we think affects every area of our lives.
It is a choice ...we must work hard to immerse the mind in truth. If you want to run hard after God you will want to know God intimately and you will want his words to flood your thinking so there is no room for anything else. It is our responsibility to allow the Spirit to change us by renewing our minds (Romans 12:1–2). We pursue Christlikeness by letting his word change how we think and act. (John 17:17; Psalm 119:104). God’s Word teaches us what is true and tells us what is wrong with our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It can’t happen any other way.
And when life is good...chasing after every nugget of God and truth must continue. Don’t wait for life to go bad to find God as sufficient.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you.” (Psalm 63:1)
2. Choose to aggressively deal with sin daily
Learn to say “no” to sin…because, as Scripture makes very clear, sin is always a choice, (Romans 6) and we are commanded not to just flee sin but to hate sin (John 3:19). We sin because it feels good and we like to feel good...but we all know that sin is a sugar coated poison.
Look for sin by a constant heart examination. We have blind spots. Deal with sin quickly by genuine, godly repentance…not just regret or worldly sorrow. Repentance is change.
But as we run hard after God, never forget that Satan is on the lookout and will tempt us to lose heart and give up and deny the goodness of God in our lowest points (1 Peter 5:8). Work hard to prepare for and fight battles that will come at the weakest moments. When the mind is immersed in truth (#1 above) we prepare for when we need to think right and do right (but often don’t feel like it).
What does it practically look like to run with endurance?
Read the list below and see where you might need God’s help.Commit to these today!
Submit to God each day. Seek to have him rule your heart. Do not let feelings rule.
Desire godliness and realize daily it will take enormous effort.
Recognize that to not run hard after him means that you don’t want to know him.
Fight for joy in God.
Know that a right understanding of God does not always lead to obedience, so practice and pursue holiness before the battle happens.
Growth and change come when clamoring for truth (Romans 12:1–2).
Use his Word daily to pursue a holy life (2 Timothy 2:5).
Fight wrong thinking. When in a battle constantly flood the mind with truth.
There are no days off. Immerse the mind with truth all day every day.
Count the cost—self must be denied. Choose to follow him.
Daily become increasingly aware of God’s holiness and your own sinfulness.
Work to develop a hatred of sin. Fight against sin especially “respectable” sins (Jerry Bridges), i.e. frustration, unthankfulness, discontentment, impatience, worldliness.
Prepare for the battles that will come. Train for them daily.
Live a life that is characterized by repentance.
We either grow weaker, more vulnerable, or more emotionally unstable as life assaults our faith every day, or we grow in trust and endurance by running hard after God. One or the other happens and the latter happens only through intense discipline, self-denial, and a relentless pursuit of God.
Are you running hard after God in both good times and bad?
Is your daily focus set on staying mentally fit for this race of faith?
Are you constantly practicing self-denial, developing holiness, putting off anything that hinders your pursuit of God, straining forward like an athlete or soldier no matter the obstacles?
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
Press, strive, chase, run hard after God... EVERYDAY!
About the author
Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her three children and their 12 year old yellow lab...and sushi too.