January 6, 2013

“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the Prosperity of the wicked…But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73:3, 16-17

I was doing interval training on my bicycle trainer last night.

That is not entirely true.  I intended to do interval training on my bicycle.  For those who don’t know, interval training is doing an activity, biking in my case, at an intensity that is near your anaerobic level for a short period, followed by a recovery period.  The reason you do intervals is to build up your cardiovascular capacity and lactate threshold.   The problem with intervals is that they hurt.

My plan was to push my biggest bike gear for 1 minute, followed by 2 minutes of easy spinning for recovery.  That was the plan.  However, implementing the plan did not go very well.  My head was not in the game.  I only did three intervals.  Three intervals during 40 minutes of spinning is pretty pathetic.  My problem – those things hurt.  I completely and totally wimped out – I am so disappointed in myself.   I could have gone harder but I wussed out.  I hate that.

pain-suffering-cyclingThis last summer I read an article in Bicycle Magazine that just confirmed what I had already known.  I am weak. I don’t endure pain well.  I don’t suffer well.

Why is it that some athletes have the ability to just keep going; to push just a little harder; to dig a little deeper?  I have always convinced myself that the reason that I would stop was because I had reached my physical limit.  Those guys that pushed past me were in better shape; had a higher lactate threshold; had a higher max VO2 level; were simply a better athlete.  My comfort in my mediocrity was that my body was my governor.  You can’t fight genetics.

The Bicycle Magazine article pretty much shatters my excuse with the research that has been done.  The research shows that for the majority of us our governor is our brains – we stop a long ways before we have to physically stop – we all can go harder and longer.

English: Cyclist Lance Armstrong at the 2008 T...

English: Cyclist Lance Armstrong at the 2008 Tour de Gruene Individual Time Trial, 1 November 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, why is it that some athletes can will themselves to endure what others cannot?  I believe it has to do with maintaining a vision of the end.  Why was Lance Armstrong able to win seven Tour de France races?  Putting aside all the steroid discussions, I think that Lance Armstrong was successful primarily because of this attitude:

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?”  (Lance Armstrong. It’s Not about the Bike: My Journey Back to Life)

He had a vision of the end.  That is what drove him to endure temporary pain because he would rather live with temporary pain than quitting – the only thing worse than suffering is quitting.

We are all going to have to live with something.  At the end of it all, we all will have to live with the decisions that we have made.

Endurance, perseverance, and suffering are all common themes of the Bible.  I think that we can ask the same endurance questions of our spiritual lives that we do of athletes.

Why is it that some believers can endure extreme suffering, while other give up under much lesser circumstances?

Why is it that some believers can lose family members, be criticized, be challenged, see no results of their labors and yet, still keep going?

Why is it that some believers give up on serving when they fail to receive a thank you?

Allow me to be a bold enough to suggest something that none of us will care to admit.  The difference between these Christians is not God.  God does not give different pain thresholds to various believers.  We are all filled with the same Spirit.

There is a common Christian saying, “God will not give me more then I can endure.”  There even is a popular song on Christian radio with that theme.  I cringe every time I hear it because God will absolutely give you more that you can endure.  Joni Erickson Tada has written a wonderful book on suffering, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.  She will attest to the fact that she has been given more than she can endure on her own.  I think that she puts this misconception of our human suffering capacity into perspective.  He will not give you a temptation greater than what you can resist but we will be called to endure more than we can take because that is when we rely upon him.  Our suffering is not about our capacity.  It is about His capacity and our reliance upon Him.  God will give me whatever is in His will to give me – He is sovereign.  It is not about what I can take but about what God is doing in his greater plan and in His on-going work of healing my heart.

This is where the rub comes in.  The governor of my spiritual suffering capacity (what I can take) is not God.  It is me.  Typically, we punch out long before we have to.  The reason I think that many of us “wimp out” when the going gets uncomfortable is because we don’t have a good vision of the end.  It is the same reason that I stop on my bike.  This is uncomfortable – I don’t care that much about my upcoming race – I am going to stop.  Many Christians don’t think about the end – times get uncomfortable and they seek the comfortable.

The Psalmist had this issue.  He was losing heart because the wicked were prospering.  He was wondering if all of this God stuff was really worth it.  He wanted what they had.  That was until he discerned their end. He understood that all the prosperity of the wicked was not worth it because of the judgment that they would face.

We all need a similar focus on the end – that is our goal.  There will be a day when we all will stand before our Savior – when we will fully see the glory of our Lord.  How do you think your suffering and discomfort will be compared to that?

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

On that day, I think that we will go, “I could have gone harder; I could have given more.”  My suffering was so worth this – my suffering does not even compare to this glory – I could have gone harder.

We need to adopt the attitude that the only thing worse than suffering is quitting.

On that day, I don’t want to be a quitter.

The Church is full of quitters.  People quit for all sorts of petty reasons.  People typically will punch out as soon as it gets a little hard, inconvenient, discouraging, confrontational, uncomfortable.  It doesn’t take much from our enemy to get most in the Church to give up on suffering the uncomfortable; it most often doesn’t even take the painful.

We all will endure the uncomfortable and the painful but enduring through it without quitting is optional.  Think about – we are encouraged to endure exactly because it is optional.  It is all in our heads; we have the same Spirit within us as those pillars of the faith that have gone before us. God will take us farther and longer than we can even imagine – we just need to be resolved not to punch out.

Go harder – we all can good harder – let’s endure to the end because it is going to be so worth it.

PRAYER: Father, I am such a wimp.  I have punched out way too many times.  I am weak.  I hate that.  Lord, give me the strength to endure well until the end.  Thank you for showing me glimpses of your glory.  Lord, I long to see the glory that you will reveal to us.  Forgive me for losing sight of that and focusing too much on this world.  Lift my eyes Lord; help be to keep the end continually in focus so that I will alway go harder after you and your kingdom.  Amen


  1. Amen to knowing that any of our sufferings are ‘not worthy to be compared ‘ In terms of any suffering we endure, I think this song pegs it right: “Such a tiny offering compared to Calvary.”

    • I love that sound; everything is so tiny in comparison to Calvary. I just wish I was not so inclined to take my eyes off of Calvary.
      Thanks for you comments
      God Bless.

  2. Wow. Just wow. So good. I am so happy you liked my blog so that I was able to find this. Such good words!!

    • Thanks for your kind words. I really enjoy your blog; keep it up.
      God Bless!

  3. I think that is the whole point, when Paul asks that his “thorn in the flesh” be removed, and God answers, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” If the “thorn” wasn’t more than Paul could take, he would have had no need to rely on grace. God says plainly that it is our weakness, our inability to endure, which is the key to how He heals us. Trying to make it on our own, or expecting God to empower us, rather than us submitting to Him, is where so many today fall into the world’s pattern and out of the kingdom way. Great post, much to ponder over here!

    • Amen! Paul’s thorn in the flesh is an excellent example. Thanks for sharing that insight.
      God Bless!

  4. Amen to your posting! I think back on the worst happening to me, not by choice but by chance. When my wife died as a young man, I did not have time to reflect on how I can’t handle this. I had to handle the funeral, pay for the funeral, and deal with the 150 relatives and friends who wanted to grieve along. As I reflect on what I consider challenging today, I go back to my younger days that I loved my wife, honored my wife, and buried her on sacred ground and paid all her hospital bills, etc. When you cross a major threshold in your life, you realize the worst already happened and you can handle it. Keep moving ahead in our pilgrimage with our fellow pilgrims.

    • Amen!
      Thanks for you testimony to God’s faithfulness in getting us through things that we never thought that we could handle. You have experienced it. Praise God for your enduring in the faith.
      God Bless!

  5. GAH! I needed this word today. Not just for the physical training I need to take up again (got real lazy through the month of December) but the spiritual. I’m not afraid of pain and hard work. What you’ve written and especially that Armstrong quote are SO true…I am just trying to psych myself back up for what I know is going to be a hard haul. God has taken me someplace deeper and higher in the last month and I know I have to begin again…almost anew. And I know it will be painful and hard. And worth it. So…I’m glad I stumbled over here…glad you found my OneWord3365 post and God led me to this place of faith today. Blessings JD.

    • I am so glad that I found your blog and that this post was an encouragement.
      I was just praying for you that God will give you the strength, the peace, the confidence, and the obedience to walk through the path that He has given you. He is faithful and so good and abounds in steadfast love for you.
      May He richly bless you beyond what you can even imaging.

      • Thank you JD. I’ve been receiving your daily “real and raw” and I’m fairly well “geeking out” over your writing and spiritual clarity. It’s a good thing to find a clear voice and a heart willing to be scoured out every day. Blessings to you as well Brother.

      • Thank you very much for your kind words. I am so glad that you have been blessed and encouraged. Praise God.
        God Bless!

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