Archive for the ‘Endurance’ Category

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“ENDURING FAITH: Fuel” – Oct 2

October 2, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

I don’t know of anyone who wants to be a quitter.  Who has aspirations of being the weakest link?  I have never met a person who started their new life in Christ by setting their spiritual thermostat to lukewarm.

Yet, it happens to a lot of us.  I will venture to suggest that it has happened to the majority of us for at least a short period of time in our life.  That is why the Bible is full of encouragement to persevere and to endure.  We would not need to be reminded to fight the good fight if we were not inclined to stop fighting.

Walking in the Spirit is not a sprint.  It is a marathon and we need endurance for a marathon.

This is the second post exploring three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance.  The first post was ENDURING FAITH: The Heart.  Today, I want to think about the fuel we need to endure.

FUEL

81191-2478-030fMy personal experiences of  “hitting the wall” have never been pleasant and have always made the road home very difficult.  I had thought that the mysterious wall, lurking out at some unknown distance could be eluded with improved fitness.  However, colliding with the wall has little to do with one’s fitness level.  Most of us have seen incredibly fit athletes stumbling against their personal encounter with the wall.  The wall always wins.

Hitting the wall” only becomes a concern when you have developed enough endurance to reach it.  Typically, the wall begins to become an obstacle once you engage in a continual workout that lasts longer than 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Up until that time, most people are using the energy stored in their muscles and liver.   The collision with the wall happens when your body consumes all of its energy reserves and runs simply out of fuel.

The problems arise when we try to keep going when our internal tanks are empty.  Proper fueling is necessary to avoid this problem for the longer endurance challenges.  I don’t worry about eating anything when I do an Olympic distance triathlon.  I don’t need to bother with eating during the event since that distance is within my reserves.  However, I have to eat throughout a century ride.  I have to supply my body with energy to keep going for that type of distance.

Many people do not approach life like an endurance event.  They live like fueling their souls is optional.  Many professing Christians misunderstand the roller coaster nature of their spiritual lives.  They want to think of their spiritual highs and lows as a normal process when in reality their lives are more like a pattern of repeatedly hitting the spiritual wall.  They endure for a while until they run out of fuel from their last spiritual experience and end up on the curb, feeling horrible and miserable.  At that point, the process of recovery and restoration has to start once again to get them back on their feet.

The long walk in the Spirit requires endurance.  A life-time of good fighting requires fuel.  Just like a long endurance event requires fueling along the way, spiritual fuel must be consumed along the way of an enduring life.  Jesus instructs us about this spiritual food that we need.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  (John 6:27)

Clearly, we are to be laboring for the food that comes from Christ to fuel our endurance unto eternal life.  This food is not one big meal, served at our salvation that has to last us through to the end.  Just like Jesus, we receive spiritual food throughout our duration on this earth.  Jesus explained what this food was.

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.  (John 4:34)

This was the spiritual food that Christ received to strengthen him.  I think that this is the same spiritual food that Jesus provides to us along our spiritual paths.  Jesus feeds us along our long walk in the Spirit as we are doing God’s will.

BonkThe opposite is equally true.  We are not going to be fed if we are following our own will; if we are walking in the flesh.  Christ will allow us to crash into our personal spiritual walls when our will becomes supreme.  He will allow us to ride the miserable spiritual roller coaster of highs and lows.  There are many professing Christians sitting on the proverbial curb with their heads in their hands wondering why this whole religion thing doesn’t seem to be working.  They have run out of the fuel that they need to endure.  They have “hit the wall” because they have not been properly fueling for a life of endurance.

Fortunately, we have not been left to try and discern what God’s will is for our lives.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification:  that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  (1 Thess. 4:3-7)

God’s will for His children is their personal sanctification.  He has called us all in holiness.  The Spirit accomplishes God’s will in our lives by transforming us from sin and death into holiness.  This transformation changes who we are and how we react.  This means that there will be evidence of God’s will being fulfilled in our lives.  It is called the fruit of Spirit.  God want us to bear spiritual fruit.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8)

The fruit of the Spirit only comes by living and walking in the Spirit; setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.  Therefore, God’s will is for us to live in His Spirit and to abide in His love.  When are doing the will of the Father, living in His Spirit and abiding in His love, then He will provide the spiritual food that we need to endure.

Endurance comes from doing the will of God because that is the source of our spiritual food.

There is no short cut.  Our race is too long to endure on our internal reserves.  Disobedience will cause us to “hit the wall” and it will ultimately lead to death because setting the mind on the flesh is against God’s will.

The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Romans 8:7-8)

We all have need of endurance.  Therefore, we all have need of holiness.

A life of holiness is not an option for the child of God.  It is the source of our daily spiritual bread our eternal life depends upon it.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive me for not valuing the work of the Spirit in my life.  Forgive me for not laboring for holiness.  Forgive me for seeking my will above your will.  Father, you have been so good to me.  Thank you for the fruit that has been produced in my life.  Please continue to help me walk in your Spirit and set my mind on the things of  You.  Lord, I need the spiritual food that comes only from You.  Help me to endure well and to eternal life.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“ENDURING FAITH: The Heart” – Sept 29

September 29, 2013

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.””  Hebrews 10:36-38

Endurance training requires that you not stop.  The worst thing that you can do when you are trying to build up endurance is to stop.  The mind will always try to get you to stop for just a little while.

Shrinking back is a temptation of every workout that resides at the limits of my current endurance.  The temptation to grab the edge of the pool  for an extra breath rises at every turn past the mile and a half mark.  I almost quit ten miles from the finish-line of my last century ride.  On every run, I have a conversation within my head, in which I have to convince myself not to turn back and shrink the distance.

Endurance comes by continuing.

It is built by incrementally going a little further than the last time.  Endurance does not come by charging out the front door into some unknown distances.  That is just asking for an injury or at best, horrendously sore muscles that will force you to back down.  The best way to build endurance is to add it in increasing increments.

The writer of Hebrews identified a need for endurance in the faith of the early Church.  I think that his call to endurance is still as applicable today.  Many Christians bounce from one ministry to another.  Their quiet times are characterized by re-commitment.  Struggles result in a crisis of faith.

There are not enough brothers and sisters in Christ who demonstrate a faith that can be called enduring.  I think this is a critical issue in today’s Church.

There are three principles from physical endurance that seem analogous to our spiritual endurance; the heart, fueling, and breathing.

I plan to explore how we build enduring faith in the next couple blog posts but I would like to start with the heart.

HEART

Pulsometr donnay

Pulsometr donnay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first started training for triathlons, I wore a heart rate monitor, mostly because I was afraid of dying.  I would watch my heart rate while I exercised and set my pace accordingly.  The key to endurance is to work within the upper end of your aerobic zone.  This is the heart rate at which your body can provide oxygen and fuel to your muscle and remove waste.  If I push my heart rate too high, for too long, I will go into an anaerobic state and my muscles will fatigue in a manner that will cause me to stop.

When I first started to train, I tried to workout at approximately 130 beats/ minute.  Over time I have continued to increase that level.  I can now workout comfortable in the 150-160 range.  That did not just happen.  I gassed out a lot.  I coasted a lot.  It was a constant work in progress of finding that delicate balance between pushing my endurance by enough but not too much.  The trick is to flirt with that line.  I would never have built any endurance if I had not pushed my heart.

Riding the anaerobic edge builds endurance. 

Enduring faith is all about the heart.  We do what we love.  Spiritual activity is of little to no worth if it is done for any reason other than a love for God.  The problem for the Pharisees was religious activity that neglected the love of God (Luke 11:42).

I have seen Christians embark with great intentions of religious and sacrificial living that sputtered to a stop after a period of time.  They can’t keep it up.  They stop because they lack endurance.

Many may have committed to an activity based on the latest book or spiritual leader and not because of a love for God.  When they wear out on one method, they move onto the next.  They are living in a spiritual zone that is perpetually anaerobic.

We must watch our hearts.  We need to monitor our motivations if we are to endure.  Faith is easy when it is what you want to do.  We can keep going for decades when our activities are the demonstration of our true love.  The reverse is also true; we can only sustain activities that we don’t love for a short period of time.

Enduring faith comes from a heart that is doing what it loves to do. 

Now, there are other folks who live on the opposite extreme from the spiritually anaerobic.  They are doing what they love and have been doing it for years.  They are extremely comfortable in their faith but they really have not grown in years.  The depth of their faith and love for God has not changed in decades and sanctification is a strange religious term that they have not really experienced.  They have the tendency of letting their Pastor’s challenges lay at the altar.  They are masters at justifying why they can’t do any more.

These folks are lost in the comfortable  They refuse to allow their hearts to be challenged.  They like the very sustainable religious shuffle of their lives and really don’t want to take any grand leaps of faith.  Their faith has little endurance for anything great.

Endurance comes by riding that ragged edge of the anaerobic zone. 

Enduring faith comes from challenging our hearts.  We follow the Spirit’s leading and the direction of scripture.  We step out in faith and obedience and then we monitor our hearts.

If our faith is getting comfortable, then maybe it is time to pick up the pace a little bit.

Maybe, you feel the desire to go a little deeper.
Maybe, you have become aware of a love that you cherish more than God and the Spirit is calling you to give it up.
Maybe, God’s love has begun to overflow from you into a ministry that you never thought that you could do.

Push your spiritual pace; listen to the Spirit and go do it.

Maybe, you are tried.
Maybe, you are doing ministry from pure obligation to friends and family.
Maybe, you are grinding away in your faith but you hate every minute.

It is fine to pull back on your spiritual pace and catch your breath.  God loves a cheerful giver.  He will not be impressed with great sacrifice that comes through gritted teeth.

The key is to never stop.  Do not pull completely back.  There is no need to drop everything and give up.  Pull back a little bit and monitor your heart.  Allow God time to refresh your spirit at a level where you begin to once again feel the joy of your salvation.

Endurance is comes from this delicate balance of pushing and monitoring the love of our heart.

Our actions always need to be flowing from our love of God.
Sanctification comes from pushing our heart out of its comfort zone.

The combination produces a faith that will endure for the glory of God.

PRAYER: Lord, test my heart.  Show me where I can do more.  Lead me into great depths of knowing and serving you.  Keep my love for you overflowing.  Father, give me wisdom in all that I do.  Create in me a faith that will endure for your glory.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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