David Jeremiah - A Life of Endurance
Almost every day when I'm in San Diego, I go to a gym to work out with a trainer. I know you think it should be more obvious, but I do. My trainer is a guy named Todd Durkin. He's one of the best trainers in the country, one of the best things that happened to me in recent years. Turned out to be a great friend. Beside the fact that he's an incredible physical fitness expert and a dynamic motivator, Todd Durkin is also a Christ follower. And we often talk about the similarities of physical training and spiritual training. Recently, we were talking about weight lifting and the two approaches that athletes adopt when they're in training.
And here's what I learned. Heavy weights lifted fewer times in succession produce greater strength. Lighter weights lifted with more repetitions produce greater endurance. When it comes to life, most of us can lift a heavy weight now and then. We only have to do it once or twice. In other words, major problems that come and then go away quickly, we can deal with that. But for me, for me it's not the big problems that are the hardest. For me, the problems that are the toughest to overcome are the problems that never seem to get solved, the ones that keep coming back. And I believe that God wants you and me to be strong men and women of faith. And to achieve that, we have to become men and women of resilience and endurance. If I cannot stand strong under the adversity of unrelenting pressure, I will lose the joy of my journey and be not very valuable as a warrior of the faith.
There's a verse in the Bible that never ceases to challenge me. It's Hebrews 10:36, and I want you to read it with me out loud. It's real short. Are you ready? Here we go. "You have need of endurance". You also have need of a little volume. Let's try that again. All right, here we go. "You have need of endurance". And now, just to make sure you got it, turn to your neighbor and say to your neighbor: "You have need of endurance". All right, for me, endurance is needed because, as someone once told me, the Christian life is so daily. It requires a sustained determination. And that's why God wants to infuse in you and in me this can-do attitude of supernatural endurance and perseverance. We cannot give up in the midst of the stress. Stress we will have; what we do "Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise".
We have need of endurance. We need to remember, all of us, that the Christian life is not a 100-yard dash. It's a marathon run. As we mentioned already, it's so daily. You get up every morning and there it is, the Christian life staring you right in the face. What are you gonna do with it today? How are you gonna respond when you go through the trouble that always accompanies life for us? So here, from the 58th book of the Bible, here from the book of Hebrews, are some strategies to help you develop this quality of endurance in your life. And let me just take them one by one, and we'll explore them from this book. First of all, embrace your adversity. You say, "Pastor, I have heard you say a lot of things. That's the most counterintuitive thing I have ever heard in my life. Whoever in the world embraces their adversity"? But the Bible is very clear that the way God teaches his children endurance is through adversity.
So often when stuff happens to me that I wasn't expecting, had a few of those things recently, I'm tempted first of all to ask why. And I've told you before, you can ask God why all you want. He's just not obligated to answer. But I think our question ought not to be why all the time. Perhaps it ought to be what. "Well, God, what do you wanna do with my life during this time? What do you want me to learn? How can I embrace my adversity to become a more enduring follower of Christ"? Here's the second thing. Surround yourself with champions. Once again from the book of Hebrews, this time from the 12th chapter. The 12th chapter of Hebrews, as you know, begins with the word "Therefore". In order to understand the "therefore" of Hebrews 12, you have to understand the content of Hebrews 11 and most of you already do. You may not remember that it's Hebrews 11 but you know there's a chapter in the Bible where all of the Old Testament saints are listed and they're given accolades for their faith and for their faithfulness to God and for their endurance and they're champions. Hebrews 11 is often called the Hall of Fame of the Bible, or the Hall of Faith of the Bible.
Hebrews 12, verse 1, makes sure we understand how important that chapter is because here's what it says. Now let me finish the verse: "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us". I need you to understand that you will never know the value of Hebrews 11 unless you understand that the witnesses of Hebrews 11 are not seeing witnesses; they're saying witnesses. They're speaking to us out of history about their victories and we learn about them through studying their lives and following their faith journey and watching how God used them in a mighty way. When you're going through something, call up one of the witnesses and let them speak to your life. That's why we study the Old Testament. That's why I love the stories of the Bible, because these stories are witnesses to us, "You can make it".
Why do we know that? Because they did and they're gonna tell you about what happened in their life. And as you study their faith journey, you're gonna be blessed and encouraged like you wouldn't believe. Ladies and gentlemen, you have to gather around you some champions One of the best and most enjoyable things we can do to develop endurance in our lives is to learn how it was achieved in the lives of others. Read the stories of the champions and see if it doesn't bring energy and determination to your own heart. And the Bible is one of the great sources for these stories. Some people say, "Well, you should only read the Bible". No, no, no. Even people who don't know God and don't know Jesus can help you with their life.
You say, "Well, they're not Christians. How could they help me"? Watch what they do. You know in the book of Philippians when Paul is giving us the story of how we're to deal with anxiety, he gets all done with the prayer section and he says then, "By the way, think on these things". And then he lists all these qualities of things we should think on. Not any of them are necessarily spiritual qualities, things that are good, things that are truthful. They're kind of general qualities. And I think that gives us some permission to realize that while not everyone in our world is a Christian, most people have something to contribute and, even if they get it, their truth, their truth ultimately came from God 'cause all truth is from God.
So embrace your adversity and then surround yourself with champions. Could I just say a word here. I don't have time to say much about it. There are some people in your life who aren't champions. In fact, they're tearing you down. I wanna tell you, you can't afford to have too many of those speaking into your life if you're gonna keep going. You need champions to speak into your life. You say, "Well, I'm supposed to be their friend". Yeah, you can be their friend but here's the key. If they're tearing you down more than you're lifting them up, you might wanna think about not doing that anymore. So embrace your adversity and surround yourself with champions and then find your passion and pursue it. If you get a chance, go back and read Philippians chapter 3 and Paul's discussion of how he pressed forward to the goal and he wouldn't look either way, forgot those things which were behind and pressed toward those things which are before.
So if you're gonna build endurance in your life you have to embrace your adversity, surround yourself with champions, find your passion and pursue it, and get rid of what's holding you back. Here's what Hebrews says: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us". The writer of Hebrews says that the Christian life is like running a race and nobody runs a race in an overcoat and boots. No, you've noticed they just have on enough clothing to be less than indecent We all know from painful experience that unbelief erodes our confidence in God and I believe that was the sin that was holding back the Hebrews. They had once believed that God was sufficient but now they had lost that confidence and they were afraid to go forward because they had forgotten that God who had helped them then would help them now. It's particular form of unbelief that's very damaging. They started feeling sorry for themselves and this became a weight around them.
I'm not gonna spend much time here this morning, identifying what weight is holding you back. The reason I don't have to do that is because you already know what that is. You know. It's the thing that gets in your way over and over again. You're trying to have some momentum for God. You're trying to move forward, men, and serve him but every time you turn around, this weight gets in the way. I'm challenging you today in the words of Hebrews to get rid of that weight. Get rid of it. Don't just put it to the side. Destroy it. Get it completely out of your experience. Don't let that weight hold you back from serving God and knowing the joy that he wants you to have.
Number five: don't even think about quitting. Oh, do I wanna preach Hebrews 12:1 says: "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us". Did you know that in the book of Hebrews the little phrase "Let us" occurs 13 times in the book of Hebrews and it speaks to us every time. Yes, God helps us and we can never do it without his grace but we have a part, too. Let us go forward. Let's us get in this race. Let's don't sit back and passively watch life go by when there's something Here's a secular book that spoke to my life this year. And the book has an interesting name. It's called, "Grit". That's the title of the book. Written by Angela Duckworth. And in this book she does a study on what makes people succeed. And she's trying to play off two different ideas of success.
One idea of success says you succeed because you were born with the right genes, you have great parenting, and you grew up in a good home, and had all the advantages so you succeed. The other model says, no, success has a little to do with that but not very much. Success is about your passion and your perseverance in going after a goal. She determined that grit, that was the term she gave it, was the key to succeed. And here's how she defines grit. She said, "To be gritty is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To be gritty is to hold fast to an interesting and purposeful goal. To be gritty is to invest day after week after year in challenging practice. To be gritty is to fall down seven times and get back up eight".
And she shares so many stories in this book about people who have been through that. One of my favorites is about actor Will Smith who explains his success in the entertainment industry this way. He said, "The only thing that I see that's distinctively different about me is I'm not afraid to die on the treadmill. I will not be outworked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be all of those things, you've got it on me in nine categories, but if we get on the treadmill together there's two things. You're either getting off first or I'm gonna die. It's really that simple".
What he was saying is he wasn't gonna quit. What he was saying is he was gonna stay after it. The Bible says we must run with perseverance the race that is set before us. You may remember I told the story of a guy named Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man to successfully climb to the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on the earth. The story of that herculean accomplishment was told in the book, "Touch the Top of the World," and shortly after that, I got a letter from Erik's father who saw the program and he wrote me this letter. It was really interesting but part of the letter, he told me what happened next after Mount Everest. He said, "As Erik was completing his Everest descent, his team leader spoke these words to him which profoundly affected the next chapter in his life. He said to him, 'Don't let Everest be the greatest thing you ever do,' meaning do not create a mausoleum of your trophies and retire on your laurels.
And many years later, after 6 full years of intense training, Erik solo kayaked the mighty rapids of the Grand Canyon, 277 miles, blind, a feat way more difficult than Everest". What did he do? He would not stop. He would not quit. He would not say back, "This is what I've done". For this man, his dreams were way more important than his memories and he kept fighting. I would be so, so honored to meet a man of such endurance. And then the Bible also reminds us that we have to stay focused on our goal. Read what happened to Jesus and what he went through so that he can accomplish his goal. He endured the cross. He anticipated the joy that would follow. We endure because he endured. And he endures still, both now and forever. In fact, it is no overstatement to say that our ability to endure whatever life throws at us is rooted and grounded in the enduring quality of God.
Colossians 1, verse 11, is a key text and it reminds us of this divine cooperative that we've been talking about today. Paul wrote to the Colossians and he said, "Strengthened with all might, according to God's glorious power". Why do you need to be strengthened with all might, according to God's glorious power? "For all patience and longsuffering with joy". For endurance. The Bible says that when we seek endurance and we follow God's command and we get in the stream of what God wants to do in our life, you can be sure that his might and his glorious power will be the core of your life and you're gonna need it to be enduring and resilient in life.
I want to be an enduring follower of Jesus Christ. I don't want to be a drop-out. I don't want to be a casualty and I am not going to quit. And I don't want you to quit. I don't want you to quit on God. I don't want you to quit on Jesus Christ. I don't want you to quit on the Scriptures. I don't want you to quit on your wife or your husband or your children. I don't want you to quit on your neighbors. I don't want you to quit on life. Quitters every time look back with regret. So don't quit. Let's go on. Let's become God's people. Let's do God's work together. Let's strengthen one another and when we're going through stuff, let's remember that's not always a negative thing. God's just getting you ready for something special. And you're going to be attempting.