“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Giving up is the easiest thing to do and the hardest thing to forget.
I’ve played “what if/if only” far too many times. You know that little game I’m sure. The one that runs an endless loop; “What if I had kept going? If only I had stuck it out. Oh why did I give up?” History is littered with men and women who decided that, for whatever reason, they were not up to the task or challenge before them. Do you remember any of their names? No? Neither do I. We remember the ones who stuck it out and stayed the course.
The Bible has a lot to say about not giving up; the two words that biblical writers used most frequently in their encouragement were persevere and endure. Both of these words share the same root meaning: “to be in a state that begins and continues, yet may or may not end.” But they each have another word attached that makes all the difference: endure includes the word hypo meaning “under”; while persevere attaches the word epi, which means –“on” or “over.” They are often used interchangeably, and you may recognize them from medical terminology. I believe these two words hold an important key for us, because they represent two vastly different mindsets. The difference is whether we will endure under or persevere over.
Let’s be honest – sometimes our circumstances seem to bury us – we’ve all felt buried under mounds of bills, or the heavy cloak of sorrow. We’ve all felt the weight of responsibilities that seem to crush the life out of us. The burden we bear at times is truly oppressive. Those are the times we endure our struggles by crying out to God and, follow Peter’s words to – “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (2 Pet. 4:7). We look to God for comfort that only He can give. We trust that He will carry us when the weight becomes “far beyond our ability to endure” (2 Cor. 1:8). Jesus understands the burdens we bear. We can trust Him to carry our suffering – and carry us through.
Then there are times when we must look at our difficulties from a different angle, not from under, but from above, and we must determine that we will persevere over our struggles. What situation or challenge has God placed before you? How will you approach it? What will keep you strong till the end? This is when we choose to persevere. Listen to what Scripture tells us we will gain when we persevere:
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:36)
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
The crown of life is the reward for persevering and overcoming our struggles and challenges. But wait! There’s more! Hear Jesus’ own words from Revelation 2:19: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance…” What a testimony that will be when our Savior, our example for persevering, commends us!
How do we gain this ability to persevere? Hebrews 12:1 is the prescription for perseverance: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Who is your great cloud of witnesses? You and I have great witnesses in the men and women who have gone through struggles and trials and challenges – and persevered till they received their reward. Look to the saints of Scripture, those who believed enough to hang on to their faith and their God. My best friend finds great strength in the lives of the martyrs of the faith. Perhaps you can look back to a parent or grandparent who stood strong in the face of adversity and won the crown of life. You might even want to surround yourself with godly friends who will serve as a great cloud of encouragement for you.
What are you allowing to slow you down? In the earliest days of the Greek races, the runners would alter their clothing, or tuck their garments into a belt to keep from getting tangled up in the fabric around their legs. This is the picture the writer was projecting. Don’t allow anything to hinder your progress. Not sin, nor doubt, not fear and not the inevitable stumble. Shut out every voice but the ones that are cheering you on. Learn to listen for God’s voice, for He is surely your truest fan!
Run your race. God has not called me to run the same race He has laid out for you, and vice versa. Don’t look at the other runners and compare yourself, either good or bad. He will enable you to do what He has called you to do, not what He has called the runner in the next lane to.
Then consider, where is your focus? On yourself, your circumstances, or on God? Do you know that God is all-powerful? Do you trust in His love for you? Do you believe that He is sovereign and in control of your life? Are your eyes fixed on Jesus? Do you know how Jesus persevered as He suffered on the cross? By fixing His eyes “on the joy set before Him” (Heb. 12:2b). What was that joy? The vision of you and me, kneeling and casting before Him our crown of life.
The choice to persevere or give up is one you and I will face every day. Sometimes the consequences seem insignificant, but you will never know the joy of overcoming if you give in to fear and doubt. Let’s commit today to see this thing through, to go the distance, to run the race with our ears attuned to the Father and our eyes on Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Then you and I can kneel down together and cast our crown at the feet of Christ.
Holy, gracious Father, fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit, the hope of eternity and Your joy to give me strength. I am committed to run the race, because You are committed to see me through. Amen.