Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: endurance

When life gets hard

Let me be honest with you.

If we choose to live our lives with the goal of obtaining God’s promised opportunities for kingdom partnership, it’s not going to be easy.  That kind of life was not easy for any of the ancient faith heroes listed in Hebrews Chapter 11.  It wasn’t easy for Jesus either – the whole world system was against Him.

But that is precisely what we need to keep in mind when it does get tough:

Hebrews 12:3, 7-8
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up…Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.  For what son is there that a father does not discipline?  But if you are without discipline – which all receive – then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Perspective matters.  Are we trying to merely endure our difficulties until we find our next moment of rest/pleasure/escape…or are we looking at opposition from other people as useful discipline from the Lord?

Hebrews 12:9-10
Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them.  Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness.


One Sunday, every year in June, we stop and reflect on all the lessons our human fathers taught us.  We learned lessons directly from him, and we had to learn some the hard way.  Looking back now, we are thankful for all he did and taught to prepare us for our adult life.

Even more so, we can trust God’s discipline to be in our best interest.  The lessons we learn now will carry over to our next life in eternity.

Hebrews 12:11
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.


Will we allow ourselves to be trained by God’s discipline, trained to be Christ-like in our approach to difficulties?  We will not experience the peaceful fruit of [right-living] unless we are trained by the hard stuff God allows to happen in our lives.

When life gets hard…not if, but when…look at it as training that has a purpose.  And we can have the endurance to learn and grow as we consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that [we] won’t grow weary and give up.

Perspective matters.

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

How to clear the path

“But what does God want me to DO?”

Ever ask that question?  Yeah, me too.

We are now at the start of Hebrews 12.  From here to the end of the book, the author gives specific details about the doing of a Christian’s life.  And we’re prepared to fully understand what he recommends…because we have traveled with the author as he directed the orchestra of examples, warnings, and encouragement around the one central theme – the importance of our life choices now and how they affect our participation with Christ in the future.

We are ready to ask, “So what does this type of life look life?  What are we supposed to DO?”  Now that we have the context, the WHY behind the author’s direction to DO will make more sense than if we just plopped the Bible open to Hebrews 12 and began to read.  Even better, knowing the context always makes the text easier to apply.  So, let’s take a look:

Hebrews 11:39-12:1
All these [Old Testament heroes] were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us


The ancient heroes of the faith act as courtroom witnesses who testify that living for God now is worth the sacrifice.  We can, by our actions now, participate in the fulfillment of what the ancients longer for.  It is almost as if the author is asking:

If God sticks to His promises, why wouldn’t we want to avoid sin altogether…but also avoid anything that may hinder us in our pursuit of the life Jesus has laid out for us?

But that’s just hard, isn’t it?

Not only do we have to contend daily with the nagging desire to sin…there are a lot of things that clamor for our time, many ‘good’ things that can take up a lot of our day.

Social media, hobbies, app games on our phones, sports, TV shows, and movies can quickly take up our free time.  Let’s be honest – we watch a ton of TV, and if we’re not watching TV then we’re probably on our phones.  (Or maybe we’re doing both at the same time?  Yep, I'm guilty of this, too.)

We start ‘relaxing’ and oh-so-easily slide into indulgence.  Is it time to set a timer on our TV?  Is it time to delete that app? (You know the one.) How can we use our hobbies to invest in others and contribute to God’s purposes, not just our own?

It’s a mental shift.  It’s a purposeful decision.  It is a constant, day-by-day choice, which is why the author says to do it, we must run with enduranceEndurance is only needed for hard things, but he says that it is worth it in the end.  Even if I have to give up a ‘good’ thing now, in order to do the ‘best’ thing for eternity future.

But we’re not left hanging with a simplistic ‘you should do this’ statement, either.  Not only does the author give us that WHAT to do, but the HOW to accomplish this lifestyle:

Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.  For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We end up where we look.  Our focus determines our direction.  We aren’t the first one to walk this path.  With Jesus as our example to imitate, we know what success looks like.  As we focus on Him – there is nothing that can deter us from our task, no earthly hindrance that will keep us from completing our race.

And as we are among those who complete this race, we will also participate with God when He fulfills the trust of the Old Testament heroes.

What an opportunity!

Keep Pressing,
Ken
 

Worth reading and worth fighting for

Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself a rather embarrassing question:

When was the last time you actually read something?

It’s not that I don’t read at all.  Like most everyone, there are many things every day that I need to look at and read.  Work policies, news stories, sports articles, emails, text messages, magazines, internet searches…we read lots of stuff, right?  Well, sort of.

Truth be told, I don’t read much of what’s put in front of me.  I skim.  And not just a little…I skim everything

Whether it’s the lunch menu or an official document, my tendency is to scan for key words and trust my assessment based upon what I find.  With the amount of information we’re bombarded with on a daily basis, it feels like we’d never make it through a day if we stopped to really, truly read and understood everything.  I’ve managed along through life alright with this method…it only occasionally causes me issues…but I find this habit creeping into my time with God, as well.

When reading the Bible, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of skimming so we can just “get it done” and move on the next task for the day.  And while Jesus did promise that one of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to remind us of everything He taught (John 15:4), it’s really tough to be reminded of something we skimmed and didn’t fully understand in the first place.

So, let’s slow down, for just a moment.  Let’s read the oh-so-easy-to-skim list of characteristics Paul told Timothy to pursue.  Paul said these things were worth fighting for.  We’ll make sure we understand them…and then we’ll make sure we know how to pursue them ourselves.  You with me?

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Now you, man of God run from these things,
but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith,
love, endurance and gentleness.

Fight the good fight for the faith;
take hold of eternal life,
to which you were called
and have made a good confession
before many witnesses.

Now, let’s look at what these terms mean.

righteousness – being in a right relationship with God; living a life according to God’s standards of integrity and purity, with correct thinking, feeling, and action

godliness – reverence and respect towards God, with the desire to imitate God’s qualities

faith – the belief that God is truthful and trustworthy

love – this is agape love, a love that is specific in affection, intention, and benevolence; it is given without condition or requirement of reciprocity

endurance – steadfastness, consistency, and patient continuance; the characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and their loyalty to God, by even the greatest trials and sufferings

gentleness – mildness, humility, meekness; strength under control when interacting with others

Now that we’ve read and understood Paul’s words, where do we go from here?  Paul said they’re worth fighting for, so how do we go about doing that?

For you, maybe one characteristic stood out from the rest.  Take the next week, and ask God each day to show you ways to pursue that specific trait in your life.

Alternatively, take one characteristic each day and focus in on that.  Today, tell God you want to increase your righteousness with Him.  Ask Him to point out the areas of your life that are rightly aligned with Him.  And then ask Him to show you what parts need to be cleaned up.  Tomorrow, purse godliness and pray specifically about a characteristic of His that you want to imitate – His kindness, His generosity, His strength.  The next day, talk to God about faith and increasing your trust in Him.  And so on, for each of the six characteristics.

Follow either plan…and in a week’s time, you’ll be amazed at what God has taught you.

Thanks for reading.  Now, take hold of eternal life, to which you were called.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Finding endurance, finding patience

We’ve all had times when we’re weary.  We tell ourselves that we just need a little recharge – whether it’s good food, or additional sleep, or some relaxation time.  Those things are good, and it is necessary build-in good eating, sleeping, and resting habits into our lives…but if we’re going to live life the way God intended us to, we’re going to need more than just a good night’s rest.

In the first chapter of his letter to the believers in Colossae, Paul continues spell out what he’s praying for them.  He specifically details three things that he is persistently asking God for on their behalf.  The first one was that God would fill them with the knowledge of His will (1:9).  The second request is one that we’re familiar with asking for ourselves…to be strengthened by God.  However, Paul also has a specific application as to where he wants the Colossians to use this gift from God:

Colossians 1:11
May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience

The believers are to receive strength, they are to be empowered, by a God-sized dose of His glorious might.  Paul is not looking for a “little boost” to get them through.  This strength won’t be found in us, or drummed up from within…Paul is asking that God would super-naturally strengthen them by sharing His great power, the same power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead.

This is no small request!

Large requests, however, must be made with an intentional aim.  We would not walk up to our boss and ask for authority or control “just because”; no, we know better than to make that request without having a plan for how to use the resources we are asking for.

Paul’s desire is that with God’s power, the Colossians would be strengthened…for all endurance and patience.  Having endurance means to not easily succumb under suffering; whereas patience means having self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate.  On the contrary, having a lack of endurance often results in despondency or losing heart; while a lack of patience often leads to wrath or revenge.

In order to have the level of endurance and patience the Colossians needed to represent Christ to the world while navigating the sinful culture around them, they would need God’s power to be their strength.

Reading verses like this one gives us hope, for we now know that God’s power is available to us.  We don’t have to cultivate our own endurance.  We aren’t expected to be our own source of patience.  We can have both as we depend on God for His power to strengthen us.

All we have to do, is ask.

Keep Pressing,
Ken 

Healthy teachings for the older men

After giving instructions on how to recognize those who teach what is contrary to the gospel and how deal with their corrupted teachings, Paul then turns his attention back to Titus:

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

In direct contrast to the false teachers, Paul exhorts Titus to present teachings that line up with the gospel message that Christ alone has paid the price for our sins.  No matter how high we pile up good works, we cannot pay back our wrongs.  However, after we place our faith in Christ, when we trust him and his payment…we are no longer held guilty in the eyes of God.  This “not guilty” verdict isn’t an isolated chapter in our lives; instead it bleeds over into every part of who we are and how we live. 

After accepting Christ as Savior and becoming “not guilty”, the Cretan believers needed help in figuring out “What’s next?”.  We often have similar questions.  Thankfully, Paul gave Titus some topics to go over with the new Cretan believers.  No doubt they found them challenging, and I bet we will too.

Christian Living literature sells quite well.  It seems that everyone is asking “What’s next?” and that many people believe they have the answer for men, or young women, or wives, or retirees, or young parents, etc, etc, etc…every division of people groups you can imagine.  Paul divided his Cretan audience into four groups: older men, older women, young women, and young men.  He gave direct, tailored advice to each group.  Even though each of us only fit into one of these categories, it will be beneficial to look at each one and consider why God is asking for these specific traits at this specific point in our lives. 

Titus 2:2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith in love and in endurance.

Each of these characteristics look toward the highest level of maturity.  Older men will not reach this level of maturity by accident, either.  By default, men will grow increasingly self-centered as we grow older, so these traits are to be reinforced and taught to the older men.

So how does an older man keep from becoming increasingly selfish?

The second half of the verse is key – to be sound in the faith, in love, and in endurance.  The Greek word for sound is the same one used in Paul’s direction to Titus for sound doctrine.  A healthy faith, a healthy love, and a healthy endurance will guide an older man into clearheaded, dignified, and sensible living.

Faith, love, and endurance are kept healthy as they are related back to the sound doctrine of the gospel.  In God’s salvation plan, we find a place for our faith, our greatest example of selfless love, and the ultimate model of endurance.

If you fit the category of an older man, look to Christ to keep your faith, love and endurance healthy.  These should be your aim as you live out your relationship with Jesus.

If you don’t fit the category, I’m certain you know someone who does.  Will you pray for them today?  Ask God to give them the desire to be sound in the faith, in love, and in endurance.

Keep Pressing,
Ken