Did you know that an endurance race is just a light, momentary affliction?
All of my friends who run those races probably raised their eyebrows. But, yesterday the Holy Spirit connected different parts of God’s Word to point us to that Truth. As my friend Mark was encouraging our families from 2 Corinthians 4, other scriptures were shared and the Spirit connected the dots.
God’s Word teaches us that our faith journey is an endurance race. In Hebrews 12:1-2, the author tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” In other passages, the Bible calls us to persevere in the faith. For most of us, that doesn’t sound joyful or fun. Yet, consistently throughout the Bible we are encouraged to see struggles, hardships, and suffering as an opportunity for joy. In the 2nd verse of his letter to persecuted believers, James encourages them to “Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds.” A better rendering is ‘consider it nothing but joy…’ Wow, as you run, hit snags, suffer “x”, you are to consider it nothing but joy.
However, do not fret. It’s not going to last long. When you think about it, an endurance race that a person runs is only a small, finite portion of their life. That 2-3 hours of pain, sweat, and struggle is just a vapor in their lifespan. That is what Paul is trying to show us in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18. Verse 9-10 states, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsake; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” Our struggles and sufferings, of which Paul had many, are light and momentary. Facing persecution is light and momentary. Having hardship, like losing a job, is light and momentary. If COVID-19 has you out of a job, ministry, and community rhythm, it is light and momentary. Missing family because borders are closed or travel is limited, is light and momentary. Whatever the suffering is for you, it is challenging because you are a follower of Jesus; however, it is light and momentary.
In that same section, Paul gives us more help in enduring. Not only should we consider hardships light and momentary, but we shouldn’t even look at them. In verse 18, he tells us to fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen now. Fix your hope on the one who holds all in His hands and promises to bring you to Himself. That’s what Abraham did. When all hope seemed lost and his and Sarah’s body were as good as dead, Abraham’s faith never wavered and grew stronger. Why? He kept hoping and believing in God’s promises (see Romans 4).
So, when life seems hard and peace is far away, consider it all joy because you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Consider it all joy because it is light and momentary. Like a runner striving to finish his/her race, fix your eyes on Jesus, the King of Kings, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
P.S. Want a lil’ more help? Run with a Gospel-centered community. Gospel community is as old as time because the Trinity has always existed. You are not made to run alone. Run with others so that you can motivate them and them motivate you (Hebrews 10:23-25).