I read a lot… But I don’t necessarily enjoy it. I really have to force myself to pay attention and I can only tackle small chunks at a time (unless I’m reading Harry Potter… that story gripped me like no other!). Given my need to endure through reading, it’s ironic that I’m currently reading a book called Endurance.
It’s written by Alfred Lansing and if you’ve read it, you know that it’s a page turner. It’s the story of Ernest Shackleton and his team of men who set out to explore Antartica in 1914. The title of the book is fitting for two reasons… First, the ship upon which they sailed to Antarctic (specifically engineered to withstand and battle the arctic elements) was called the Endurance. Second, because the mission quickly failed, the Endurance sunk, and the men had to endure the harsh elements for months on end floating on a giant piece of ice.
As I’ve read through the story, I’ve been blown away at the lengths to which these men went in order to survive. From eating seal blubber to sleeping in soaking wet clothes in sub-zero temperatures, these men endured to the very end.
This story fascinates me because I’m not sure this will to survive and endure is something many of us exercise anymore. We switch from show to show until we are satisfied. We move from relationship to relationship until we feel loved. And we jump from job to job until we finally “arrive” at whatever status or income we are chasing. You don’t see too many people sticking it out with the same spouse for 50 years or staying at the same job for 30+ years. We don’t know how to endure anymore.
Even more, we are often weakest when it comes to spiritual endurance. Maybe you tried to get sober, but the temptation was just too strong. Maybe you tried to quit watching pornography, but our sexualized culture keeps pulling you back in. Maybe you want to spend time with God everyday, but something always comes up. Maybe you’d really like to love your neighbor, but there’s too many other things fighting for your attention. Spiritual endurance is tough.
But it’s worth it.
Why? Because the reward of being with and knowing Jesus is far better than any temporary relief of pain we might experience by not enduring. It’s far better than any temporary dopamine rush that might satisfy our appetites for a few quick seconds. The reward of knowing and being with Jesus is eternal.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians knew why he endured. According to chapter 3 verse 12, he endured so that one day he might receive the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And later, in verses 20-21 we see that the prize is not only being with Jesus, but a total renewal and redemption of our world and bodies. Paul knew that the pain of endurance was worth the prize of Jesus.
But how do we endure? The best way I know to answer that is to keep your eyes on Jesus. We endure only when we can see beyond our current circumstances to our future reward. For many of us, this will require a change in mindset. We can no longer only be focused on the Here and Now, but rather we need to think Here and There. A Here and There mindset acknowledges the reality of the pain we experience here everyday… But it looks forward to the day when that pain is no more (Philippians 3:20-21).
So, in a year that’s been rough and tough and full of hardship, can I encourage you today? I want to encourage you to endure. To set your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him ENDURED the cross. And what was the joy set before Him?
Well… He died for you.
Which leads me to believe that the joy for which He endured the cross was reconciliation with you. Jesus endured the most humiliating painful death, because He wanted the joy of being with you for eternity. He endured to experience the joy of no more evil, the resurrection of the dead, and new life to all who believe. And when you know that He is the reward waiting for you, hopefully you can endure as well.