My kids are enrolled in a homeschool Physical Education program at a nearby church. Because this particular program fulfills a state-required credit for high school graduation, it’s more involved than playing games and meeting new friends. The main goal this year is for the kids to run in two 5k races… one in the fall to set a baseline time, and another in the spring to chart improvement. Knowing that Jason (14) and Leia (12) were a little apprehensive about completing a 3 ½ mile course, I told them that if they would attempt it, I would too.
Well, our training started last week. After stretching and warming up, the instructor had us do our first ‘mini-run’. The course consisted of one half a lap around the gym, up a flight of stairs, another half lap around the gym and then down a second set of stairs. Repeat eight times. All total, we were supposed to complete ¼ mile. My group started out at a nice easy pace, and I was careful to keep track of my laps. By the time, we were finished with the fifth time around, several students were already headed back to the bleachers to sit. Since we were all running at about the same general speed, I had a suspicion that due to fatigue, most of the early ‘finishers’ had opted out of the last few laps. My legs were burning too, but I knew it was important to finish the run because these preliminary training exercises were essential to flex our muscles and condition them for the real race in a few weeks. When fatigue sets in, it’s easy to be tempted to cut a few corners when no one is looking, but to overcome that natural impulse to stop, a clear vision of the ultimate objective is essential.
We know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Several times in the New Testament, scripture connects living the Christians life to running a long footrace. But just like the kids in our P.E. class, Christians often interrupt conditioning that’s intended to build endurance because we lack clear understanding of the purpose of training. Heartache and hardship wear on us, causing us to become easily winded and sidelined. In the verse above, Paul helps us see that part of the reason for difficulty is to build perseverance, character and ultimately, hope. I’m pretty certain that most people don’t associate ‘suffering’ with producing hope. More often, we tend to see trouble as an eroding factor… that is, when distress results from dashed expectations, we drift toward hopelessness, believing the lie that God has forgotten or no longer loves us. That short-sighted view of our circumstances derails our training. Paul reminds us that suffering coaches us in perseverance, challenging us to push forward with confidant trust in the Lord even when our emotions, logic, and even our friends tell us to stop.
But… as we are careful to submit obediently to our Instructor, and continue to persevere over the course of months and years, godly character develops that produces a confident hope in the Lord that’s built on the solid foundation of God’s truth and the personal experience seeing Him work.
Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith… ~ Hebrews 12:1-2