Working Out Your Faith

No, this is not a blog about working out! Though that might be a good idea because I could use some pointers – like how to get off the couch… Well, I guess I am not the person for that type of blog, but we are going to talk about strength and endurance today.

At the beginning of January, we talked about “Rethinking the Resolution” and practicing everyday to be a little better than we were the day before. I hope you still wake up each day with that focus. Through the month, we discuss areas like prayer and Bible study, ways to walk with God, and bearing good fruit. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have not mastered those areas. I still have work to do, but regardless, that brings us to our next area of attention.

Strength and Endurance.

Oh, and let’s not forget Patience – with JOY (yes, patience with joy, that is not a typo. Just read Colossians 1:11. That is what it says. I had to read it several times myself.)

The last section of Paul’s prayer in Colossians reads, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” Well, then… doesn’t that sound like fun?!?. I mean times when I need strength, endurance, and patience are usually not moments that I willingly enter. I prefer moments with comfort, relaxation,… and coffee.

But obviously, that is not what we need as believers. Paul knew it was necessary to pray for these things because – like it or not – this is what we would need. This is what will help our walk with Christ.

So, what do we need to know about each of these areas?

  1. Strength

Why do we need strength as believers? I mean I don’t plan on being in a Crossfit competition wearing a Jesus shirt.

If only it were that easy…

While sometimes our Christian walk does require physical strength, I don’t think that is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote this prayer. Paul also wrote in 2 Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

And if we go on to look at Biblical examples, I don’t see one person from the Bible that lived a life I am jealous of. Each and every person we read about had it rough. They were abandoned, sold, beaten, shunned, run off, falsely accused… just to name a few, and on top of that, many of them made mistakes to make the situations worse (not that I can relate to that). Yet, many of these same characters made it in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews.

Despite their struggles, they showed faith through it all. Now that takes strength!

But let me make make sure you see the point here. Each of these believers – Noah, Job, David, Joseph, Ester, John, Mary, Paul, whoever – did not do it alone. It was not their strength that got them through. They are not strong!

We are not strong. There is no struggle – death, divorce, sickness, financial strain, career stress – we are designed to conquer alone. In fact, we were designed to be too weak to do it alone. Look at the world. It is full of regrets from people who tried to to do it alone and instead got wrapped up in addiction, affairs, and all kinds of trouble.

Embrace that fact. Own it. And then live it out. We are designed to live out of the strength of Christ. The strength of the divine man who willingly endured persecution, abuse, and a slow painful death so that we could spend eternity with him. I don’t even have the willpower and strength to run an extra half mile, but this man had the strength and determination to die for the world.

Again, this is the strength we are to draw from. This is where we are to turn. This is what Paul was praying for.

I know in the past, nearly every afternoon, I would be overwhelmed with my to-do list. As soon as I got in the car, my brain would shift from school mode to home mode and the list would begin forming. By the time I got home, I was stressed, which meant I was moody and snappy. I didn’t have the strength to control those overwhelming feelings of stress. As I grew in Christ, this became an almost daily prayer. As I would feel the anxiety creeping back up, I would begin to pray. Each and every time I allowed God’s strength to get me through the afternoon, I was able to get things accomplished and be a loving mother and wife. But I had to allow Him to work through me. I had to recognize Him as my strength.

2) Endurance.

In some translations this is called longsuffering. I know, I am thinking the same thing. Really, Paul, you felt the need to pray that I would be able to suffer a long time, thanks?!? Let’s not and say you did.

But let’s face it. As Christians, we need endurance. We need long suffering.

Let’s pretend that you never face a crisis. You never have a long illness or a heartbreaking situation to deal with. Let’s pretend that all in all you have an “easy” life but you still choose to live as a believer. You still choose to live out the example of Christ.

This alone takes endurance. You cannot accomplish the life of a believer without endurance. This race is a marathon, not a 50 yard dash. It takes discipline to live for Christ day in and day out. It takes dedication to study the Word daily. It takes priority to pray without ceasing. It takes determination not to let the world tell you your decisions are bizarre and backwards.

Even if you have a hunky-dory life, just the fact that you are believer means the devil is after you and that means you will need endurance (and strength) to walk out your faith.

3) Patience with joy.

I don’t know about you, but this feels a little bit like an oxymoron to me. Surely those two are opposites and cannot exist together?!?

I know you may be surprised by this, but I am not a patient person. It’s true…my husband will tell you. Being patient means I am not in control. It means I am waiting on someone or something else and I cannot accomplish things on my timeline or in my way. I am working on it, but I definitely haven’t gotten to the point where I can do it with joy.

I am sure I am not alone, so why is it so important that we experience patience with joy? Shouldn’t it be enough to do the right thing, even if my attitude is not quite right?

Well, first, let’s be honest. If you are waiting in a long line at the grocery store, and you are constantly straining your neck to find a shorter line, making smart remarks about waiting, and sighing dramatically, are you really being patient? And most certainly not with joy. But if you find yourself in that long line and you make casual conversation with those around you and maybe even let the little old man, who just needed a can of shaving cream, slip ahead of you, then you would be patient – with joy.

Unfortunately, most of the moments that require real patience are not the line at the grocery store. They are more like dealing with a chronic illness, waiting to have children, or even waiting for the right person to come along. Maybe you are praying for a prodigal child or praying for a career change. But God only seems to be pacifying you, if that. Those are the moments it is hard to be patient, especially with joy. Those are the moments we are tempted to take our own life in our hands and say, Well God, if you aren’t going to do anything about this, then I will. (Now, as I type this, I see the disastrous consequences in the future, but we all have been there or been tempted by that attitude.)

To be patient with joy, we need a distraction. We have to stop looking at all the areas we are waiting on and focus on the areas we do have working at the moment. God has a purpose in your wait time, so ask Him. He will turn your focus to another area of service or to a deeper relationship with Him, if we stop whining about waiting and look for a valuable way to use our time.

Find a way to serve others while you are waiting for God to answer you. It’s amazing what happens when we quit looking in the mirror and start looking at others. We begin to see beyond our own need and Jesus can use us there. I am not saying some of the issues we are waiting on are petty, definitely not, but God may have ordained that wait time, just so you can help others. Your waiting may be a testimony to others.

Our focus can be so narrow at time – it is the human way – but God sees it all. So, when we trust Him, find joy in Him, even while waiting, we can discover blessings beyond our narrow focus and beyond our wait time.

Strength, endurance, and patience are not characteristics that come easy and they don’t come from us. They all take practice and time spend with Christ. But as we have been looking at all month, we can practice these things. God desires for us to work to be better each day, to draw closer to him. We can do that through practicing pray and Bible study, learning to walk with God and bear good fruit, and using all those practices will build strength, endurance, and patience for the Lord.

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