“The victory may have been theirs, but it is not for the victory alone that they are honored. Rather, it is for the quality of their effort and the manner of their striving.”
The quote above is one from Sports Illustrated – and I have it hanging on my office door because, while Sports Illustrated intended for it to refer to athletes, it makes me think so much about life. It reminds me, and challenges me, too, that I can glory in the Lord and enjoy the blessings He brings because He strengthens me to fight through the struggle He also brings.
It's interesting that when the Bible speaks of life, it often does so in terms of competition – fight, run, race, finished, endurance. These are some of the words you would find, referring to how to live this life, reading through the New Testament. Hebrews 12.1 says, "…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The biblical word endurance (or perseverance) is the ability to keep on doing the things you have been called to do (and have committed yourself to doing) when you are on top of the world and when the world is on top of you. Nothing is more essential to success than endurance. Faith is the gunshot that starts the race – endurance is what keeps you going.
Other than Christ, there might not be any greater example of one who strove more than the Apostle Paul. We're talking about a guy who was shipwrecked, thrown in prison, stoned and dragged out of a city to be left for dead - only to get up and walk back into that same city. Some would call that dumb – I call it tough as nails. But in writing to his young protégé, Timothy, Pauls says – “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6.12). Then in the next letter he writes, just before he's about to die, he tells Timothy – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4.7-8). In other words – Hey Timothy, remember when I told you to fight? Well I did – I fought, and finished, and won. And now the Lord is going to reward me for fighting the fight He gave me the strength and power to fight. Talk about sovereignty. Talk about grace and faithfulness. Talk about redemption when before Christ I couldn’t even fight - I couldn’t even put on the gloves or the shoes.
This matter of striving is so critical to the Christian life that James 1 tells us that above all other human traits, this is the one God wants built into our lives. Why? Because if we will strive and endure then God can do anything in our lives and through our lives – “And let steadfastness (endurance) have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1.4).
So what do you do when the pressure is on? All kinds of people get up in the morning, put on their running clothes, and start the race. But the test comes when the miles click past and the muscles start to fatigue. What do they do then? It’s easy to put on a white dress, rent a tuxedo, and get to the front of the church to say, "I do." But to have a happening marriage - not for five years, but for life - that takes striving and enduring. It’s one thing to have a kid(s), but to keep on training that kid(s) day in and day out, following through on what you have said and taught - that takes commitment!
Let me say in addition to that - it's easy to pray a prayer, it’s easy to confess (with words) faith in Christ - but to keep following Him when the pressure is on takes striving, staying power.
As you look ahead, there's no way for you to know what's ahead in 2010 but you can be sure that God’s mercies will be new every morning. Start each day asking Him for the strength to strive and endure so you can fight the good fight of faith – AND WIN!