challenges

Endure

 

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

-Hebrews 12:1

Tommy and Gina were married 52 years before being separated by Tommy’s death. When I managed a small, West Texas radio station, Gina worked as my news director. She was wise, passionate, and proactive in her community. She often visited my office, and we discussed everything from community development, to life in general. Many times, we discussed Heaven and eternity, a place she looked forward to going after her 92 years on Earth.

“Oh, I can’t wait to go to Heaven,” she’d tell me, to which I often replied, “Well, you don’t have to be in too big of a hurry to get there.”

“I can’t wait to go to Heaven to see my Tommy,” she would reply, then I’d feel guilty for my cavalier comment. That exchange always led into her reminiscing about her marriage that started rough, but grew into a stronger love than most can imagine.

“We hated each other for the first 20 years,” she would say, “but the last 30 were such a blessing.”

It always impressed me that, despite how tough it could be at times, she and Tommy stayed married, stayed committed to each other through 20 years of conflict, only to realize a more perfect love for the last 30 years of their time together.

Many married couples struggle to stay together for seven years, and that includes the good times. Fewer make it to 20 years, and even fewer stay married for 20 years in the presence of constant conflict. Yet Tommy and Gina stayed true for 20 years even though they “hated each other.” Their reward? The 30 years of wedded bliss that followed.

All of this, because they endured.

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to “run with patience the race set before us.” That word “patience” means endurance. Hence, when we run our race, we are to do so with endurance. Our race is the life God set before us. Running the race means actively living the life God has set before you. Running with endurance means you stay committed even when you don’t think you can go any farther.

Just like the marathon runner endures when he continues to run, despite all of his energy being spent, we are to endure as we live the lives God has given us.

There are times when we just don’t think we can go any farther. We can’t live in this situation one more day. When everything within us, and everyone around us tells us to give up, we are called to endure.

Married couples understand this when they stay committed to each other even though conflict abounds. Parents understand this when their kids have pushed them to the brink of insanity. Employees understand this when they continue in a job despite seven-day workweeks and 12-hour shifts. Endurance means never giving up.

Scripture promises that these times won’t last forever, and once they are over, they’ll be a distant, faint memory. In the meantime, we are called to endure.

Or to quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never give up.”

Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. He is currently leading the congregation through a study of the book of Hebrews, which will conclude Sunday, Dec. 17, with a study of Chapter 13.

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Why Is She Buying Her Stairway to Heaven?

Back when I was a rocker, one of my favorite bands was Led Zeppelin, whose most famous song was “Stairway to Heaven.” The song, which was really a series of pieced-together lyrics designed to follow a set of pieced-together guitar riffs and melodies, portrayed a woman who was getting everything she wanted, and had no regard for anyone or anything else. The one lyric that almost anyone can quote from the song is “There’s a lady is sure, all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying her stairway to heaven.”

Follow the sometimes-unintelligible lyrics, and you’ll learn that Heaven for this lady is all the gifts and gold she’s buying. For many people, Heaven is just that… the goodies you can accumulate during this lifetime. How disappointing it will be when we all realize how temporary the things of this world really are.

But, once again, that lyric goes through our heads… “and she’s buying her stairway to Heaven.” How desperately we want to see things go better in our lives. We need a breakthrough. We need a situation resolved. We need a hurt or a brokenness fixed. So, after all else has failed, we turn to the Lord in prayer, and we look to the scriptures for encouragement.

Anyone who is coping with a recent tragedy, a layoff, a loss of income, a foreclosure or repossession, or a missed promotion, will inevitably come to Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” While this verse definitely applies to the struggles we face, we often draw the wrong conclusion from it.

“All things work together for my good,” is often understood as, “So, I didn’t get the promotion. God must be working up a better job for me.” “So, the offer I made on this house was rejected, God must be reserving a mansion in the hills for me.” “So, I just got fired, maybe this lottery ticket is a winner.”

When we take the promises of God and apply them to temporal things like jobs, houses, finances and worldly opportunities, we do two things. (1) We miss the big picture, and (2) we set ourselves up for disappointment and disenchantment, because God is not always lining up a windfall for us.

“All things work together for my good, but I didn’t get the promotion.”

“All things work together for my good, but I’m still unemployed six months later.”

“All things work together for my good, but this lottery ticket was a loser.”

There is no worse place to be in life than to think that God’s promises apply to everyone else, but somehow exclude you. This leads to disenchantment, depression and loss of faith. It was caused by a misunderstanding of what otherwise is a glorious verse.

Romans 8 is not talking about material blessings, earthly wealth, or added prestige. Romans 8 is previewing Heaven for us. When Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose,” it is saying that God is working everything in your life to bring you into His eternal glory. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working to strengthen us Spiritually, is working to set us up for eternal rewards, and is working to form us into the person he intended on us being.

God didn’t allow you to be laid off so He can get you hired as the CEO of DuPont. He allowed you to be laid off so He can build your faith, so that regardless of your employment situation, you feel confident and secure. He wants to give you the tools to face life’s challenges, the opportunities to glorify him, and to enter his Kingdom hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The comfort of Romans 8:28 is not that there’s a bigger house around the corner. It’s that God’s hand is still on us, even though a storm of life is raging.

All of this is a sub-point to the greater truth that God is pulling out all the stops to bring you into His Kingdom. Romans 8:29-30 say that whom God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, and whom He predestined, He called, justified and glorified. Romans 8:31-39 go on to say that there is no force in Heaven or Earth that can derail God’s love and plan for you. This truth builds our faith because we are reminded once again that salvation is God’s work, not ours. He bought our salvation, He worked our salvation, and He’ll maintain our salvation. All He asks is our repentance and faith.

So, with that in mind, “Why is she buying her stairway to Heaven?” And why are you trying to buy yours? God has already paid for it. Just trust Him as your ascend those golden steps into His Kingdom.