“So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” Ephesians 3:13
Although it’s now been a few years, sometimes it feels like yesterday when I was training for my first half marathon. During the first few weeks of my training, running seemed to be the most difficult thing in my life. I never wanted to run. I groaned every day when I got out of bed in the morning to go hit the pavement. It was such a discipline for me. A few weeks into the training, however, I began to notice a change not only in my attitude toward running but also in how I felt physically. I was beginning to look forward to running. This discipline had somehow transformed into desire. If I missed even one day for any reason, my entire schedule seemed off. When I had finally allowed the discipline of training to produce the desired results within me, I was able to be grateful for the difficult and painful times.
Isn’t it so similar to our lives? In hindsight, we are able to see how the hard times were able to bring about good, whether it was in us or in others, and we can somehow be thankful for it. Scripture is consistent with this principle as well. Not only are we promised hardship in this life, but we are also instructed to consider it joy when we face these trials. (James 1:2) Therefore, it’s not a matter of “if” difficulty will enter into our lives but rather “when” it will, and when it does, we are told that it is not impossible for us to still be found with joy. When our circumstances threaten to steal our hope and joy, will we be found among those who persevere or among those who give up?
Paul’s audience knew well of his conditions, and although Paul wanted them to be aware of what he was going through for the sake of the Gospel, the last thing he wanted was for them to lose heart over his sufferings. Were they to grow weary and faint over what Paul was going through, the very real temptation for them then would be to give up. Being a follower of Jesus Christ was never intended to be easy, but it was especially difficult for those who were apart of the first church in the New Testament. Persecution was a very real threat to them, and this is why Paul spent much, if not all of his time in prison writing letters of hope, encouragement, and truth to the churches. Much of Paul’s message was one of challenge and exhortation to persevere through whatever would befall the believer.
This is precisely why I run to his writings that fill the New Testament because this message is just as much needed today as it was two thousand years ago. Although most of Western Christianity is not exposed to religious persecution, our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe live under the constant threat of death because of their faith. While we are, for the most part, not undergoing such intense persecution for our faith, I have found that many chose to “give up” for even lesser reasons. Life gets hard, and rather than clinging to our hope and security who is the person of Jesus Christ, the tendency seems to be either pointing the finger of blame at God or running from Him. Can we so easily walk away from the very commitment that changed our lives forever?
My last intention would be to minimize the hardship that any single one of you is facing. There are pains and trials that many of you have tasted in this life that I cannot begin to fathom. Still, there is a God who is greater and significantly more powerful than the deepest pain we can experience on this side of heaven. These very words of hope that I write to you today come from the precious promises that we are given in His Word. Although we will endure suffering to some degree here on this earth, we have the hope of glory.
Friend, don’t give up. Don’t stop running your race now. The finish line is in sight. The hope of glory is but a breath away. The battle will be won, and we will be found on the victorious side if we but persevere. Our God is true to His Word. One day, we will sing in unison, “Oh death, where is your sting?” The war on death has been waged, and our God has overcome. One day, all things will be made right. One day, there will be no more tears and no more sorrow. One day, our faith will be made sight.
Don’t give up. Cling to the pierced side of your Savior.