Run in such a way that you will win. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT).
The ten years that I was a pastor in Orillia (Ontario, Canada) were some of the toughest years of my life. There were many times when I wanted to pack it in and go somewhere else. But God encouraged me to press on. So I kept my nose to the grindstone and hoped that revival would come.
A single page from John Wesley’s journal helped me persevere:
Sunday A.M., May 5 – Preached in St Ann’s; was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday P.M., May 5 – Preached at St. John’s; deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday A.M., May 12 – Preached at St. Jude’s; can’t go back there either.
Sunday P.M., May 12 – Preached at St. George’s; kicked out again.
Sunday A.M., May 19 – Preached at St. Somebody Else’s; deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday P.M., May 19 – Preached on the street; kicked off the street.
Sunday A.M., May 26 – Preached out in a meadow; chased out of meadow when bull was turned loose during the service.
Sunday A.M., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town; kicked off the highway.
Sunday P.M., June 2 – Afternoon service, preached in pasture; ten thousand people came.
Isn’t that great? Wesley’s trials lead to triumph.
There are lots of starters but few finishers. Are you thinking about dropping out of the race. Maybe you’ve already stopped running. You’ve stopped attending church, stopped reading the Bible, or stopped worshipping the Lord.
When we drop out of the race it doesn’t happen all at once. It’s incremental. We start buying into the devil’s lies. We slow down. We go from a run to a jog, from a jog to a walk, from a walk to a standstill, and from a standstill to lying down.
While everything’s hunky dory, we’re happy to run with God. But then difficulties come along. We get hurt, angry, too busy, lonely, sick, depressed, fearful, sad, or whatever. Instead of persevering, we start making excuses. We say, “I’m feeling rotten so I won’t go to church today.” Now you’re jogging. But things don’t get any better so you make more excuses. You say, “I really think I need more time to myself. I think I need to take a break from the Bible study group.” Now you’re walking. Because your trial still exists you keep piling up the excuses and justifying your actions. You say, “I don’t think I can face people. I’ll stay at home, I can always read the Bible and watch TV church.” Now you’re at a standstill. You’ve stopped running the race.
An aside. We all get tired. Sometimes we get a little burnt out. When we get winded, we need to stop and catch our breath. We need to rest. But once we’ve had a rest, we must get back into the race. Don’t confuse the need for rest with the need for perseverance.
Here are the two rules of perseverance: Rule 1 – take one more step. Rule 2 – when you don’t think you can take one more step, refer to rule one.
If you’re feeling weighed down with trials and tribulations and don’t feel like worshipping, working or witnessing for Christ – take one more step – worship, work and witness for Christ anyway. And if you really don’t think you can worship, work or witness for Christ – if there’s just no way you can take another step – if your pain is just too much – take one more step anyway. For when you do – when you keep on keeping on despite the trials – when you persevere through thick and thin – your character will be developed.
Here’s the good news. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. As your character’s developed, you’ll grow in hope. And as you grow in hope, you’ll finally receive what God’s promised to give you. So if you’re suffering, keep running anyway. Press on to the finish line. “Run in such a way that you will win” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT). Discipline your body and keep it under control (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:27). Don’t give up. Take one more step. For when you do. When you “strain to reach the end of the race,” you’ll “receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” Philippians 3:14 (NLT).