Joop Zoetemelk is known as the Netherlands’ most successful cyclist. But that’s because he never gave up. He started and finished the Tour de France 16 times—placing second five times before winning in 1980. That’s perseverance!
Many winners have reached success by climbing a special ladder called “never give up.” However, there are also many who have lost the opportunity to achieve success because they gave up too soon. This can happen in every area of life: family, education, friends, work, service. Perseverance is a key to victory.
The apostle Paul persevered despite persecution and affliction (2 Tim. 3:10-11). He viewed life with realism, recognizing that as followers of Christ we will suffer persecution (vv. 12–13), but he instructed Timothy to place his faith in God and the encouragement of the Scriptures (vv. 14-15). Doing so would help him face discouragement and endure with hope. At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7).
We too can allow the Scriptures to strengthen us to press on in the race marked out for us. For our God is both a promise-making and promise-keeping God and will reward those who faithfully finish the race (v. 8).
Our hearts sank when we learned that our good friend Cindy had been diagnosed with cancer. Cindy was a vibrant person whose life blessed all who crossed her path. My wife and I rejoiced when she went into remission, but a few months later her cancer returned with a vengeance. In our minds she was too young to die. Her husband told me about her last hours. When she was weak and hardly able to talk, Cindy whispered to him, “Just be with me.” What she wanted more than anything in those dark moments was his loving presence.
The writer to the Hebrews comforted his readers by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, where God told His people: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). In the darkest moments of life, the assurance of His loving presence gives us confidence that we are not alone. He gives us the grace to endure, the wisdom to know He is working, and the assurance that Christ can “empathize with our weaknesses” (4:15).
Together let’s embrace the blessing of His loving presence so we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid” (13:6).
When my father became a Christian in his old age, he fascinated me with his plan for overcoming temptation. Sometimes he just walked away! For example, whenever a disagreement between him and a neighbor began to degenerate into a quarrel, my father just walked away for a time rather than be tempted to advance the quarrel.
One day he met with some friends who ordered pito (a locally brewed alcoholic beer). My father had formerly struggled with alcohol and had decided he was better off without it. So he simply stood up, said his goodbyes, and left the gathering of old friends for another day.
In Genesis, we read how Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph. He immediately recognized that giving in would cause him to “sin against God,” so he fled (Gen. 39:9-12).
Temptation knocks often at our door. Sometimes it comes from our own desires, other times through the situations and people we encounter. As Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” But he also wrote, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
The “way out” may include removing the objects of temptation or fleeing from them. Our best course of action may be to simply walk away.
In 1952 Florence Chadwick attempted to swim 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hours, a heavy fog began to block her view, she became disoriented, and she gave up. To her chagrin, Chadwick learned that she had quit just 1 mile short of her destination.
Two months later Chadwick tried a second time to swim to Catalina Island from the coast. Again a thick fog settled in, but this time she reached her destination, becoming the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel. Chadwick said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind even when she couldn’t see it.
When the problems of life cloud our vision, we have an opportunity to learn to see our goal with the eyes of faith. The New Testament letter to the Hebrews urges us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2). When we feel like quitting, this is our signal to remember not only what Jesus suffered for us but what He now helps us to endure—until the day we see Him face to face.
I recently met a woman who has pushed her body and mind to the limit. She climbed mountains, faced death, and even broke a Guinness world record. Now she’s engaged in a different challenge—that of raising her special-needs child. The courage and faith she employed while ascending the mountains she now pours into motherhood.
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul speaks of a runner competing in a race. After urging a church enamored with their rights to give consideration to one another (ch. 8), he explains how he sees the challenges of love and self-sacrifice to be like a marathon of endurance (ch. 9). As followers of Jesus, they are to relinquish their rights in obedience to Him.
As athletes train their bodies that they might win the crown, we too train our bodies and minds for our souls to flourish. As we ask the Holy Spirit to transform us, moment by moment, we leave our old selves behind. Empowered by God, we stop ourselves from uttering that cruel word. We put away our electronic device and remain present with our friends. We don’t have to speak the last word in a disagreement.
As we train to run in the Spirit of Christ, how might God want to mold us today?
When a road-construction foreman was killed in an accident, the love of this man for his family, co-workers, and community resulted in an overwhelming sense of loss. His country church couldn’t accommodate all the mourners, so planners moved the service to a much larger building. Friends and family packed the auditorium! The message was clear: Tim touched many lives in a way uniquely his. So many would miss his kindness, sense of humor, and enthusiasm for life.
As I returned from the funeral, I thought about the life of King Jehoram. What a contrast! His brief reign of terror is traced in 2 Chronicles 21. To solidify his power, Jehoram killed his own brothers and other leaders (v. 4). Then he led Judah into idol worship. The record tells us, “He passed away, to no one’s regret” (v. 20). Jehoram thought that brute force would ensure his legacy. It did. He is forever commemorated in Scripture as an evil man and a self-centered leader.
Although Jesus also was a king, He came to Earth to be a servant. As He went about doing good, He endured the hatred of those who grasped for power. In the process, this Servant-King gave His life away.
Today, Jesus lives along with His legacy. That legacy includes those who understand that life isn’t just about themselves. It’s about Jesus—the One who longs to wrap His strong, forgiving arms around anyone who turns to Him.
A fishing buddy of mine told me about an alpine lake located high on the north flank of Jughandle Mountain here in Idaho. Rumor had it that large cutthroat trout lurked up there. My friend got a pencil and scrap of napkin and drew a map for me. Several weeks later I gassed up my truck and set out to follow his directions.
His map put me on one of the worst roads I’ve ever driven! It was an old logging road that had been bulldozed through the forest and never regraded. Washouts, fallen timber, deep ruts, and large rocks battered my spine and bent the undercarriage of my truck. It took half a morning to reach my destination, and when I finally arrived I asked myself, “Why would a friend send me up a road like this?”
But the lake was magnificent and the fish were indeed large and scrappy! My friend had put me on the right road—one I would have chosen myself and patiently endured had I known what I knew at the end.
There is a faithful saying: “All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant” (Ps. 25:10). Some of God’s paths for us are rough and rugged, others tedious and boring, but all are filled with His love and faithfulness. When we come to the end of our journey and know what we then will know, we will say, “God’s path was best for me.”
August 10, 1628, was a dark day in naval history. On that day the royal warship Vasa set out on her maiden voyage. After taking 2 years to build, being lavishly decorated and holding 64 cannons, the pride of the Swedish navy sank only one mile out to sea. What went wrong? The excessive load was too heavy to make her seaworthy. Excess weight pulled the Vasa to the bottom of the ocean.
I can’t do it,” Robert said, throwing his pencil down in despair. “It’s just too hard!” Reading, writing, and spelling seemed impossible to our dyslexic 9-year-old. At last, a solution was offered. But it was tough. We had to do reading and spelling practice with him for 20 minutes every evening—without exception. Sometimes we just didn’t feel like doing it, and at times we despaired of seeing progress. But we were committed to getting Robert’s reading age and his chronological age to match, so we battled on.