What wakes you up in the morning? For me, it’s coffee. Strong, strong coffee with real cream. My current dietary requirements prevent me from eating grains, starches, or sugar on a regular basis so real cream in my coffee every morning is the indulgence I allow myself. But if I didn’t get coffee, I’d like to think I would still get out of bed. I guess when it comes right down to it, what gets me out of bed (not necessarily wakes me up, mind you) is duty and obligation and responsibility.
I’m being honest here. I do love my job, but, man, it’s a job. And I’m thankful for all my opportunities, but they can be overwhelming and exhausting. And just to be frank, duty, obligation, and responsibility will only get you so far before it wears you out. I hit that point last year where even my sense of duty could barely get me out of bed in the mornings. So what do you when you get to that point? What can you do? And can you prevent yourself from reaching burn out on that level?
That’s what I want to accomplish this year. I don’t want to burn out. I want to stay fresh and excited about everything that’s going on in my life, even though it’s exhausting at times. And what I feel like I need to do that goes beyond duty, obligation, and responsibility. I need endurance.
So what it endurance? Why is it important? Why should we look for it? Well today’s passage, I think, encapsulates the need for endurance pretty succinctly.
Today’s verses are Romans 5:3-4.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
I’m a word nerd. So I like knowing what words and phrases mean. I like knowing where they came from and why they matter.
According to Dictionary.com, endurance means “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina.” The word itself originated in the late 15th century, meaning “continued existence in time,” although the connotation about enduring suffering didn’t start until about 1660. Usually when I think about endurance, I think about runners. Not sprinters, but the people who run long-distance races like marathons or triathlons. Or I think about musicians, oddly enough. If that sounds weird to you, then you didn’t grow up with a musician in the house. Musicians have more endurance than just about anybody I know.
My mother has played viola, a stringed instrument that covers the octave between a violin and a cello, for more than 40 years. When I was younger, I tried to learn how to play, and I will never forget how tired my arm would be after I played for half an hour. But I’d seen my mother play for hours and hours on end. But she’d been playing for a long time. She’d developed an endurance to play for extended periods of time, just like a runner, just like a dancer.
You don’t start off with endurance. You have to build it. You have to train to obtain it. And that training is usually difficult and frustrating, especially if you’re an impatient perfectionist like me who wants to do everything exactly right the first time.
Why does endurance matter? Well, look at our verses for today. Endurance, which comes from problems and trials in life, help us develop a strong character. That happens because you don’t give up when tough stuff comes your way. You keep gong. You keep holding to what matters, and you plow through the issues and keep doing what’s right even when you suffer for it. And people with good character accomplish great things and live great lives, and they have a healthy perspective on life too–and that’s something you can’t buy.
Trials and troubles create endurance. Endurance develops good character. Good character produces hope.
So, forgive me an algebraic moment, but I if a = b and b = c, then a = c. Endurance produces hope. That’s why it matters.
Our world is dark, and we face difficult circumstances daily, at work, at home, at school, at church. No matter where we are, life is difficult. Life is a struggle. Life is conflict. And all of those trials and troubles can weigh us down, but if we endure it, we will strengthen our hope.
Our hope in what? Check the verse. Salvation.
This world isn’t all there is. Our eyes don’t need to stay mired in the darkness of our world. We need to be living for eternity. We need to make decisions that will affect the future in a positive way, not get stuck in the day-to-day grind of office politics and family strife. Focus on what matters. Endure through difficult circumstances and build your character, because it will make your hope strong. And we can’t make it without hope.
So be thankful for the tough stuff. Endure. Just hang on. God will get you through, and on the other side, you will be stronger. And when those same tough circumstances come around again, you won’t even blink because you already got through them once.
Train. Build. Endure. Hope.