Bear pacing at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Spiritual endurance is greater than physical endurance

Endurance comes in many shapes and sizes, although you can strengthen and increase it pretty much the same way in every instance. Physical endurance requires hard work, training, practicing; if you’re going to run a marathon you can’t just jump up and do it. You have to train. It’s the same way with emotional endurance. You can’t tackle huge emotional issues before you’ve had to tackle similar ones on a smaller level. Spiritual endurance is also the same; it’s not a good idea to jump into spiritual battles before you’re ready to fight.

While some people spend a lot of time increasing one, they often overlook the other two. You don’t get all three automatically just because you work on one. You have to work on all three.

Bear pacing at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Bear pacing at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Judges 16:4.

Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek.

Samson is one of those really fascinating characters in Scripture who I can’t wait to meet when I get to heaven, mainly because I don’t understand him. Samson is the closest thing to a true superhero who has ever lived. He had tremendous physical strength, although his strength relied on God. God was the One who gave it to him when he needed it. Samson’s story can be found in Judges 13-16. He was one of the Judges of Israel before they had a king, similar to Gideon who I posted about previously. But Samson was very different than Gideon.

What caught my attention this morning is that Samson had a lot of physical endurance but he didn’t have much emotional or spiritual endurance. If you read those four chapters in Judges (you should; they’re short), it almost reads like a reality TV show. I’m just going to say it: Samson is pretty much an idiot. And while his physical strength is impressive, his choices are not. He makes some very bad decisions, and while God still uses them, they eventually lead to his destruction.

Samson was super strong, but a pretty face caused all reason to leave his head. Maybe he killed thousands of Philistines, but the same wrong choice repeated again and again tries even God’s patience.

Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on what we look like. We idolize those who can accomplish great physical feats, but those same people aren’t encouraged to build their endurance inside. That same mentality permeates the church too, where it’s important to put on a good show but what goes on in our hearts isn’t a big deal. And to God, it’s the opposite. He doesn’t see what’s on the outside; He looks at the heart and sees who we really are.

It is important to build physical endurance. It’s part of being healthy. But your physical endurance will only last as long as your body does. Spiritual endurance and emotional endurance will last as long as you do–an eternity. So which one is more important?

Honestly, if Samson had spent more time building his spiritual strength, he probably wouldn’t have come to the same end. Granted, his life and death served God and God’s purpose, and that was the point. But I think he would have been so much happier if he had focused on spiritual strength instead of his physical strength.

I don’t know if I’m making sense this morning. But don’t let our culture tell you what is most important about your life. Culture would have you believe that the body is what matters because it’s all culture can see, but you are more than your body. You are not a body with a soul; you are a soul who has a body. And the physical strength we have pales in comparison to what our spirits can endure, but before that endurance can be obvious, it has to be tested and trained.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not knocking physical strength. Yes, work out. Yes, build up your body and your muscles. Be healthy–but not at the expense of your soul. You won’t gain spiritual strength by default when you train your body, so don’t expect to be able to stand against spiritual attacks just because you can benchpress a Volkswagen.

So while you’re working out today, spend some time in prayer. Or work on memorizing Scripture. Or think about your relationship with God. Engage your mind in something that will help you build spiritual strength because days are coming when it won’t matter how physically strong we are. All that’s going to matter is the strength of your heart and soul. And even though Samson was incredibly strong physically, when that strength left him, he was just an ordinary man, and he didn’t have the soul strength to make the wise choice.