Marching band at K-State during a volleyball game, Manhatten, KS

Endurance is hope

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.

Marching band at K-State during a volleyball game, Manhatten, KS

Marching band at K-State during a volleyball game, Manhatten, KS

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.

The habit of hope

What is it about people that we want a 12-step process to accomplish things? Or 7-step? Or 3-step? People just seem to want a step-by-step procedure for accomplishing a task or recovering from a disaster or to lose weight. What is it about step-by-step processes that is so alluring?

I know even I want a step-by-step explanation of things sometimes. I think it has something to do with breaking a subject down into smaller pieces so they’re easier to wrap our heads around. Maybe that’s just me. But that’s why I like step-by-step proceedures. . . . although, I don’t buy those 12-step program type books. As those are only just someone’s opinions of the 12-steps you need to accomplish something. And maybe taking someone else’s opinion is good sometimes, but I prefer to find my own way around certain circumstances.

The verses this morning made me think of a step-by-step process. I love the process verses in the Bible because they make so much sense and they don’t read like an instruction manual.

Today’s passage is Romans 5:3-4.

 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

We can rejoice today, no matter what situation we’re in. Why?

Because we know that problems and trials help us develop endurance.

What is endurance? It’s perseverance. It’s dedication. It’s loyalty. It’s sticktoitiveness (I love that word). It means when life knocks you down, you get back up again. The Amplified Version uses the term fortitude. It’s being unshakable.

Problems and trials in our lives make us stronger. I don’t make a habit of quoting Nietzsche, but he is the one who said, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” And it’s true. When you live through something tough or difficult, you learn how to survive. And then when life gets back to “normal,” you’ll find that the small bumps in the road are less distracting and less upsetting because you already made it through something worse.

Endurance.

But it doesn’t stop there. Because these verses say that endurance develops strength of character.

Absolutely! Because you have to have a very strong character to endure any sort of difficulty.

I’ve heard it said that character is who you are when no one else is looking. When  you aren’t in the spotlight and when no one else is paying attention and when no one will give you a reward for doing the right thing, do you still do the right thing? If you do the right thing because it’s the right thing, that’s character.

If you remain loyal to a friend who hurts you because it’s the right thing to do, that’s character. If you fall down when you’re trying to help someone and get back up again because it’s the right thing to do, that’s character. If you persevere in doing the right thing even though you won’t receive any accolades for doing it, that’s character.

Actually, that’s character borne of endurance. And the more you learn to endure, the more character you will develop.

But it doesn’t stop there either. Because according to these verses, character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

The Amplified Version states this verse as follows:

4And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.

It says, “the habit of joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.”

The habit of hope.

Whoa.

According to this, hope isn’t just a fleeting feeling you experience as a child or during a starry night or while watching a romantic movie or something ridiculous like that. Hope is something you need to develop as a habit.

You aren’t born with habits. You develop them. And it takes time and effort and patience to develop any habit you live with currently, whether it’s a good habit or a bad one.

Once you have endured trials and suffering and have developed the strength of character needed to always do the right thing no matter what the circumstances, you will have developed the habit of hope — joyful and confident hope in your salvation.

Hope that no matter where you go or where you came from or how far you fall, God will always love you.

Hope that no matter how rough life might get or how discouraging your situation might be, God always has a plan.

Hope that God knows what He’s doing even when it feels like your life is falling apart.

But that sort of hope doesn’t come about just because you want it to. And maybe there are some 12-step books out there who will tell you that, but hope on that level — habitual hope — can only come through trials and sufferings that God remains faithful through.