Running Rules For a Strong Finish: Rule #3: Running Involves a Commitment to Endure - To “Abide Under” the Load

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April 2016
Author: 

Steve Cox“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

The word “perseverance” in this passage means to “abide under”, as in a donkey abiding under a heavy load. This implies the race God has called each of us to run is a long distance course, not a short distance sprint. It also implies a term commitment to carry, or abide under, the load God designates each of us to carry as we live out our lives. 

In the King James Version, there is another word, similar to “abiding under”, that gives further understanding about the type of commitment required to run with perseverance. The word is “longsuffering”. It means to be “long-tempered”. This is not a word we use in today’s language. But, we do still use the opposite of this word. We sometimes refer to someone, or ourselves, as being “short-tempered”. God calls us to be long-tempered and long-suffering.

If we are going to run a strong race of living in obedience to God’s will and accomplishing and experiencing all that he has intended for us, then we need to be people that are willing to keep running the race regardless of the burdens we are called to “abide under” along the race course. The Bible teaches us that these burdens, loads or trials, strengthens us.

Jim Downing, in his book about Biblical Meditation describes how ancient shipbuilders would prepare their ships to deal with adversity. In the days of wooden sailing vessels, a shipbuilder knew the strength of the main mast was critical to the survival of the ship and its crew. The main mast was subjected to the greatest forces of any part of the ship as it endured wind and waves. If the mast broke under stress, most of the ability to propel the ship was lost. Depending on how far out the sea the ship was at the time, the loss of the main mast could spell disaster for the ship and crew. Additionally, the shipbuilder knew he would lose his reputation as well.

Downing writes: “To guard against such a disaster, enterprising shipbuilders selected trees located on tops of high hills as potential masts. They would then cut away all surrounding trees which in any way would shield the chosen tree from the force of the wind. In succeeding years as the winds blew from the north, south, east and west, the tree grew stronger and stronger under the opposition of adverse forces. Finally, it was ready to become the main mast of a ship.”

Peter uses a similar analogy in I Peter 1:6-7. He explains that “we suffer grief in all kinds of trials”, so our faith, which is of greater worth to God than gold, can be refined in the refiner’s fire like gold, be proved genuine, and result in praise, glory, and honor to our Father.

We are told in Acts 14:22 that one of the key messages Paul and Barnabas gave to the churches is the instruction that: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” The fact is that all of us “suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” The questions is, what kind of person is each of us going to choose to be in response to the trials we must “abide under”? Will we be a tree that breaks under the force of the wind, unfit to be used by the master builder? A raw chunk of gold that refuses to be refined in the fire so that the beauty inside may shine forth? Or, are you and I going to be people that rely fully on the Lord for the strength to endure, to “abide under”, the load?

The prophet Habakkuk struggles with these questions in his short book recorded in the Old Testament. In chapters 1 and 2 he questions why God allows injustice and why his people must endure hardships. At the end of chapter 3, after encountering the Almighty God, he submits himself to God’s will, to remain faithful regardless of the hardships of life, and rely on God alone for the strength to “abide under”, endure, the load. 

May the Lord bring each of us to the point where we can pray along with Habakkuk these words: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:17

 
Steve Cox signature
Steve Cox
Director of Adult Ministries
stevepcox [at] comcast.net

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