To Walk and Not Faint

To Walk and Not Faint

(I’ve invited friends to share their own stories of endurance or the stories of others. My prayer is that you would be inspired and encouraged as you read each guest post. Learn more about my new book: Sacred Endurance.)

By Lisa Spence

I am weary. It’s been a particularly busy few weeks, with an out-of-town trip and a full calendar. However, I feel a weariness in my soul as well, a spiritual fatigue that extends beyond needing a nap, though that too may help!

Loss, grief, transition—all have been part of my experience this past year, and all these experiences weary the heart as well as the body. As does the seemingly dull ordinariness of my days. My life, so it often appears to me, is passing by in a blur of mundane monotony.

Sometimes I feel bored. Sometimes I am convinced nothing will ever change and I’m heading nowhere. Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I see the thriving, growing ministries of others and their jubilant confidence in the call and provision of God, and sometimes I doubt.

“For you have need of endurance,” Hebrews 10:36 declares (esv), and in some strange way I am comforted. The Bible is clear and uncompromising in its assertion of my weakness, and this is good news to me in my weariness. Life is indeed hard and wearying and, yes, maybe sometimes boring. Grief, transition, the sheer dailiness of my days, each and every day—it is all too much for me. I need endurance.

Isaiah 40:30 echoes this truth:

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.

Even those among us with the most strength and vitality grow weary! Life is too much and too hard for us all. We are all weak. Whatever strength you and I may have, it will not be enough. We have need of endurance.

How I love the promise of Isaiah 40:31:

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

It’s the latter part of the verse I cling to most days, those days of walking, plodding along, one foot in front of the other, my surroundings changing only imperceptibly and oh, so slowly. There in the slow, ponderous days of walking, the Lord meets me with the promise of the endurance I lack. Glory to God, I will walk and not faint—I will endure—as I wait for the Lord.

Here, then, is the key to overcoming my weariness: waiting for the Lord. Hebrews 12:3 instructs us to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” To fight weariness, to endure, we consider Jesus. We wait for Him.

To wait for the Lord isn’t like me waiting at the doctor’s office, my boredom and irritation escalating with each minute I am forced to wait. To wait for the Lord is to lift my focus up and away from me and from my circumstances and fix my eyes on Jesus, to believe that He is sufficient and sovereign. All is well and all will be well because it is Jesus who holds me, Jesus who keeps me.

As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember the gospel. Jesus loves me, He died for me, and in Him I am a new creation, forgiven and redeemed and accepted. This is what is most true about me, and rehearsing these truths fuels my endurance. My circumstances, my failures, my insufficiencies—none of these define me. Throwing off these hindrances and looking to Jesus, remembering the gospel, helps me endure.

As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember He too suffered. He sees and knows my struggle. He is able to sympathize.

Many years ago a friend gifted me a book. On the flyleaf she wrote, “To Lisa, because she walks a similar path.” It seems like such a small thing, but it encouraged me so much. I wasn’t walking alone! Being seen and known motivates perseverance.

As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember my future hope. One day my faith, small as it so often is, will be sight.

Several months ago my church grieved the loss of a dear saint. Miss Patty lived a life of faithful service, humbly caring for her home and her family for decades. To my knowledge, she never lived outside our small town. She had no career, no platform, and she would have laughed at the idea of being an influencer. Her favorite hymn was “It Is Well with My Soul,” and she lived her life—she endured—according to that very confidence. Waiting for the Lord, she walked and did not grow faint. Now, in the presence of the God she loved, she soars.

As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I realize that every part of my life—the small, the mundane, the monotonous—is opportunity for worship.

I’m not overspiritualizing here; cleaning the bathrooms is still cleaning the bathrooms. However, when I clean the bathrooms in the realization that as I serve my family in this task, I am serving the Lord, I can persevere in it. I daresay I can even find joy in it. So too with all the seemingly unimportant details of my life. They are opportunities to love Jesus by loving others, and thus I endure.

This past Sunday we sang of the faithfulness of God to hold and keep:

When I fear my faith will fail,

Christ will hold me fast;

When the tempter would prevail,

He can hold me fast. . . .

I could never keep my hold,

He will hold me fast;

For my love is often cold;

He must hold me fast.*

Praise God, He holds me fast. By His grace, I endure.

Lisa Spence lives in Alabama where she teaches a Sunday School class at her church, leads a community Bible study for women, and volunteers at the local crisis pregnancy center. She and her husband, Randy, have four sons and two daughters-in-law. Lisa blogs occasionally at lisafspence.home.blog

***

Scriptures quoted in this post are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

*Ada Habershon, 1861–1918, adapted)

 

A Giveaway: Sacred Endurance and a Christmas CD

A Giveaway: Sacred Endurance and a Christmas CD

Sacred Endurance is not an advent book or devotional but it is a book intentionally centered on Jesus. This is our sacred endurance: running the race of the Christian life set before us by the grace of God, through the strength of God, until the day we face our God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that to run this race set before us, we look to Jesus (Heb 12:2).

And I just love Sandra McCracken’s soulful voice and humble heart. Soak in these lyrics from her song “This is the Christ”

this is the Christ, our God and Lord
who in all need shall aid afford
he will himself our savior be
and from our sins will set us free

I want you to be refreshed and encouraged this Christmas and beyond and hope these two items will assist in that.

Prize: Two winners receive: 1 copy of my new book, Sacred Endurance and 1 copy of the newly released Sandra McCracken Christmas CD!

How to enter:

  1. We all need encouragement in fixing our eyes on Jesus this season. To enter share one way you intentionally set your eyes on the Hope that has come and the Hope to come. Comment on the post at the link on Instagram—one or two sentences.
  2. Bonus—tag three friends on Instagram and invite them to share too.

Head on over to Instagram to enter: Sacred Endurance and Christmas CD Giveaway

 

Isaiah Christmas

Isaiah Christmas

Every year since Tony Reinke introduced his Isaiah Christmas online reading club, I’ve taken up reading the wonderful book through the month of December. This year is no different. Although I’m terrible at remembering to use the hashtag associated with it, you can follow along via Twitter (and possibly Facebook) following the hashtag #IsaiahChristmas. And by all means, join us!

You can learn more about it and download the Isaiah Christmas reading plan here: https://tonyreinke.com/2019/11/20/isaiahchristmas-2019/.

There’s so many wonderful Advent books and studies. If you aren’t going to join us in reading through the book of Isaiah, I’d love to know what you are reading. Feel free to comment.

I pray that you enjoy this Advent season, a season of longing and waiting. A season of anticipating the dawning of unspeakable joy! I’m eager to fix my eyes on Jesus this season.

 

Longing for the Resurrection: A “Taylored” Endurance

Longing for the Resurrection: A “Taylored” Endurance

(I’ve invited friends to share their own stories of endurance or the stories of others. My prayer is that you would be inspired and encouraged as you read each guest post. Learn more about my new book: Sacred Endurance.)

By Lemanual Williams

I’m eager for the resurrection. And I’m especially eager when I think of the people I’ll meet.

The diversity of the church, including those alive and dead, often causes me to sit pondering and astonished. We have many cultures that exist in our lifetime. But imagine the diversity of cultures stretching back from our time to Job’s (the Old Testament figure). While we’ll have Christ as the unifying person in our resurrection, how will a person like me—an African American living in the twenty-first century—relate to someone from a time and culture such as ancient Rome? Or how will the conversation between William Wilberforce and the apostle Peter look?

The resurrection will be a time of uniting with a family that is present, but also a family that has gone before us—and there are those I can’t wait to chat with during that time. I will definitely have to share a cup of tea with C. S. Lewis and talk philosophy with Philo. And one of the meals I look most forward to (hopefully I can plan it) is with Gardner Calvin Taylor.

I desire to share in the lineage of preachers, from John Chrysostom to the unknown country preacher. However, the preachers I most revere paint an unattractive portrait of the office. Gardner Taylor is one of them. The picture he paints of the office lacks prominence but possesses patience. The picture he paints of the office isn’t compelling, but it demands a joyful acceptance. I desire to share in this office and lineage, but to share in the suffering of the office had not been a primary thought in my mind until I met Gardner Taylor through his sermons and lectures.

Gardner Taylor knew well the pain and agony of living in a fallen world with faith for a world to come. Born in 1918 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Taylor was raised by parents who had made it through the “dark night of slavery”—so he had a close understanding of the institution. In their freedom they did not gain a life of ease and success. Instead, they gained a freedom that was dreadful and filled with grief. Taylor’s father, Monroe Taylor, would mention in one of his sermons that the farm animals at Louisiana State University had better living conditions than they did. At the age of twelve, in the midst of those living conditions, Taylor would lose his father. And this was only the beginning of his sorrows and pain.

After an upbringing filled with hardship, Taylor’s adult life continued in pain. He followed in the footsteps of his father, becoming a minister at Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York. Concord Baptist was one of Brooklyn’s oldest and largest African American congregations, housed in a historic building. During his pastorate Taylor suffered through seeing that building burned to the ground. As a leader in the civil rights movement, fighting against the educational disparities in New York City’s public-school system, he was jailed many times. He also suffered when his first wife of fifty-four years was fatally hit by a bus. I can’t imagine losing my wife so tragically after so many close years together.

These are only a few of the sorrows Taylor endured in his lifetime. And throughout them all, he preached. He preached weak. Taylor preached what he knew—suffering and endurance. He proclaimed boisterously what he intimately knew: “I know what it is to have great sorrow. I know what it is to drench your pillow with your own tears. I even know what it is to hope almost against hope that you don’t wake up the next morning. Life can be very difficult. But press on!”

Taylor knew the Jesus who had become weak, hurt, and wounded and had gained all authority and power on a path of suffering. Taylor would “press on” following that path. Week after week he entered the pulpit weak and hurt. He preached wounded. He preached weak. But he preached with uncontested power.

America witnessed its most powerful preacher in the twentieth and twenty-first century in Gardner Taylor. That’s the portrait of the preacher that Taylor was; it is the portrait every aspiring preacher should gaze upon and consider its worth. The portrait is beautiful, but the path is brutal.

It takes something sacred and compelling to enter and continue in that office. What could it be? I believe it is a faith that says this: “that I may know [Jesus] and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. . . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:10‒14).

I began with the subject of the resurrection—a seemingly random rambling, but it’s very relevant. Taylor was a preacher whose faith pressed him toward the goal of the resurrection. However, his desire was not merely to rise again, but to rise and meet someone—Jesus. Faith, to that end, is what kept Taylor walking into the pulpit week after week, looking and feeling like a “sheep to be slaughtered,” but allowing the gospel to roar in the pulpit with the resurrection power of the Lion. It was that faith that caused him to endure until the end and finish well, as one of the greatest preachers the world has known. It is that faith and legacy of preachers I desire to share in.

Thank you, Gardner Taylor. You’re a splendid example of sacred endurance. See you in the resurrection, my friend.

Lemanuel Williams is the Director of Discipleship at Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tennessee. He is a Hunt Scholar completing his Master of Divinity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

***

Scripture quoted in this piece is from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

 

 

Catch up on the podcast

Catch up on the podcast

Thanksgiving is a few days away and whether you are traveling or enjoying some downtime, now might be a good time to catch up on Stories of Sacred Endurance. 

Here’s the last four episodes this season.

Episode 5 – Todd Billings: Enduring in Hope

Dr. J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. He was diagnosed with incurable blood cancer in 2012. Todd shares with us how his hope in Jesus Christ has helped him endure the everyday questions and struggles that come with his diagnosis. 

You can find Todd on Twitter at @jtoddbillings.

Episode 6 – Costi Hinn: Enduring in Truth

Costi W. Hinn is a pastor and author whose passion is to preach the gospel and serve the church. His works have been featured on outlets like CNN, Christianity Today, and ChurchLeaders.com. He comes from a family of well-known prosperity gospel teachers, but had a radical encounter with God’s Word. Costi shares with us the challenges and victories that he now embraces since following Jesus Christ.

You can find Costi on Twitter at @costiwhinn.

Episode 7 – Linda and Tom Strode: Enduring in the Everyday

Tom and Linda Strode met at First Baptist Church in Little Rock and were married in 1978. Tom is a correspondent for Baptist Press and works at the Epics and Religious Liberty Commission. For the last 21 years he has also been a pastor of Covenant Community Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Linda co-authored the 2014 book “A Christ Centered Wedding” with her daughter Catherine Parks. On this episode they share how to push on in following Jesus in everyday, mundane life. 

You can find Tom and Linda on Twitter at @TomStrode and @LGStrode.

Episode 8 – June Cheng: Enduring in Persecution

June Cheng is the China correspondent for WORLD Magazine. She covers persecution in the Church, as well as culture and politics in China. June tells us about the persecution that Chinese Christians are facing today and how they continue to follow God even in the face of intense adversity. 

You can find June on Twitter at @JuneCheng_World.

DISCOUNT!

Don’t forget to take advantage of our special offer for podcast listeners: Order your copy of Sacred Endurance for 30% off with free shipping using code SACRED30 at ivpress.com.

Season two update coming soon!

3:30 in the Afternoon

3:30 in the Afternoon

(I’ve invited friends to share their own stories of endurance or the stories of others. My prayer is that you would be inspired and encouraged as you read each guest post. Learn more about my new book: Sacred Endurance.)

By Christine Hoover

Every afternoon at 3:30, my dad drives to the nursing home that sits just outside his neighborhood. He swings his car around to the back, unloads fresh laundry, folds the day’s newspaper under his arm, and punches in the code to the employees’ entrance. He’s not an employee, but he’s been there so often that they finally offered him the code. That was helpful because his mom’s room is closest to the back door.

His mom—my grandmother—has been in the nursing home for several years now, ever since she fell and broke her neck and her body continued on as if nothing much had happened. Her heart and lungs remain healthy, but her mind began to cloud soon after her fall. Time has become difficult for her to measure, familiar names are outside her grasp, and sometimes she forgets that her beloved husband of sixty-seven years has died.

Every afternoon at 3:30, my dad begins the routine. When he gets to my grandmother’s room, he puts away her fresh laundry, asks about what she’s eaten, helps her choose her dinner from the menu, chats with her roommate, and reports on the weather outside, the great-grandchildren, or the latest family news. There is little for my grandmother to say, but he is there, nonetheless, to sit with her and listen. They then, together, work the crossword puzzle from the newspaper. As a child, I used to watch my grandmother make quick work of the daily crossword puzzle, and despite the decay of her ninety-year-old mind, she’s still somehow able to whip through the puzzle each day.

My dad says he sometimes wonders if he’s doing right by his mom. Perhaps there is a better nursing home, or perhaps he should push for a better roommate for her. But I say that every afternoon at 3:30, every time he punches in the code on the back door, my dad is a picture of sacred endurance. Sacred, because there is nothing holier or more honoring to God than obeying him and serving one in his name who cannot serve you back. Endurance, because it’s a string of days that have gathered into a string of years in which he’s having the same conversations, doing the same laundry, even answering some of the same clues on the crossword puzzles. Sacred endurance requires both heart and hands.

I’m starting to notice that, when it comes to sacred endurance, the ones who are doing it well are the ones who don’t think they’re doing it well at all. They don’t believe they’ve arrived or are above the grunt work; they’re just in it and remaining in it, willing to see their God-given task through, knowing they’ll see it through only by the help of God. For it’s this middle part, far from both the start and the finish, that most defines sacred endurance. No one is cheering. No one writes a thank-you note. No one knows the discouragement or the questions that plague you in the middle part. No one notices where you’ve gone to at 3:30 in the afternoon.

Except for One, of course. The motivation and fuel for sacred endurance is a firm conviction that God cheers what no one else cheers, that he sees what no one else sees, and that one day when the rewards are handed out, 3:30 in the afternoon will become an eternal treasure gifted by the hands of God himself.

I want to be like my dad. I want to serve at my own expense. I want to honor the Lord with my whole life, through days that string into years that string across mortality into eternity. I’m convinced that the only way that will happen is if I remember and believe with everything in me that this middle part won’t last forever. There is a finish line, and his name is Jesus Christ. One day my grandmother will see him, and my dad will see him, and I will see him. And then none of us will remember the way our bodies were broken, the struggle to endure in faith, or the code to the back door.

None of us will remember the middle part, because we will be Home, and all of endurance will turn into reward.

Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, mom of three boys, host of the “By Faith” podcast, and author of several books, including Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, Messy Beautiful Friendship, and From Good to Grace. Her new book, With All Your Heart, releases in March 2091. Christine’s work has appeared on Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and For the Church. Originally from Texas, she and her family now live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where they planted a church in 2008. Find her at her home online at GraceCoversMe.com.

 

 

 

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