Endurance is never automatic!
Following Christ isn’t magic. It requires repeated actions on our part, which develop into habits and life disciplines. Christ-centered endurance doesn’t just happen, any more than running a marathon or climbing a mountain just happens or having a good marriage just happens.
Endurance requires a good plan, with clear and tangible steps that are taken one after the other. The farmer tills the soil. The weeds have to be removed. He doesn’t say, “Lord, please remove the weeds.” He prays, “Lord, give me your strength as I pull these weeds today.”
The athlete doesn’t say, “Lord, go out there and win that race.” He says, “God, empower me to run hard and do my best, and if you so desire it, to win.”
The key to spirituality is the development of little habits, such as Bible reading and memorization and prayer. In putting one foot in front of the other day after day, we become the kind of person who grows and endures rather than withers and dies.
Ten years from now, would you like to look back at your life, after you’ve made consistently good decisions about eating right and exercising regularly? Sure. But there’s a huge gap between wishes and reality.
The bridge over the gap is self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). The key to self-control is discipline, which produces a long-term track record of small choices in which we yield to God’s Spirit, resulting in new habits and lifestyles. Spirit-control and self-control are interrelated in Scripture, because godly self-control is a yielding of self to God’s Spirit.
Most of us know the difference between eating cottage cheese and Krispy Kremes. Or the difference between a daily workout and spending life on a couch. Likewise, there’s a difference between whether you read the Bible or you don’t, whether you spend the evening watching American Idol or Survivor or reading the Bible or a great Christian book.
While the difference today may seem small, the cumulative difference will be great. Many people say they want to write a book. What they really want is to have written a book. Talking about writing a book is very easy. Writing a book is very difficult. That’s why there are more talkers than writers. And that’s why more people talk about the Christian life than live it. We want the fruit of the spiritual disciplines, but often we’re unwilling to do the work they actually require. We want the rewards without the sacrifices.
One of my favorite websites for young people is www.TheRebelution.com, directed by Alex and Brett Harris. They challenge young people to “Do Hard Things” (the title of their first book). They’re saying, “Let’s not be a generation of self-centered materialists; let’s discipline ourselves to follow Jesus and do hard things to his glory.” The life of endurance requires us doing many hard things. But these hard things are the very ones that bring purpose, joy, and satisfaction to our lives. Excerpted from Stand: A Call for Endurance of the Saints, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books), 2008.