Traveling Back to Basics
When facing a new challenge, it is common practice for us to “return to basics.” It is in the returning that strengths are honed and minds prompted to those things that never change.
In early March we introduced the series, Back to Basics. Its intent was to help believers return to biblical principles that strengthen our faith and that guard our hearts—hearts facing the challenge of 21st century living (Prov. 4:23).
We are using the “ABC’s” as the framework for this series. We began with the letter A—Accepting the Mind of Christ. Today we will move to the letter B—Building Spiritual Endurance.
The Need for Building Spiritual Endurance
Living in this postmodern era, our faith is constantly bombarded by alternatives to the teachings of the Word of God. The Apostle Peter warned of such assaults as he prepared young Timothy, the new elder of the church at Ephesus.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim. 4:3-5)
We are living in those same times today.
In addition, we are thrust into challenges we have never faced before with the introduction of the coronavirus into our nation and into our communities . Pandemic deaths, resource shortages, and economic upheaval are requiring us to restructure our institutions and traditions to fit this new normal.
Biblical basics for the new reality
It is also critical that we return to biblical basics in order to move through the challenges that lie ahead. These basics will guide us as we create new realities based on the changes we are now experiencing. For this journey, we will need spiritual endurance (Is. 40:29; Deut. 31:8; Matt. 19:26).
Noted theologian and teacher, Alistair Begg has often stated that, “Endurance is a key indicator of spiritual fitness.” The world tempts us to take the easy way around our problems. We are encouraged to “walk through them” so that we might be strengthened and become mature Christians (James 1:2-4).
Time to Strengthen Up
The author of Hebrews offers the following text to help us understand the need for spiritual endurance and our role in obtaining it.
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! (Hebrews 12:12-13, The Message)
Although there may be debate as to who authored this general epistle, there is little doubt it was written to people in need of spiritual endurance. Much like us they were living in the midst of life threatening challenges and change. They were thrust into situations which they, too, had never faced before.
In Hebrews 11, the author introduces his readers to Old Testament believers whose faith helped them to endure and persevere in spite of enormous obstacles. He expands this teaching in Hebrews 12 by providing the ultimate model of spiritual endurance—“Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2) who endured the Cross in order to accomplish God’s plan of salvation. It is with these examples in mind that we are able to endure and push forward in faith (Heb. 12:3). We can be assured that if we endure, then we will be rewarded (Gal. 6:9).
Running the race with endurance
Against this backdrop the author illustrates spiritual endurance with the metaphor of a race. The writer warns that “holey paths” and “sprained ankles” might render the runner incapable of completing the race. We are to “strengthen” our feeble arms and weak knees and “make level the paths” for the feet (NIV). Then we are prepared to complete the race successfully.
The process outlined in our Hebrew text is not dissimilar to what we need to build spiritual endurance in the 21st century—especially if we are to navigate successfully through the coronavirus pandemic.
How do we building spiritual endurance for today
When adverse circumstances and difficulties occur in our life, instead of complaining, we are to accept the discipline it offers and be strengthened through it. During those times, God has provided the resources we need to “push through.”
The first is God’s Word. We are called to act on the truth that has been revealed in Scripture concerning spiritual endurance. It has been commanded (Matt. 10:22; 2 Tim. 2:3), exemplified (2 Tim. 2:10; Heb. 10:32-33) and rewarded (2 Tim. 3:1; James 1:12).
Our spiritual endurance is predicated on the fact that God has given us everything we need to live in this present age (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Every promise of God is “Yes and Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20).
We can be assured that God will give us the strength to endure trying times based on His faithfulness and the veracity (truthfulness) of His Word.
The second is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is there to strengthen and keep us. With His assistance we are able to do all things (Phil 4:13) and complete the work God has designated us to do (Phil. 1:6).
The third resource is the community of faith. The Holy Spirit has gifted both the universal and local church “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ep. 4:12). It is in community that believers find encouragement and support for spiritual growth and development.
Spiritual Endurance=Staying Power
Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit and in Christian community the believer is able to build spiritual endurance. The writer of Hebrews gives sage advice as to how we can build spiritual endurance and in so doing increase our “staying power” for the Lord. It is in God that we will find your “second wind” for the challenges of 21st century living.
Next week, we will continue with our Back to Basic series and explore C—Confessing our faith with confidence.