Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
I always glean so many valuable lessons when I read the autobiographies or biographies of notable people of history. The Roots Of Endurance is the third installment in John Piper’s excellent series “The swans are not silent.”
This book looks at the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce. Unlike the other books in this series, these men were all contemporaries and all of them had at least a passing relationship with each other. In fact, their lives and accomplishments were an encouragement to each other.
Pastor John makes the case in this book that in order to endure through difficult times successfully, we must have a deep root into the joy of the Lord. This root nourishes our hearts to persevere successfully through long trials. These three men exhibit this endurance beautifully. John Newton had to endure his own struggles with his past, Charles Simeon contended with an obstinate congregation, and William Wilberforce battled pro-slavery forces in Parliament for years before the abolition of the slave trade was enacted.
All three of these men endured successfully because they trusted God so deeply. These roots of trust went deep and helped them to persevere for God’s glory.
As I have mentioned in my other book reviews from the series, anyone who enjoys biographies of godly leaders or the study of church history will thoroughly enjoy The Roots Of Endurance.
If you would like to check out the other books in this series that I have previously reviewed, please click here, here, or here.
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.
When I first began this series on prayer, I challenged all of us to make prayer a habit. I suggested putting up “Have I prayed about it?” Post-It Notes all over the place to get us thinking about prayer continually.
“Have I prayed about it?” is a great start. But then I need to ask, “How long have I prayed about it?” or maybe even, “How long am I willing to pray about it?”
Thomas Merton wrote, “What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?” In other words, why do we go through the motions of praying and then strike out on our own? Or why do we pray for a little bit and then think, “Oh, perhaps God isn’t interested in this prayer”?
In Romans 12:12, the apostle Paul challenged us to never stop praying:
faithful in prayer (NIV)
constant in prayer (AMP)
prayerful always (TLB)
continuing steadfastly (NKJV)
This verb emphasizes the –ing part. Even though this is a verb, it’s what is known as a “verbal noun”: the noun pray is the same thing as the verb praying.
This Greek word is defined as: devoted, giving unremitting care to something, being courageous in perseverance, and staying at constant readiness. I would sum it up this way—
Prayer that is both persistent and insistent!
When Jesus teaches us that the motive for our prayer is, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done,” He is also implying that this requires continuous—persistent and insistent—involvement. With every prayer, we are persistently and insistently advancing God’s Kingdom and God’s glory.
I’m also moved by the insistent and persistent prayer of Nehemiah. He prayed, “Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of [King Artaxerxes].” He prayed this every day for over 4 months. The king finally noticed Nehemiah’s downcast face, asked him what was wrong, and then “because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.”
Nehemiah kept praying for 120 days or more, believing every day God would open the door of favor. In the meantime, God was moving things into place so that when Artaxerxes finally noticed Nehemiah’s downcast face, and Nehemiah shared what was on his heart, the king grantedevery single request!
Friends, don’t be timid in your prayers and don’t give up praying. P.U.S.H.—Pray Until Something Happens. Pray for God’s glory to be seen, for His kingdom to advance on earth, and for His will to be done.
I have shared three lessons I learned going through dark times in my life (you can check them out here, here, and here), but we aren’t even close to exhausting all of the lessons that can be learned in the night. I want to teach you one principle that will allow for lifelong learning and application of these nighttime lessons.
The apostle Paul shared how he had matured during his times of struggle. He told the Corinthians he realized that God had delivered him in the past, was delivering him now, and would continue to deliver him in the future (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). The key is to hang in long enough to actually see how God brings about the deliverance and teaches the lessons.
Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can ENDURE it”(1 Corinthians 10:13). And the writer of Hebrews said, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need toPERSEVERE so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).
The Greek word translated “persevere” means keeping focused on the goal despite the struggles that it takes to get there. Jesus used this same Greek word at the conclusion of His parable of the sower: “The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by PERSEVERING produce a crop”; a crop that Jesus said was a hundred times more than what was sown (see Luke 8:5-15).
I love riding my bike on the White Pine Trail by my house. My long rides have a really fun stretch where I am flying downhill! But as fun as that part is, I’m not really building anything of lasting value. However, when I am coming back uphill and I want to quit because my legs are burning and I can hardly breathe, that becomes a valuable struggle. I cannot build endurance by any other way than to push myself just a little bit farther each time. When I want to quit, I pedal just a few more feet. Gradually, the uphill becomes less daunting.
A friend gave me a t-shirt I like to wear on my rides. When I put it on the blue-lettered message on the shirt says, “Do It!” but as I struggle uphill and the sweat begins to pour off my body, a new message emerges: “Don’t Quit!”
I have learned that easy roads teach very few valuable lessons.
So here are three thoughts to help you persevere in your struggling times:
Keep your eyes on Jesus and on His eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:1-3; James 1:2-4, 12)
Keep persevering friends close by—notice the “let us” phrases the writer of Hebrews uses
On your worst day, don’t quit but commit to going one day longer (Romans 5:3-4)
Remember that as you struggle and persevere, you are not only building your own endurance, but you are strengthening yourself to be able to help others. So we can be thankful IN the night because God is building our endurance for the next night, and our endurance for our friend’s next night.
When God made His promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. (Hebrews 6:13-15)
After waiting patiently…
God’s promise did come, but Abraham had to wait a long, long time! One translation says that Abraham waited long and endured patiently. Another says, Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him.
God’s promises DO come to those who patiently endure UNTIL the promise comes.
Don’t lose heart.
Stick it out.
Don’t give up.
Persevere until it comes.
God has determined to show us the abundance of His promises, the faithfulness of His word, the trustworthiness of His promises.
Ask Abraham. He’ll tell you that it’s so worth it to hang on until God fulfills His word.
God’s counsel is unchangeable.
His wisdom is profound.
His treasures are immeasurable.
His delights are beyond comparison.
His hope is secure
His word endures.
His promises are sure.
Don’t give up. Patiently endure another day. God’s promise IS coming!
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
“They were Yours; You gave them to Me” (John 17:6). It is this aspect of a disciple’s life that is frequently forgotten. We are apt to think of ourselves as our own, of the work as our work. A great point in spiritual nobility has been reached when we can really say, “I am not my own.” … The Son of God is the Highest of all, yet the characteristic of His life was obedience. We have to learn that God is not meant for us, it is we who are meant for God. … “Do you not know…you are not your own” [1 Corinthians 6:19].
His! Does that apply to us? Have we realize that our body is not our own, but His—“the temple of the Holy Ghost”! Have we realized that our hearts and affections are not our own, but His? If so, we shall be careful over inordinate affection. Have we realized that all the ambitions of life are His? We are out for one thing only, for Jesus Christ’s enterprises. …
“Since you have kept My command to endure patiently” [Revelation 3:10]. This is not the patience of pessimism, nor of exhaustion, but the patience of joyfulness because God reigns. It may be illustrated by likening the saint to a bow and arrow in the hand of God. God is aiming at His mark, He stretches and strains until the saint says—“I cannot stand anymore,” but God does not heed. He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly, and the arrow reaches His mark. …
It takes the endurance which comes from a vision of God to go on without seeing results. We are not here for successful service, but to be faithful. Had Jesus any results? Before we go into work for Him we must learn that the disciple is not above his master. We cannot be discouraged if we belong to Him, for it was said of Him—“He shall not fail nor be discouraged” [Isaiah 42:4]. Discouragement is “disenchanted egotism.” “Things are not happening the way I expected they would, therefore I am going to give it all up.” To talk like that is a sure sign that we are not possessed by love for Him, but only by love for ourselves. Discouragement always comes when we insist on having our own way.
From So Send I You
Can Jesus say of you that you are His? Are you trying to make your own way, or are you simply following Jesus? Are you letting God stretch you until He is ready to release you, or are you becoming exhausted and discouraged in the waiting? Is your love for Jesus absolute, or does it come with conditions?
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
God’s Plan For Building Spiritual Muscles
If a man has used his arm only for writing, and then becomes a blacksmith, he will groan for days with the tremendous pain in the deltoid muscle until by practice the time comes when there is no more pain because the muscle has become rightly adjusted to its new work.
The same thing happens spiritually, God begins to teach us how to walk and over and over again we begin to howl and complain. May God save us from the continual whine of spiritual babes—“Teach us the same things over and over again, don’t give us the revelations of God which are painful, give us the ‘simple gospel,’ what we have always believed, don’t tell us of things we have never thought about before, because that causes pain” (Hebrews 5:12). Of course it does.
Thank God there is a pain attached to being saved, the pain of growing until we come to maturity where we can do the work of a son or daughter of God. …
Look back over your life in grace, whether long or short, and ask yourself which are the days that have furthered you most in the knowledge of God—the days of sunshine and peace and prosperity? Never! The days of adversity, the days of strain, the days of sudden surprises, the days when the earthly house of this tabernacle was strained to its last limit, those are the days when you learned the meaning of this passion of “Go.”
From The Philosophy Of Sin
The only way to build physical muscles is to push them beyond their comfort level.
The only way to build physical stamina is to run farther than you have run before.
The only way God can build our spiritual muscles—and our spiritual stamina—is to push us beyond our comfort zone, to challenge us to go deeper and farther than we’ve gone before. Don’t push Him away. God loves you too much to leave you where you are!
Greater are the friends beside us. —Anonymous, quoted by Oswald Chambers in Not Knowing Where
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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. —Hebrews 12:1-3
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah never held back when God told him to speak up. As you might imagine, this didn’t make Jeremiah too popular among the people who weren’t doing things God’s way. In fact, many of them started a plot on how they could eliminate Jeremiah.
God gave Jeremiah the heads-up on the bad guys who were trying to take him out (Jeremiah 11:18), to which Jeremiah said, “Go get ‘em, God!” (11:20). God promised Jeremiah that He would indeed take care of them (11:21-22). So Jeremiah pulled up a chair to watch how God was going to punish them. I’m not sure exactly what Jeremiah thought would happen, but one thing I do know: he certainly thought it would happen right away.
“God? Hello! Are You going to take care of these bad guys? Didn’t You say You’d get ‘em? I’m waiting. Anytime now You can zap ‘em with lightning … or make them fat and ugly … or at least give them bad breath and make them lose their jobs. Anything? Hello? Hey, what is going on here?! Not only are you not punishing them, it looks like things are actually going better for them! What in the world are You doing?!?” (12:1-2)
Ever been there where it looks like the bad guys are not only getting away with their badness, but even being blessed in the process?
God told Jeremiah that He was using these bad guys to actually help Jeremiah. God had big plans for Jeremiah’s life, but He needed Jeremiah to be stronger and have greater endurance. God said it this way—
If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a safe country, how will you manage in the thickets? (12:5)
God reassured Jeremiah that the evildoers would indeed be punished but—and this is the important thing—God would do it in His own time (12:13).
In the meantime, God was going to use these bad guys to bless Jeremiah with increased strength and endurance, if Jeremiah would allow God to mold him and teach him.
Do you have some bad guys in your life? Hang in there! God doesn’t waste a thing. He is using even these evil people to bless you and accomplish His plans (Romans 8:28).
“You that have ability, and have talents, devote yourselves to God’s cause. Give yourselves up to his ministry. I would to God there were more of those who are successful in professions, men who either in medicine or law would attain eminence, who would consecrate their talents to the ministry….” —Charles Spurgeon
“There is a reason why Jesus not only calls us to simplicity and brevity, but also to persistence and tenacity [in prayer]. The demand for prevailing prayer exposes those who pray in a passing away, as if they are just trying to cover all their bases. They are not looking to God as their only hope. They are trying God out alongside other resources. Such praying does not prevail.” —John Piper
“Above all, grieve not the Spirit. Quench not the Spirit. Vex not the Spirit. Drive Him not to a distance, by tampering with small bad habits and little sins. Little jarrings between husbands and wives make unhappy homes; and petty inconsistencies, known and allowed, will bring in a strangeness between you and the Spirit. … The man who walks with God in Christ most closely, will generally be kept in the greatest peace. The believer who follows the Lord most fully and aims at the highest degree of holiness will ordinarily enjoy the most assured hope, and have the clearest persuasion of his own salvation.” —J.C. Ryle
Sidelined was a book I could hardly put down: such a compelling story of love, and family, and overcoming adversity! You can read my full book review by clicking here. Below are some quotes I highlighted in this book, unless otherwise noted all of the quotes are from Coach Pagano.
“We can! We will! We must! By any means necessary—we have no choice—we will win.”
“We were determined to create a culture where guys couldn’t wait to come to work. We wanted people who would be excited about getting up in the morning and being here. … We wanted a workplace where people are honest and forthright with each other. We wanted open communication to be practiced daily. We wanted every person in the building to be treated with the dignity that every human being deserves. Sure, we’re tough guys, and we like to joke and trash talk sometimes as part of our fun. But there has to be a limit to that kind of behavior, and we wanted everyone to respect each other more than anything else. A joke’s only funny if we all share in it together at no person’s expense. And when we make mistakes or do something wrong, we don’t deny it. We want a place that if we are going to eat crow, we are going to eat it while it’s hot!”
“…My condition will not determine my position. I understand the condition, but choose to focus on my position. That is to stay positive and serve….” (part of a letter to his team before the Green Bay Packers game)
“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” —William Barclay
“You brought the spiritual plane. That’s why your leadership goes beyond coaching. You set an example as a spiritual leader, and that’s what inspires people.” —Kevin Elko
“Coaching is a profession of love. You can’t coach people unless you love them.” —Eddie Robinson
“People sometimes ask me what we look for in a player—how we know he’ll be a good fit for our program. It’s a hard question to answer because there are so many variables. … We also go beyond all the facts and stats and determine if these are what we like to call ‘horseshoe guys.’ The horseshoe emblem of the Colts shows seven nails or studs. Each one represents a quality we want in a player/leader for our team—smart, tough, dynamic, physical, character, integrity, and respect. … Players who want to be a part of something bigger. Something great.”
“Part of the reason I couldn’t remain disappointed after our lost to the Ravens [in the playoffs] was that I knew we had built our foundation on solid rock. We had established something that wasn’t going to dry up and blow away in a matter of weeks or months. Our team was committed to building a program for sustained success. We called it ‘building the monster.’ We wanted to take our building blocks of athleticism, talent, and skill and bring them to life with our commitment, character, and determination.”
“Cancer can take away a lot—your hair, your appetite, your energy, and, yes, sometimes your very life. But cancer cannot take away the love that passes between you and the special people in your life. It can’t take away the support and encouragement, the creativity and beauty, the connections and relationships to others who are fighting alongside you. No matter how hard it tries, cancer can never contain the human spirit or diminish the power of faith.”