“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
I will never forget that first mile. It wasn’t actually the first time in my life I had run a mile, but it felt like it. After years of neglecting appropriate exercise, I decided to get out there and run a bit. That first mile was brutal. I thought my heart was going to explode. Every part of my body felt on the edge of expiration.
Now, years later, a mile is nothing. I know my body will grow old and a mile will become a big deal again, but right now it isn’t. Through years of showing up and running, my body has become more conditioned to endure.
Paul prays for the hearts of the Thessalonians to be directed to the steadfastness of Christ. He wanted them — and us — to have hearts drenched in the endurance of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ endurance was amazing when He went to the cross. It is still amazing as He still graciously seeks and saves that which is lost. I long for His patience and steadfastness. His endurance got Him through accusations, pressures, and pain. I covet His steadfastness and endurance. I need it in my heart.
This steadfastness is developed through repetition. If I neglect running for a few weeks, I lose so much of my endurance. The same holds true in my Christian life. The more I show up, the more I am present, the more my body has a chance to grow in endurance. As I stay in prayer, the word, and fellowship my endurance is built up by God’s Spirit. I become stronger, more able to handle the pains of life. But when I neglect these my endurance diminishes. I become angry more easily, lazy much quicker, and selfish more consistently.
This steadfastness is developed through a decent diet. The worse I eat, the harder it is to run. I can do it, but eating cleanly is helpful to a strong feeling when out on the trail. The same holds true for the Christian life. When I fill my mind with the inconsequential and sensationalized I grow sluggish in my race. But as I feast on the right stuff, I grow. When the Word is my meditation, I progress. When I pick up a solid Christian book and set down my remote, I gain endurance. My system becomes cleaner for the race He has for me.
This steadfastness is developed by stretching out distances. If I’d decided all I ever wanted to do was run two consecutive miles I would not have that much endurance right now. Two miles was a lot at the beginning, but over time it became less and less of a deal. My body has a limit, obviously, and so does my schedule, so I’m about maxed out right now in my physical endurance.
But the way I got to the longer mileage was by adding miles slowly and steadily. I would bump up to a four mile run, tearing down my muscles in the process, only to find greater strength later on. As we allow ourselves to be stretched out in the Christian life, our endurance grows. Previous challenges give way to greater hurdles and obstacles, but also greater effectiveness.
May the Lord direct our hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.
What about you? Is it time to stretch out your distance?