It doesn’t take much to test your endurance. Jump on a treadmill and see just how far your body is able to take you. Some people will throw on their Hokas and gladly accept the challenge while others will shutter at the idea. I’m somewhere in the middle. Mostly because I was recently introduced to fudge-covered Nutter Butters and they kinda weigh you down after a few boxes.
I love that the Bible uses so many examples that we can relate to. We all know what it feels like to be out of shape and then to have our endurance grow. Paul related his faith to a race. We are to endure until the end to receive our crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8 NIV). This crown is our reward in heaven, reigning with Jesus for eternity. While salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, we still need to make it to the end. Not by simply living, but by keeping the faith. That means we can’t expect to make it to the finish line by sitting around, filling our bellies with cookies (I’m preaching to myself here). We have to keep moving.
Marriage is meant to help you endure until your eternal destination. When the Pharisees asked Jesus who a widow would be married to in heaven if she remarried on earth, Jesus replied “‘At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven’” (Matthew 22:30 NIV). I don’t think people realize that it’s unbiblical to say, “Here’s to forever!” when announcing their engagement or marriage. Sure it sounds sweet, but it goes against what Jesus said. There will not be marriage in eternity. So why does “forever” keep coming up in our marriage vocabulary?
Simply put, endurance isn’t romantic.
Remember, endurance doesn’t just happen, it’s developed through tests and trials. Do not be fooled, God does test the heart (Jeremiah17:10 NV). As a society we want to buy into the highlight reels, not longsuffering. Can you imagine if Kay marketed engagement rings by saying, “Get her a ring that’ll remind her of your commitment while you longsuffer together!” That would be a mouthful...yet honest. The idea of forever with your partner is comforting and romantic. The problem is that it’s not God’s design for heaven. Heaven is a place to worship and praise God. Your marriage on earth is meant to prepare you for being in the glorious presence of God, hence tests and trials to conform you to the image of Christ.
If we feed into whatever sounds or feels good according to society, we will get distracted from God's purposes.
We need endurance to get through life’s many hurdles, preferably jumping over them rather than running full force into them. They may seem intimidating when you’re on the track, but we can’t allow that to deter us from finishing the race. Instead, they are to shape our character so that we are better prepared for the next hurdle, and so that our lives can be used as a testimony. No, Christianity is not the antidote to suffering. In fact, you will be all the more persecuted if you live a life surrendered to God. (I know, I’m a terrible saleswoman...I’m just telling you what the Bible says). “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV). This is not because God is mean or cruel and doesn’t care about what you go through. It actually has nothing to do with you. Jesus said it has to do with Him. He told His disciples, “‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first’” (John 15:18 NIV). People want to live in their bubble of what sounds and feels good, and when you live rightly before them, they are confronted with their own sin.
Let’s say for instance a Christian is in the check-out line at a grocery store and they have a box of Nutter Butters in hand. They see a single mother ahead of them trying to pay. Her card has been declined and embarrassment overcomes her. The Christian decides to pay for her groceries. Someone witnessing this act of kindness could respond a couple different ways. Depending on their self-awareness they may say, “I am encouraged by your generosity” and then reflect on areas they need to be more generous themselves. Or they may remark, “Well don’t you think you’re all high and mighty.” They are reminded of their own greed and are unwilling to address and change it. The Christian’s objective was to display an attribute of God, kindness. This was not to glorify themselves but to glorify God. While our desire as Christians is to encourage others with sharing God’s character in the things we do and say, inevitably people will still be offended by it.
Being called to a life that reflects the holiness and glory of God is not easy.
I’m human, I won’t want to encourage people every day, I don’t naturally have the energy for that. But God is our Helper. His Spirit enables us to do things beyond our human capacity. He also equips us for this calling through the fellowship of believers - exhorting one another, worshiping with each other, praying and breaking bread together. Endurance would not be possible without community. As a part of the body of Christ, you and your partner are to participate in that fellowship, within your relationship and with other believers.
Let me clarify, I’m all about buying flowers and date nights. Developing romance in this way is beneficial for bonding in a dating relationship. What I’m asking you to do is to think about how you can prepare for the race ahead while you’re still dating. You can’t go long distances on an empty stomach. You need sustenance, daily bread. Share the Word of God daily with your partner, even if it is the verse of the day from your Bible app. I will admit I need to be better at this myself, there are days that go by where I don’t send my boyfriend scripture or vice versa. (Now I’m convicted!)
My hope is that couples wouldn’t be blindsided by the hardships of this world once the romance dissipates, and that their calling as Christians isn’t forgotten in the midst of enjoying their companionship. It’s important to know the role you play for one another. “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT). If this is an image of endurance, is it happening in your relationship?