This article is dedicated to Bishop Garland Mayes for the encouragement he always gives.
Sunday morning the time changes. We spring up. In other words, it’s time to move forward! How do your respond when facing a painful or difficult situation? There have been times in my life when I’ve just wanted to give up and walk away. But whenever I’ve said, “Lord, I can’t handle any more of this!” He has opened a door or given me guidance. Looking back, I am so grateful that God gave me the strength to endure. If I had quit, I would have missed out on the awesome privilege of watching Him work in my life through that particular difficulty.
Whenever you’re tempted to give up or walk away from the challenges in your life, look to Christ’s example of perseverance through hardship (Hebrews 12: 2-3). He willingly endured the cross because He considered our salvation worth the pain and suffering. Although we may not understand what God is accomplishing through our trials and heartaches, we can be sure that He’s working everything for our good (Romans 8:28). When we focus on Jesus instead of our difficulties, we’re strengthened with hope, which motivates us to keep going.
The apostle Paul is a wonderful example of someone who refused to give up. Even at the end of his life, while sitting in a Roman dungeon, he could confidently say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Obviously, he knew something we need to learn. The basic principles drawn from his life will motivate us to persevere despite mistreatment, conflicts, or seemingly insurmountable problems.
First of all, we need to know that an awareness of God’s presence encourages us to keep going. It’s easy to believe the Lord is with us when everything’s fine. But when times are tough, we must cling to this truth so we don’t become discouraged and give up.
In 2 Corinthians 11: 23-27, Paul describes some of the persecutions and hardships he endured — imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks, physical dangers, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and exposure to the elements — yet through them all, he knew the Lord was with him.
A bad situation is not a sign that God has abandoned us. As long as we are walking in His will, the awareness of His presence will carry us through any difficulty. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that He will never desert or forsake us. I would encourage you to claim this promise in tough times. If you begin to doubt it, you’re more likely to quit right before the Lord gives you a victory or changes the circumstance.
Second. experiencing God’s strength upholds us. It’s only natural to want the Lord to demonstrate His power by rescuing us from trouble, but sometimes He allows us to experience situations we can’t handle so He can show us how much we need Him and so we can learn to trust Him. A verse we should all treasure was written by Paul from a Roman jail cell: ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That same divine empowerment is available to every believer today through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This means we each have within us the power to persevere through whatever situation we’re facing. As we walk obediently with the Lord, His strength will flow through us.
Third, the assurance of being in God’s will inspires us to keep going. Even prison walls and chains couldn’t steal Paul’s joy and determination because he knew he was fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. In fact, he claimed that this imprisonment had “turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel” because the entire praetorian guard had heard about Christ (Philippians 1: 12-13).
You can be sure that if you’re walking faithfully and obediently with the Lord, He’s accomplishing something greater in your life as well. When we see our trials as opportunities to grow in faith and Christ-like character, we’ll appreciate the value of enduring difficult and painful experiences. However, if we don’t understand what He is trying to accomplish, we’ll just want out of the situation and complain that things aren’t going our way. But God uses our trials and suffering to draw us to Himself, and we are to use them as opportunities to apply His truths to our lives.
Fourth, the Lord’s promised rewards motivate us to persevere. We should never give up walking with Christ when the road gets rough because this life is not all there is. Paul knew that a “crown of righteousness” was waiting him in Heaven (2 Timothy 4:8). And in the same way, God has promised to reward each of us for patiently persevering through the trials in our lives (James 1:12). If we really understand what is at stake and how awesome His rewards will be, we’ll remain faithful and obedient, even when life’s journey includes intense pressures and suffering.
How we respond to life’s challenges is a choice. We can give up because of fear, pain, and discouragement, or we can decide to follow Paul’s example of devotion to Christ. When we live whole-heartedly for the Lord- — even in hardship — others will see His life displayed in us. And isn’t that what we truly want — to live in a way which draws others to Christ?
We’re all destined for trouble in this life, but I am so grateful that God can use our hardships and pain to accomplish His good purposes. May God bless you as you walk faithfully with Him, no matter what challenges come your way.