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SpiceBox “The endurance trials”

By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel

A number of successful television series capitalize on the human need to prove one’s ability to overcome challenges, to come out on top, to outthink, outdo, and outlast one’s opponents against all odds. Men and women continue to step up to the challenge of endurance races and trials, pitting their own physical and mental resources against the obstacles of the race, determined to win, no matter what! From quiz shows to survival contests to reality shows to dramas and talent shows, participants strive to be the best, to prove one’s self, to earn the approval and acclaim of their peers. No effort is too great.

Three of my brothers were Marines. I don’t know much about the training—physical and mental—that they had to undergo to earn the right to be called Marines, but I surmise that it must have been grueling, demanding every ounce of strength and determination they could muster in order to finish the course and earn acceptance into the ranks of the Corps. They were proud to be Marines, and proud to embrace the challenges of service in that branch of the military. Though I often heard them reminisce about the rigors of the endurance trials they had undergone, I never heard them complain that the experience was too rigorous, or that they should never have been forced to endure such trials.

According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, you and I also are involved in an endurance contest, one with eternal consequences. Our entry into the race was voluntary—we signed up when we accepted the invitation to receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Most of us didn’t really know what we were getting into; we only knew that the rewards offered were worth every effort, every sacrifice we could possibly make for his sake. We experienced the spiritual high, the exhilaration of  knowing freedom from our debilitating bondage to sin, the burst of power that comes from learning that I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil. 4:13 KJV), and the all-encompassing  joy of a relationship with a loving Father who has great plans for our future.

Who could forget that moment? And who knew that initial commitment to God was to be a lifelong commitment to confronting and overcoming (through Christ) a series of challenges every bit as daunting as any endurance contest ever devised? Who realized that repeatedly we would have to confront and evade the traps, the snares, the entanglements of a race course contrived by an opponent determined to see us fail at any cost?

When Jesus enlisted us in his cause, he knew it would not be easy. As the Marines undergo endurance trials to train them and make them fit to face the enemy, so Jesus causes our spiritual “muscles” to be tested and exercised and challenged, so that we might grow strong in him. He has trained us in the field, equipped us and empowered us to serve in his name. He himself set the perfect example of what it means to serve in God’s army, sacrificing his own life to turn losers into winners, slaves to sin into freedmen under grace. He provided an innumerable host of examples in the lives of heroes of the faith, men and women who ran the race with courage and determination, and were commended by God for their faithfulness.

The challenges are great, the hindrances real—pain and hardship, the suffering, even the day by day shuffling through the dust and grit require patience, fortitude. And yet…

We have been given the privilege of serving in the army of God, undergoing constant training to sharpen our skills in the use of the weapons he has provided. God has entrusted us with a mission in his service. He has chosen to back us in the endurance trials of life, and he has determined that we are to be winners, bringing honor and glory to his name.

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 (Heb. 12:1-3 NIV).

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