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Jeremiah 17:7–8 tells us, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence. He is like a tree planted along a riverbank, with its roots reaching deep into the water—a tree not bothered by the heat nor worried by long months of drought. Its leaves stay green, and it goes right on producing all its luscious fruit.”1
Life is difficult. It’s tough. This passage mentions two kinds of difficulties we can face: heat and drought.
Heat represents the sudden crises of life. Heat comes on suddenly. The accident. The cancer. The death. Somebody walks out of your life. It’s a sudden crisis. How do you handle the heat in your life, when the heat is on?
Then there is drought. Drought represents long periods of time when you must go without something you feel you need.
You’re out of work. You’re out of income. You’re out of energy. Somebody walks out of your life. You’re going without. How do you handle those kinds of situations?
Notice three words in the passage from Jeremiah: trust, hope, and confidence. …
It’s possible to be like a tree that keeps on blooming even in the middle of heat or in seasons of drought.
To have ultimate confidence, you must put your confidence in something that can never be taken from you. And there’s only one thing that can never be taken from you—your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Your confidence must be in the Lord. Then when the heat is on and the drought comes, you are not blown away because your roots go deep and you keep on producing fruit.—Rick Warren2
Finish the race
The Olympic Games, Mexico, 1968. The marathon is the final event on the program. The Olympic stadium is packed and there is excitement as the first athlete, an Ethiopian runner, enters the stadium. The crowd erupts as he crosses the finish line.
Way back in the field is another runner, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. He has been eclipsed by the other runners. After 30 kilometers his head is throbbing, his muscles are aching, and he falls to the ground. He has serious leg injuries and officials want him to retire, but he refuses. With his knee bandaged, Akhwari picks himself up and hobbles the remaining 12 kilometers to the finish line. An hour after the winner has finished, Akhwari enters the stadium. All but a few thousand of the crowd have gone home. Akhwari moves around the track at a painstakingly slow pace, until finally he collapses over the finish line.
It is one of the most heroic efforts of Olympic history. Afterward, asked by a reporter why he had not dropped out, Akhwari says, “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish.”—From storiesforpreaching.com3
When you’re bruised and bloodied by life, press on; your Creator did not send you here to start the race, but to finish it!
Keep going, no matter what the cost. Keep fighting, no matter what bruises you get. Keep running, no matter how many times you stumble and fall. Your cuts and bruises and scrapes and scars are medals of honor in the Lord’s sight, signs that you had the faith, courage, determination and commitment to keep going, even though it was tough! You may have fallen, but you refused to quit.
At the end of the race, you’ll then be able to say like Paul did of old: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day.”4—Author unknown
Cross the finish line
Recently, two friends, my brother, and I participated in a very special event—the Fisherman’s Friend Strongman Run! This 15 km route includes 30 obstacles of varying difficulty. There’s sticky mud which sucks your feet down rapidly, and you have to keep moving to stay on top. Then there are icy river sections to swim or wade through, testing endurance. Nets, trenches, tires, steep dirt slopes—all good reasons to justify to oneself, I just couldn’t make it. But the fact is, it is possible.
A good friend, who is a serious athlete, laughingly told us, “As long as you can stay on your feet, you’ll make it.” And his words proved true more than once. Just when I felt it was too much, my muscles sore and strained, I’d think, All I have to do is stay on my feet and move forward. Step by step, obstacle by obstacle, through hot thick mud and cold rushing water, I made it.
In fact, all four of us crossed the finish line together, cementing both achievement and friendship in triumphant completion! It was an incredible experience, and we’re so thankful to have been a part of it.
The Bible verse “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”5 now has more meaning than ever before! Living a Christian life isn’t easy; it takes discipline, hard work, and perseverance. Sometimes it feels like all I can do is just stay on my feet. Then I find that His strength is made perfect in my weakness,6 and when I’ve done all I can to stand, He takes over and carries me.7
Life surely has its troubles and obstacles, but there is a finish line where our loved ones and the Lord await us for a celebration! Like Paul, I don’t consider myself to have attained yet.8 I’m just staying on my feet, eyes fixed on Him, knowing that, when the time comes, we’ll cross that finish line together.—Chris Mizrany
When we give our lives to Christ, an epic journey begins in which there are many high points where our mouths are filled with laughter and many valleys in which our eyes are filled with tears. Becoming a Christian does not mean that we will “live happily ever after.”
No, the Christian life is a life of many challenges and hardships, as well as many miracles and breakthroughs. We therefore need to set our sails for the long haul and understand that our lives will not always be plain sailing. There will be storms in which the waves are high and the wind strong. This is why we need to have a persevering heart, a heart that says, “I will never quit. I will not be a fair-weather Christian. I will commit myself to the long haul, whatever storms may come.”
The good news is that God promises He will give us heavenly power in this journey—not the endurance of gritted teeth but the glory-strength of heaven. This gives us joy even in our sufferings and helps us to endure the unendurable. Pray to God for His glory-strength today.— Mark Stibbe9
Published on Anchor November 2022. Read by Jerry Paladino.
Music by Michael Dooley.
4 2 Timothy 4:7–8
5 Philippians 3:14 ESV.
6 See 2 Corinthians 12:9.
7 See Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 40:11.
8 See Philippians 3:13.
9 God’s Word for Every Need (Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., 2016).