Several years ago, I decided I wanted to be a runner. Never having really run before, I set my goal of completing a 10K. For months I trained, slowly increasing my speed and distance. My training was difficult at times. Due to my habitual workouts I had several toenails turn black and new shoes had to be purchased to keep up with my ever growing mileage. On days when the weather was poor, or I didn't feel like running, I would sit on the floor while tying my running shoes and gaze longingly at my couch in front of the television. Eventually, after a lot of dedication, self-discipline and perseverance, I completed my goal: I ran a 10K.
We're running a different, longer kind of race. Our goal isn't a t-shirt or a ribbon, we want to return to God. Our race of life is difficult at times, and we can often become discouraged. However, just as I needed physical endurance to complete a 10K, we need spiritual endurance to help us surmount the trials we will come across in our lives.
There is no way finishing a 10K would have been possible unless I had been committed to my goal. It was only after dedicating myself to the task that I was able to overcome the many powerful temptations not to exercise. Already busy with the many responsibilities that come with having a family, I had to prioritize time to run.
Dedication is vital to obtaining spiritual endurance, as well. Making occasional, half-hearted attempts will not help our spirits be strong. It is only by committing ourselves and our families to following God that we will be able to obtain the spiritual endurance we strive for.
We can show God how dedicated we are by how we spend our time. Do we make spiritual time a necessity? Or is it easier to put those good intentions aside, telling ourselves that we'll start tomorrow? Being dedicated towards staying close to God will not only help us, but it will also help our families as the spirit of God enters our home, and our children learn by our example.
While training for my 10K I often enjoyed my runs. However, there were numerous instances where, after the first mile, I wanted to turn back. Many times the lure of easier, less healthy activities was strong.
Spiritual self-discipline is also vital in our lives. Often, it is the little, seemingly harmless things that chip away at our families. Exerting our will over our desires can be difficult. But by constantly exercising our mental muscles, we will soon become spiritually powerful. When we have strong spiritual self-discipline our homes will be calmer, and we will have an easier time feeling God's love.
Spiritual self-discipline can have many outward appearances. For some, it can mean the strength to stay away from pornography. Others may receive help dealing with tempers, an alcohol addiction or in having a better attitude. Exerting discipline to obey God's laws can strengthen all aspects of our lives and those of our families.
Not long after completing my 10K I stopped running. When I tried to pick it back up I was shocked at how quickly my body had deteriorated. I could barely run a mile. I thought back to what my body had been capable of just a short time before, and I became sad when I realized the amount of physical endurance I had lost. However, I also understood what needed to be done in order to, again, be successful.
Spiritual perseverance behaves the same way. In order to compete against forces pulling us different ways, we need to maintain the spiritual health of ourselves and our families. Obviously there will be times when we fall short. But when we constantly strive to maintain our spiritual connection we will persevere.
Often family members can lose their spiritual endurance. When this happens we can help them persevere by continuing to love them. Things can look bleak sometimes, and we may be tempted to quit. But God has told us many times that he will always be there to welcome us back whenever we are ready to return.
The exhilaration I experienced when I completed my goal and crossed the finish line was amazing. All my dedication, self-discipline, and perseverance had finally paid off. However, I know the happiness felt that day will pale compared to the joy experienced when we cross the finish line of life's race and see God on the other side.