Cultivating a Spirit of Perseverance: Mental Endurance

The three changes we must make deal with the mind, will, and emotions. Or, Mental, Physical and Emotional. Today we will discuss the mental aspect of endurance.

Romans 12:2 tells us:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (English Standard Version).

Our minds are not naturally geared toward running, though our bodies have the “fight or flight” mentality. You may be hard-pressed to find someone who thoroughly enjoys running from the very beginning. Just as our minds aren’t naturally geared toward running, our minds are not of God. Our minds must be transformed by the Holy Spirit to become of God. So, how do we make our minds of God?

Change the way we think.

One thing that has really helped in the area of endurance for me is deciding from the very beginning that quitting is not an option. In every situation my husband and I have faced spiritually, quitting has not been a thought we would ever entertain. We may get tired, but we continue to push through until breakthrough happens.

Another area is allowing the revelation that our walk with God is a marathon, not a sprint, to settle into our hearts. The times when I am the most exhausted are when I forget this important truth. Naturally, my body is not built like a sprinter. Spiritually, our bodies are built for endurance, but we must train to endure. You can’t keep up the sprint needed to win a 100 meter dash when the mileage is high.

I shared with you last week that I had to change my mentality as I was running, and when I did that, my body followed. It is the same way spiritually.

Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” (NASB) Whatever we think, that is what we are. If we tell ourselves to quit when the going gets tough, that’s exactly what we will do. If we tell ourselves we are stupid, and talk down about ourselves, that is what we will carry out naturally. 

Romans 12:2 tells us Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The word “transformed” in the Greek is the word “metamorphoo,” which comes from the word “meta” means “change after being with,” and the word “morphoo” means “changing form in keeping with inner reality.” When it’s translated in it’s completion, it literally means “transformed after being with.” It makes me think of when Moses spent time on Mount Sinai with God, his face shone like a radiant light. It was evidence of being in the presence of God, and people recognized it. We should be transformed after being with God.

What it boils down to is that our thinking is our responsibility. When we accept Christ as our Savior, He doesn’t take over our minds to tell us what we should think. He gives us His word so that as we spend time with Him, the Holy Spirit transforms our thinking because we are transforming the way we see things by the revelation of God’s Word.

Mind renewal is a battle. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we do not war against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, powers of this present darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. We have a very real enemy who is FOR our destruction. He has come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He is hell-bent on our failure and does not want us growing and becoming more like Christ.

I believe the enemy’s favorite game to play is with our minds. He loves to shoot his fiery darts of doubts, lies, fears, and worries and then sit back and watch us take off with the rest. It has happened so often to me that you would think I would have his number by now in this area. However, because I’ve acted in the flesh enough after thoughts of doubt, fear, worries and lies, he knows that this is my weak area.

Let me pause here and say that the enemy CANNOT read your mind. He is not omnipresent, omniscient, or omnipotent. He only shoots fiery darts and we choose whether or not they will stay. He can influence our thoughts, but he is not capable of reading our minds. It is up to us whether or not we allow him to influence our thoughts. This is the importance of renewing our minds. As we renew our minds with the word of God and spending time with God, we are transformed and we know that the lies we hear is the enemy attempting to influence our thoughts. We can then stand against them and speak God’s word over the situation and go on with our day.

Having a negative mindset was nothing new for me–I had a negative view of myself and therefore just about everything around me. Anyway, as I began to grow, the middle of the nights were the hardest for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and it never failed that’s when the thoughts of doubt and fear about stepping out and trusting God would bombard my mind. It would be one fiery dart after another reminded me of the situation we were in at that time, and I’d take it from there like a kid takes halloween candy. It was relentless. I used to try and hide under the pillow with the squeezed hard against my ears to try and stop the thoughts. I graduated to praying about the situation, slowly trusting God. Finally, I began to confess the word of God over the situation. I’d either whisper vehemently, or I’d go to the bathroom and yell quietly so I didn’t wake my husband.

When I would wake up the next morning after entertaining those thoughts, I was in a terrible mood. My actions and my words would reflect my worries, and the lies that I had heard that night. But as I graduated up, as I mentioned earlier, my attitude began to change. As I transformed my mind throughout the day and fortified it in the word of God, I began to see that what God said is true and there is no false thing. I also began to see that as I applied His word to my situation by speaking it, things began to change. The nights quit becoming an issue because I knew exactly what to do with it.

Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (NIV)

The truth is that our minds will always be bombarded by worldly things. There will always be worries, there will always be fears and concerns. What matters is what we do with those thoughts. Are we going to dwell on those things? Or are we going to take them captive like 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to? It is vital that we meditate on the word of God, because when we meditate on the word of God, when we dwell on what His word says, we will naturally choose the truth of God’s word instead of the worries or fears.

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Cultivating A Spirit of Perseverance

I have run 83 miles since March 26, 2018. The first day I ran, I did not think that I’d be this far in the mileage. It was a challenge. On the first ever on-purpose run since college, I agreed to run two miles with a friend. As I was stretching, my husband asked me if I thought it was a good idea to run two miles right off the bat. In my head, I thought “oh yeah. I might have to call you to come pick me up.” But I wasn’t about to admit that out loud.

It was a terrible idea to agree to two miles. I got home and collapsed on the floor. Every part of me was screaming in shock over what I just forced it to do. My sister had come over, and I couldn’t even voice a word I was so tired. My lungs were on fire and I was tasting blood. Later when I googled it, I learned that strenuous exercise (like what I had put my body through) without proper training is not good on your lungs, and you’ll taste blood. I wanted to quit so bad that same day. The pain was miserable, and I didn’t feel it was worth it. I’d find another way to be active. But, I had agreed to run over the lunch hour. I couldn’t quit. I am not someone who quits…especially first.

I made the decision to at least stick it out for a few weeks and see where I was then. God used it to minister to me about our race as Christians. A week later, I told my running partner of my goal to run one mile straight through. We would set a good pace, and I would try to keep it. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you haven’t run since college, it’s a huge goal. I was about a half mile in, and my pace was a fast one. Contemplating quitting, I heard “the Christian race is one of endurance.” I slowed my pace a little bit and began to chew on that. Immediately, I realized that my breathing slowed, the pain subsided and I was able to run further. As I progressed through the days, weeks and months, I realized that a mile became easy. The only reason it was ever difficult was due to my mindset prior to my running, and during my run. When I made the decision to quit early, my body took after that and became tired. But when I made the decision to keep going, my body kept going.

The author of Hebrews says the following:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (12:1-2, English Standard Version).

We have people who have gone before us in the arena of faith, just as there are people who have gone before us in training to run a marathon. This isn’t a task that is done by yourself. We are surrounded by others who have gone before us, not only immediately, but the fathers of our faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Deborah, Mary, Rahab.

There are many things that tempt us and attempt to convince us to quit following God, to quit standing for His promises to come to pass. When an amount of time passes and nothing has taken place, the toddler questions take place. “God, why hasn’t this happened? I thought You said that it would?” Or when you’ve told people what you’re standing for, or you’ve made a decision that doesn’t make sense to them, and they start to question you.

The compilation of questions become hindrances in our race. We forget that it’s an endurance race, a marathon. Not a sprint. When anyone is training to be a long distance runner, it takes time to build up to that ability to run far, and to handle the distance. Your body has to make a transformation through training. It’s no different in our walk with the Lord. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we enter the grand marathon race of life. However, to be able to run the race with perseverance, there is training involved. When you commit to running long distance, you commit to changes: mentally, physically, and emotionally. It is my belief that endurance is a mentality. When you take care of your mind, everything else follows. Over the course of the next weeks, we will unpack and unravel the three changes we must make to endure.

The Importance of Weed Control

Weeds are the pits. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of soil they’re in, it’s like they thrive in any condition.

We have trees that shade our yard. They serve a great purpose when the summer days are hot, creating a cool canopy of shade. In the springtime, however, their purpose is more of a nuisance. They release seeds that fall into our yard, and overnight little trees sprout all over the place. If they are not caught and pulled up within the first few days of growth, they will begin to develop a harder base and they are further rooted in the ground. There have been moments where we have been too busy to pull them up once we notice them and they have literally overtaken our yard.

In Mark 4, we read about the different types of soils that seeds are sown upon: hard, rocky, thorny, and fruitful. Just a few verses later, we see that Jesus tells his disciples that the seed that is sown is the word of God.

“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yeilding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:3-9, ESV)

Just like my yard, there is the opportunity for weeds to sprout up and overtake the soil of my heart and the fruit it is producing. It’s the same with you.

I want to give you three practical steps that you can take to begin weed control, no matter where you’re at: whether you’re overgrown, or there are only a few pesky weeds.

1.) Pay attention to the seeds that are sown.

There are seeds all around us. The books we read, the songs we listen to, the words we speak, the shows we watch, the people we hang around, the activities we participate in; they are all seeds that are sown into our lives as we give them attention. It is important that we pay attention to what seeds we are allowing to be sown on the soil of our hearts. It may seem like they are harmless seeds, or that it is silly to consider those things “seeds.” However, if you think about the way you change when you participate in different activities, you can see just how they affect you.

For example, if you spend time around people who are negative and have a negative output on life, you will most likely become negative yourself.

As we grow in our walk as Christians, it is important that our walk matches our talk. We can say that we love the Lord all we want, but if we don’t remove the toxicity of the weeds, it won’t matter to those we come in contact with. There will be a skewed view of how Christians are to conduct themselves.

Put yourself in the shoes of those around you, or maybe a party of people that you’ve never been involved in. You begin spending time with them and participate in all that they do. They know that you are a Christian, but your actions say otherwise. What does this say to them? That being a Christian doesn’t mean anything. You just say something different, but you can continue to act the same.

We are told in 1 Peter 1:16 to be holy, just as the Lord is holy. God doesn’t go around galavanting in things that gratify the sinful nature, and we are not to do that as well. We will reap the harvest of where we sow:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c]you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.(Galatians 5:16-26)

In the passage above, we see what is flesh nature and what is the nature of God. You can also find other flesh tendencies in Colossians 3.

2.) Remove the weeds as soon as you see them.

Each seed opportunity creates an image in our minds. From that image, we speak and therefore act. It becomes a lifestyle, and before we know it, there is weed overgrowth in the garden of our hearts. If we are not purposeful to remove the weeds, they overtake us, and regardless of whether or not we read our bible or go to church, the fruit that was once being produced will be choked out.

There have been days where I look out at my yard and say “I’ll save it for tomorrow.” Ultimately, I wait too long and I have a harder task on my hands than I cared to have. Had I taken care of it when I saw them, it would have been less work, and I would have been less discouraged by my productivity in their removal.

There are days where you will want to say “I will deal with that later.” But if they are not dealt with immediately, it will continue to grow over the fruit of your soil and choke it out.

The “do’s and don’t’s” of God’s Word aren’t there because He doesn’t want us to have fun. They are there, because He knows that when we do as He says, or don’t do as He says, we will reap the blessings or the consequences.

3.) Cultivate the soil of your heart. 

As you continue to remove the weeds the Lord brings to your mind, it is important that you cultivate the soil of your heart by staying in the Word of God.

There might be some weeds that are harder to pull up and will take a specific tool to do so. When you stay prayerful before the Lord, He can give you the tools and the strategy to tear up what does not need to be there.

It is vital that you fill yourself with God’s Word, get plugged into a good church and a good bible study. If you just pull up weeds, but don’t fill yourself with the nutrients of God’s Word, those weeds will continue to overtake you. God’s Word is like round-up weed killer.

What are some weeds that are growing in your yard? Has God pointed out an area that you need to work on weed removal? What is the step He’s asking you to take?

Baggage: A Call to Drop It (A Poem)

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance that race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Source and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has set down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, HCSB)

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We bog ourselves down with the baggage we carry.

Pain turns numb at the length we tarry.

Joyfully we walk the narrow road,

Until we become discouraged by our load.

“Drop it. Drop it. Drop it.” He asks.

“You don’t have to carry alone this daunting task.”

“Drop it at My feet,”

“Take a seat”

“Drink from My well.”

“Shed that outer shell.”

We shed an outer outer shell.

Redefining more our citadel.

Releasing a little more,

We allow Him to partially restore.

Merrily we walk along,

Singing a joyful song.

People along the path, stopped to take a break

Surprise and shock,

“Come on! Walk with me!” you say

“No, we need a break. The road is too narrow.”

Saddened by the images in your head of those behind,

The baggage cuts in a little deeper.

“Drop it. Drop it. Drop it” He asks.

“You don’t have to carry alone this daunting task.”

The end of our baggage is the hardest,

For it has us harnessed

To the past of who we used to be.

We just can’t see,

The changed He wants us to be.

Nearing the end, discouraged and downtrodden.

The joy at the beginning long forgotten.

What could have made this easier?

How could I have stayed eager?

“Drop it. Drop it. Drop it.” He asks.

“You don’t have to carry alone this daunting task.”

“Drop it at My feet.”

“Take a seat.”

“Drink from My well.”

“Shed that outer shell.”

“But isn’t it too late,” you whisper.

“My shoulders are blistered,”

Interrupted by the response,

“It’s never too late with Me.” said with nonchalance.

“Look around you.”

“See the others that have pushed through.”

You look, bags are laid out on the bare ground

The image before you creates a campground.

“This is not the end. It’s only the beginning.”

“Drop it. Drop it. Drop it.” He asks.

“You don’t have to carry alone this daunting task.”

“Drop it at My feet.”

“Take a seat.”

“Drink from My well.”

“Shed that outer shell.”

“Join me on this new journey,”

Walking forward toward Him,

You hear the cheers from an army,

Your fellow Christians,

Renewing your ambition.

Enter In

Placeholder ImageAwhile back I listened to a message by Pastor Craig Groeschel titled “God With Us.” He preached from Psalm 84 and talked about how sometimes we really know God loved and cares for us on the mountaintop, but in the valley we sometimes question it. It got me pondering:
The valley is a journey that you can’t pitch your tent in and dwell. It’s a wandering journey, one you have to keep traveling, because it’s not a journey that lasts forever.
As I think about the valleys of life I’ve been through, I think about what I thought and felt. Deep down I knew God loved me and was with me, but it wasn’t making the journey to my heart. What stood out to me the most were those who entered into the trenches with me. Through them, God healed my hurt and encouraged me to continue in the journey to the mountain top. And those same people who entered the trenches, rejoiced on the mountaintop.
If there’s one thing I want to make a point about it’s this: enter into the trenches with a fellow brother or sister. Sometimes it takes you climbing down to where they are to help them start the journey up. It takes the hope that’s built on God’s faithfulness for them to see that He provides the same for them too. And in those moments that the valley gets to muddy and murky, you can be the hands and feet of Jesus and trudge through with them.
Please understand that I’m not discounting the presence of God, and the importance of Him never leaving you—but, there’s something about entering into the trenches that makes someone see that they do matter. That they are loved. And that they’re not walking this alone. It helps to have someone help you repair your armor, to restore the cleats on the bottom of your shoes of peace so that you can dig into the side of that muddy mountain and advance against the enemy to the mountaintop.
We need each other. And if more people entered in instead of letting people just wallow in the miry clay, there would be more well digging in the valley in hopeful anticipation that their journey through that valley is almost over.