I’m from State College, Pennsylvania home to the Penn State Nittany Lions. My parents met at Penn State and because they loved their community, they settled in, had four kids and never left. Growing up there, a love for college football was a given and that love has stuck with me ever since.
If you could care less about football, hang in there. I have a point. It’s an illustration that has helped me to understand what God is up to, in my life anyway. For those of you in a season that requires perseverance, it may be a word for you too.
There is an important rule in football known as Forward Progress. The ball carrier runs towards the opposing team. He plows forward, through a line of defenders using all the strength he can muster. Typically he’s met with hard hitting resistance. The defenders try to strip the ball and push the ball carrier back. The tussle often continues well after the whistle blows. It looks painful and discouraging— so much exertion with little to show for it. But because of the forward progress rule, the ball carrier is rewarded for his total forward progress regardless of the distance he may be pushed back.
For me, in my role as not only Ian’s mother but also his guardian, it has felt like that kind of short yardage discouraging football play over and over and over again. 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. Somedays it can feel as if we’ve lost ground with one step forward and 3 steps back.
But God has encouraged me with the forward progress rule. None of the grinding effort has been wasted. None of the frustrating discouragement has been fruitless. There is purpose to perseverance. “Look up child”, He tells me, together we have made significant progress. Even though it doesn’t look or feel that way, He wants me to know it to be true.
After all, my faith is precious to Him, more precious than mere gold.
1 Peter 1:7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
What is that trial in your life, that stressor you want fixed? — a health problem, a circumstance, a relationship, a prodigal? Perhaps you faithfully pray and pray and pray for God to just do it already— fix it, change it, cure it, remove it. I get it. It’s human nature to prefer the hail Mary pass to be caught in the end zone. Game over.
But that usually doesn’t work. What if instead, we accept the trial and trust Him to get us through it. While leaning on Him, we face the stressor head on and grind it out on the field, little by little, knowing it was the Lord who called the play.
For me, this season of perseverance is not easy or comfortable, but the Lord has been near. He has reassured me that I’m where I’m supposed to be. It takes discipline to wait, to resist running ahead to do something flashy, or expedient without Him. Instead, I’m on high alert intently listening for His next creative play.
The Irony of Endurance
The great irony of endurance is this. Instead of the storm destroying us, when we endure, it becomes the means the Lord uses to deliver us.
Hebrews 10:36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Here’s the thing… In this world you WILL have trouble. (John 16:33)
So in a sense, trouble is simply an unwelcome and uninvited friend in the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving and all powerful God. When we allow Him, He uses adversity to ….
- ween us from self dependence and any notion that we’re in control
- draw us closer to Him
- redirect us for our greatest good and His greatest glory.
When I find myself in a place where “I can’t”, I must remember, He never said I could. Not only that, but He can, and He’s always said He would.
Dear Sovereign Father, What a relief it is to know that You’ve Got THIS. Forgive me for losing sight of Your end game. Especially during seasons that require perseverance, thank you for Your encouragement. Thank you that all of our grinding effort is not in vane. Remind me that this sometimes painful process leads me to a greater hope and a deeper faith. Help me to keep on keeping on, trusting You to use it all for my good and Your glory. Amen.