After years of progressive hearing loss, by age 46 German composer Ludwig van Beethoven had become completely deaf. Nevertheless, he wrote his most fabulous music, including five symphonies, during his later years. Louis L’Amour wrote over 100 western novels selling over 200 million copies. He received 350 rejections before he made his first sale. These men possessed incredible staying power. They refused to bail out when the going was tough. They knew that their work was more like a marathon run than a sprint. And like world-class marathon runners, they finished their race.
What did they possess that enabled them to finish their race?
The Force of Faith
There is strength in smallness. It only takes a spark to get a fire going. A small ruder steers a large boat. One idea can spur an individual to change the world. And faith, regardless of its size, can turn a desperate calamity into a hope-filled future.
How often, when we feel like giving up, have we said, “I wish I had more faith.” Or, when we are going through difficult situations, someone says to us, “You need more faith.” More faith is not needed. The issue is not the size of our faith, but the object of our faith. The smallest amount of faith focused on God can be the difference in whether or not we finish. The seed of faith is planted within us. We can become more potent than the situation we are facing. God has implanted with us all the faith we need. As long as we keep our heart focused on him, God can work. God cannot work through us, however, if we quit.
The Presence of the Provider
When we encounter distressing situations, we need to remember God’s role.
We remember God’s goodness in the past. Recalling the good things God has done, lifts our spirits. The old hymn is helpful here: “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
We remember God’s closeness in the present. God is with us. He is by our side. He has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 NIV). We may not be calling on God, but he is still there.
We remember God’s power for the future. He will give us the strength we need. When we get depressed and discouraged, we must get our minds off our circumstances and get them on the Lord. We can hang on by flipping the switch that channels God’s power through us.
We may give up, but God will never give up. We may quit, but God will never leave. God is not only on our side he is on our side.
The Reservoir of Resources
Sometimes we want to give up only because we have depleted our physical resources. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” When we are burned out often what we need is some rest. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is go to take a nap, or take an affordable two-week vacation. If we are going to finish it is imperative that we take care of ourselves physically.
When we are ready to give up we must draw upon a higher power made available to us through worship and meditation. These daily disciplines are a priority to finish the race. Before we give up, look up to God. God wants to provide us with the spiritual resources to patch us up, to keep us going. Finishing requires spiritual stamina. That comes through a balanced diet of Bible reading, prayer, worship, and service.
Strength, also, is found in numbers. The tallest trees in the world are the Redwoods. Interestingly, they have a shallow root system. Their power comes because their roots become intertwined with one another. When we have an active support group around us to encourage and uplift us, we are less likely to give up.
These resources and the presence of God and the force of faith are free and undiminishing. They are the ingredients that keep us going, enabling us to finish our race. Beethoven had them. So did L’Amour. And so do you.
Did you know that if we practiced love our relationships would be stronger, our jobs would be more meaningful, and our ailments would be fewer? Earlier this year I wrote an encouraging book on love called Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love. The book gets its title from perhaps the greatest statement ever made on love in 1 Corinthians 13. This book provides a guide to love, and, if practiced, it will make us well and whole. Click here to claim your copy.