Being a Tough Christian

I was amazed recently to hear an interview with a man who is considered by many to be “the toughest man in the world.” The man’s name is David Goggins, who is described by Wikipedia as “retired Navy SEAL and former USAF Tactical Air Control Party member who served in Iraq and Afghanistan… ultramarathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, triathlete and world record holder for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours.”

I was impressed with Goggins’ description of the first time he had run a 100 mile race. He did this with no marathon training whatsoever. He was not even a runner.

He describes sitting down at one point and being unable to stand back up, so that he had to use the restroom on himself right where he sat. He describes the small bones in his feet being broken, kidney failure, severe shin fractures, and tendon inflammation so severe that he had to tape his entire lower legs into what were essentially giant, unflexing pegs for the last 20 or 30 miles of the race. He describes exactly the kind of intense pain that you would expect from someone who is running 100 miles without ever having trained as a runner before.

As I heard this tale, I had to question whether I was truly aware of my own ability for mental toughness. I thought of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Maybe when you read this passage, you think it means that God will give you a fairly easy and obvious way out of any temptation you might face. Maybe we want to believe that the paths through our trials will be simply a matter of trusting God and it will all be over in a jiffy.

But all that the text says is that He “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” And apparently, human beings are able to endure tremendous suffering and difficulty.

We are told that He, “with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” This is a sure promise from the LORD. But bear in mind that humans have endured all kinds of long, painful situations such as being prisoners of war or being trapped for days or weeks under rubble before finally finding a way of escape.

You might or might not be physically able to run 100 miles, even if you truly gave it your all. But the temptations you face, with the LORD’s help, you can overcome if you refuse to give up. But do not expect it to be easy.

We will need to draw on the LORD for tremendous strength if we are to bear the tragedies and the ailments that are sure to come our way.

“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Peter 4:13)

“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8:16-17)

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Stripping Off Every Weight

The first couple of verses of Hebrews chapter 12 give this instruction:

Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

The New Living Translation actually says: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”

Having been a casual cyclist for several years, I have definitely become familiar with the idea of diminishing weight in order to gain efficiency. For a serious cyclist, unnecessary parts such as kickstands or baskets are immediately out of the question because of the weight that they add to the bicycle. Most will also immediately remove reflectors from a new bike if it comes with them. Some cyclists have even been known to peel the stickers off of their bikes in order to trim every last unnecessary gram.

The quest for efficiency does not end there. Road bikers where skintight clothing, and often shave their legs. They use extremely skinny tires with extremely high air pressure in them.

The women’s track pursuit bike for the Olympics this year has the drivetrain on the left side of the bike, instead of the traditional location on the right. This is to reduce wind resistance since the bike will only be making left turns. I could go on, but you get the picture.

If humans are capable of such intense attention to detail in athletics, are we not also capable of seeking that kind of perfection in spiritual things? Have you removed as many unnecessary encumbrances as you can from your spiritual life?

Susanna Wesley once wrote these words to her son: “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”

Her definition of sin is thought provoking because it reminds us that spiritual encumbrances may not always appear to be obviously wicked, but they may effect us negatively nonetheless.

What television shows could we give up, or what habits of thinking could we alter, or what quiet whisper of the conscience could we listen to more earnestly, in order that we might run with endurance the race set before us?

As any professional athlete can tell you, even the smallest changes could make a big difference.