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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Does God have Plans for Me?

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'” (Jeremiah 29:11)

This verse came up recently in our weekly Bible study. Specifically, the question was considered, does God’s promise to Jeremiah apply to us as well?

It is extremely common for Christians to use this verse for comfort in their own difficult trials. It is also quite common to witness satirical or even mocking reminders that God was talking to the great prophet Jeremiah while in Babylonian captivity, and not to any of us.

So, does God’s promise to Jeremiah apply to us as well? God does have plans for us, and not plans that He dreamed up five minutes ago.

God has been planning since before creation to send His Son on our behalf.

“For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you, who through Him are believers in God.” (1 Peter 1:20-21)

God has been planning since before creation for us to know and follow this Christ.

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)

God’s plans for this salvation apply to all of us.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

His plans are not only for our salvation in an abstract sense, but truly for our ultimate welfare.

“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Therefore, God does know the plans that He has for us, and they are plans for welfare and not calamity, to give us a hope and a future.

If we misunderstand these assertions to be promises about smooth relationships, financial prosperity, good physical health, or good luck, we will probably be disappointed sooner or later.

But if we understand God’s promises as those that are ultimate and eternal, we can rest in His promises. That which is known is central for us, while that which is unknown is peripheral.