2 Timothy 3:10-11- But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. NKJV
I’m not a runner, but when I was in BootCamp, I had to run daily. Every single morning we ran around the base or the track to train for our physical readiness test. I was never at the front of the group, usually falling behind before the time was up; but someone would always be there encouraging me to stay with it. On the day of the test, I was determined to qualify because I wanted to be done with this running stuff. As a weaker runner, I was on the front line for the mile and a half trek around the track. The whistle blew, and off I ran, keeping up with the pacer. I was handling my own because I had trained for this moment! As we came around for the end of the run I tripped over someone’s foot and fell. I promise you it wasn’t my own feet. And that ended the run for me. I would have to run again on another day. My disappointment was great and I wanted to quit!
Life has a way of tripping us up! Or as I believe it, the enemy of our souls is always looking for a way to knock us out of the race! If we keep living, one day we might find ourselves flat on our faces! Ready to quit! But this isn’t the time to quit, it’s the time to persevere!
Paul understood perseverance. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote:
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.Romans 5:3-4 NKJV
The Oxford dictionary defines perseverance as the persistence in doing something even when it is difficult or there is a delay in achieving success. Paul said that when we go throw tribulations, hard times, or difficult situations that make us want to throw in the towel and quit, there is another alternative. We can allow those challenges to produce perseverance in us, the ability to keep going in spite of what is happening around us.
That day on the track when I had made it to the end of my run, only to fall in defeat, I wanted to cry like a baby. But that’s not what I did. I was told to meet the trainer on the track the next morning, and so I did. Every day until it was time to be tested again. This time, there were only a few of us, but for some reason, the run seemed easier. As I ran with my coach, she set up a good pace for me, and we finished the course together. I was so proud of myself! I finished! I didn’t give up! I kept at it and met my qualifications so that I could move on to the next level of training.
Paul was qualified to write that tribulations produce perseverance.
…From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NKJV
Paul was basically saying, if you think you are having a hard time, let me give you a reality check. I worked hard! I was in prison often. I almost died several times. The Jews beat me five times, I was stoned, and three times I was shipwrecked. (Has this happened to you?) I was in the water for a night and a day waiting to be rescued. I traveled so much that my life was always in some type of danger, either from the waters I traveled on, robbers, the wilderness, wild animals, hunger, thirst, cold, etc. And on top of all of these things, I had the churches that I found on my mind and heart.
This Paul, that many believe struggled with his Christianity said, his difficulties taught him to persevere. But he didn’t stop there, he said that his perseverance produced character in his life, and it will do the same for you. Character refers to integrity, honor, moral fiber, even your reputation. How we handle the tough times in life speaks to our character. More people need to work on character development than ever before!
I recently read a novel where a minor character was bent on killing the main character. At the end of the book, the antagonist spoke of how hard his life had been because they had exposed him for being a cheat and a liar. That led him to drink and to take drugs, which led him to sell drugs, which led him to prison. Stay with me for a second.
What can happen in our lives that will turn us bitter, causing us to give up and throw in the towel? What are we willing to allow to pull us from the truth of what God has for us to a life that brings shame and destruction? What hardship will cause us to walk away from the only One who can truly deliver us?
Paul said that he endured a lot of things, but God delivered him out of all of them:
…what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.2 Timothy 3:10-11 NKJV
Paul is really applauding Timothy in this verse. He tells Timothy that he noticed the fact that Timothy had been an excellent follower. According to Paul, Timothy followed the teachings that Paul taught him with care. He followed the life that Paul lived, his purpose, and his faith. He even followed Paul’s example of longsuffering, love, persecution, etc. Timothy didn’t follow Paul because of hero worship. He followed Paul because he saw the life and relationship that Paul had in Christ. One that he desired. And so he figured that was the way he wanted to live his life!
Paul didn’t allow trouble, persecutions, or hardships to teach him how to quit. Neither did Timothy! They learned to persevere through the tough times. When the waves got rocky, they held on to the ship! When the lashes whipped across their back, they thought of what Jesus endured for them. When they were hungry, it was time to fast. When dangers surrounded them, in Jesus they trusted.
I believe that we can also have this testimony. We don’t have to crumble at the sign of trouble, at everything the devil throws at us. I like what Paul had to say about him and us:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.Romans 8:37 NKJV
We are not just conquerors, although that would have been sufficient enough. We are more than conquerors! We just have to determine before we go through, that we will get through with His help! Don’t let trouble teach you to quit! Let it teach you how to finish strong! He’s running with you, encouraging you, strengthening you, assuring you that you can make it! Wonderful Jesus!