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Sticking Points



Spiritual Training Cycle: Submission (wk. 11/13)


Sticking to a fitness regime is hard. Any of us who have stuck to a fitness regime know that real change doesn’t happen fast. While it’s motivating to see some initial success, we’ve learned that it takes patience and time – in many instances a long time – to get the lasting results we aim for. To get anywhere significant in our fitness journey, we need the patience to stick with it for a lengthy period. To push through our sticking points.


Suffering over time “She suffers well.” – that’s the lofty compliment Coach Sean (who is rarely complimentary!) shared recently about one of our members.


“She suffers well.” Not “she’s gifted” or “she’s strong,” or “she’s coordinated” or even “she’s a natural athlete.”


Coach Sean’s highest compliment for her was, “she suffers well.” Why was that so impressive to our normally unforthcoming coach? A coach, by the way, who has years of experience working with hundreds of athletes – why does he see this as a key to her success?


While she’s done athletic things all her life, this member would say she is not naturally gifted. Like most of us, she didn’t go to college on an athletic scholarship. When her school-aged friends were excelling on sports teams, she was a “b” player - never an all-star. But now, in her early thirties, her years of disciplined, patient endurance - “suffering well” according to Coach Sean - is paying off as she sets new PRs and slowly moves up the local scene in CrossFit competitions.


Sticking to a fitness regime is hard. So is life. This principle of sticking with it – having patience through suffering – is not just a fitness reality. It is a life reality. Things are hard. Relationships are hard. Work is hard. Home is hard. People are hard. Some days, simply putting one foot in front of another is hard. The question is not, “How do you avoid the hard things?” The question is, “How do you learn to be more patient, enduring the hard things as you mature?”


In his letter to Christ-followers in Rome two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul acknowledged that these new Roman Christians were experiencing suffering. Ostracized, hated, shunned and at times even persecuted by the people and culture around them, these followers of Jesus were suffering because of their faith.


He also reminded his readers that suffering is never for nothing. In Romans 5, verses 3-5, he writes:


We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The goal of patience There’s a “maturity sequence” in these verses: suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. I can’t think of anyone who takes life seriously that wouldn’t say they’d like to have more endurance, be more mature in their character and stronger in their hope for the future.


Paul indicates this sequence of maturity starts with patiently enduring suffering. It’s as if he is saying, “you want to be a more mature person? Lean into the hard things with patience – these hard things will produce the fruit you are looking for.”

But Wait, There’s More! And the good news for those of us who are follows of Christ? – Here’s the 10,000-extra-credit-point/lottery ticket-winning/get-out-of-jail-free/million dollar/unlimited redemption pay-off: Paul makes it very clear at the end of this “suffering-endurance-character-hope” sequence that our ultimate hope won’t disappoint us because of this profound truth: God is for us through the hard things that life throws at us. No matter the suffering we must endure, under God’s love, the outcome is already decided in our favor. Patience has the potential to transform our lives. All we need to do is hold on and keep moving through the sticking points.


Questions for Reflection:

What hard things do you need to lean into right now to grow in patience?


What would it take for you and God to grow your endurance, character, and hope?

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