Endurance with endorphins
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. – Hebrews 10:36
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
What is endurance? Physical endurance is the ability to strain, struggle, and push oneself for a longer than average period. It includes the ability to resist, withstand, recover from trauma, wounds, or fatigue. Physical endurance may be increased by focused exercise. Increasing the number of repetitions and the speed at which they are done is a training regimen for improved endurance.
Increased endurance releases endorphins which decrease anxiety, depression, and stress and provide greater peace and confidence, as well as improve mood and outlook.
Endurance is not merely part of the physical realm; it has a spiritual and emotional component as well. Spiritual endurance enables us to overcome difficult situations and adversities. Interestingly, in psychology, this is referred to as “grit.” Grit is a positive outlook. When mixed with enthusiastic passion, overcoming obstacles or challenges becomes routine. All children of the King can grow in their spiritual grit.
There is an interesting paradox at work in connection with endurance. Physical endurance and strength inevitably diminish. In fact, everything that makes us human tends to wear down and wear out with age. There is one singular exception: the human spirit.
“All through life, inevitably, our physical strength fades away; but all through life it ought to happen that our souls keep growing. The sufferings which leave us with weakened bodies may be the very things which strengthen our inner selves. . .. From the physical point of view, life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But, from the spiritual point of view, life is climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No one need fear the years, for they bring us nearer, not to death, but to God” (Barclay).
This is precisely what 2 Corinthians 4:16,18 speaks of. Barclay translates these two verses as follows: “That is the reason why we do not grow weary. But if indeed our outward frame is wasting away, our inward self is renewed day by day . . .. so long as we do not think of the things which are seen, but of the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen are passing, but the things which are unseen are eternal.”
With a bit of humor, it is clear that some physical realities do not change with age. “Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone” (Jim Fiebig). “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” (Satchel Paige).
REFLECT & PRAY
“In all the gospel story, Jesus never foretold his death without foretelling his resurrection” (Barclay). The worst of what we experience is overshadowed by the best of what lies ahead.
Father increase my endurance that I may face the vicissitudes of life as an overcomer. I want to see the invisible, the unseen reality that lasts forever.
Consider for a moment. Realities of the immaterial world, unseen things, things of heaven, last forever. However, things that are seen, the things of the material world, cease and are no more.
Thus that Paul exhorts us to fix our eyes not on the things that are seen but on the things that are unseen.
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
The Greek word translated as fix or look is skopeo. The English word scope is derived from skopeo. Skopeo means to pay careful attention to, watch carefully, contemplate. The use of the English word look “is a rather weak translation of the verb used here. It carries the idea of ‘focus one’s attention on’ or ‘keep one’s eye on’” (UBS). But how can we focus and fix our eyes on something invisible? The answer, we cannot!
That is the point. So it’s not seeing with our physical eyes but rather seeing with our minds, our spiritual eyes. The following renderings capture the sense, ‘‘‘to let one’s mind dwell on,’ ‘to keep one’s mind on,’ ‘to keep thinking about,’ ‘to focus one’s attention on’” (Abernathy).
The NLT rendered it “we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” Our focus should be on things that are not seen with the naked eye. “Mere physical vision is not intended here: ‘we keep our minds on . . ..’ This is especially appropriate since one cannot ‘look’ at ‘things that are not seen’” (UBS).
Pause for a moment and absorb what Paul is saying. We are to “see” with our spirits, with the eyes of our hearts that which cannot be seen with our physical eyes.
Thus rather than focus on temporary, transient matters which turn to dust, we fix our “eyes” on things that are eternal and last forever.
Paul experienced repeated suffering and affliction. Of course, he was not alone. Many children of the King were traumatized and cruelly dealt with in the first century. Paul’s answer is not to focus on the horizontal, that which is seen with human eyes. But rather we fix our attention on the vertical, what we see with the eyes of our hearts. Paul’s concentration is on the future and not the present. For Paul, through faith, the future is now.
Hebrews 12:1 let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Hebrews 10:36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. you will receive all that he has promised.
Paul had it figured out. He shows us the way to peace amid difficult times. Life can be viewed in one of two ways. It can be viewed as a slow but inexorable journey away from God. This is a common and natural orientation of those who think only of the visible things. They are bound to see life in this way.
But there is another way. Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).
In the same way, that physical endurance can be developed over time, so can spiritual endurance. How? A paradigm shift is required. We are to move away from looking and being consumed by what is going on around us. In its place, we learn to focus on the invisible, the eternal, the future reality which belongs to every child of the King.
Hebrews 12:27 All of creation will be shaken and removed so that only unshakable things will remain.
Consider the heady and profound philosophy of Peanuts. “You can’t hurry love or pizza. Especially pizza” (Snoopy).
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon” (Charlie Brown).