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“And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about
Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets,
 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises,
shut the mouths of lions,  quenched the raging of fire, escaped the
edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle,
and put foreign armies to flight.  Women received their dead raised
to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they
might gain a better resurrection,  and others experienced mockings
and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.  They were stoned,
they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in
sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.  The
world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves,
and holes in the ground.  All these were approved through their faith,
but they did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided
something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without
I believe that the ability to endure through difficult times is
one of the keys to successful living. In fact, I’ll go further with
that statement, it would be impossible for a person to accomplish anything
of value if they didn’t possess this trait.
In the early '90's Donald Trump was $900 million in the hole. Today
his accumulated wealth is in the 2.5 to $5 billion range. Trump has “Seven
Rules of Success.” The third one says, "You cannot stop if there is a concrete
wall in front of you, you have to go through it. You can never, ever give
up or even think in terms of giving up." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner is an inspiration.
In his book, Go
the Distance, Ed Rowell writes, "If anyone had a reason to give up,
it would have been Lance Armstrong. Lance was a world-class cyclist, one
of the rare Americans competing in the elite road races of Europe.
In 1996, the twenty-four-year-old climbed to the number-one ranking
in his sport but then doctors diagnosed him with testicular cancer. The
cancer had metastasized and spread to his lungs and brain. Few expected
him to survive the disease" (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
He not only survived, he came back like gang busters. In July of 2002,
Armstrong won his fourth Tour de France; just six years after doctors diagnosed
him with an advanced stage of testicular cancer.
On Monday, October 10, 2005, Johnny Wilson raised $30,000.00 for
the victims of Hurricane Katrina by swimming from Alcatraz Island to San
Francisco’s shoreline. The nine-year-old boy endured the 53-degree
choppy, shark infested water. He finished the 1.4-mile swim in less
than two hours to the cheers of his schoolmates who yelled, "Go, Johnny!
Go, Johnny!" from the shoreline.
As Johnny fatigued from the cold and physical exertion, he kept
telling himself, “I'm almost there, I'm almost there” and he kept swimming.
How could these people endure such incredible hardships?
How could The Donald go from being almost a billion dollars in the hole
to rebuild his empire the way he has? How could Lance Armstrong bounce
back from a cancer that should have killed him to the peak of athletic
condition? How could a nine-year-old boy swim in a 53-degree choppy,
shark infested water for 1.4 miles? Endurance. That’s how.
So where do we get us some of this endurance?
In his book, Out
of the Whirlwind, Mark Tabb explains how to become a person that can
endure. “One of my daughters can run circles around me.” Tabb writes, “I
may be able to take her in a quick sprint because my legs are longer than
hers, but if we run any distance at all I fold as she leaves me in the
dirt. Maybe it has something to do with the fact she runs several miles
every day, topping off the week with a five-or-eight-mile run every Saturday.
Over the course of the summer she'll log between 250 and 300 miles. She
has endurance because she is willing to put up with the pain.
God builds spiritual stamina in us in the same way. He takes us through
difficult times to build us up, to stretch us to our limit, in order that
he might make us stronger.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
From a spiritual point of view, it would be correct to say that
endurance strengthens our faith. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These have
come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even
though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise,
glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (NIV)
Endurance is a key to success and it strengthens our faith, but
there is more to this subject than just that. Faith gives us the
strength to endure. Our text depicts heroes of the faith who endured
incredible hardships and says that the source of their strength was their
faith. God used their faith to accomplish incredible things through
the hardships they endured. Endurance strengthens faith and faith
Unfortunately we often pray for God to remove a trial so that we won’t
have to endure hardship and don’t understand that the hardship itself is
the blessing from God. Lance Armstrong said, "We have unrealized
capacities that only emerge in crisis--capacities for enduring, for living,
for hoping, for caring, for enjoying. Each time we overcome pain, I believe
that we grow. Cancer was the making of me: Through it I became a more compassionate,
complete, and intelligent man, and therefore a more alive one." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
In short, Armstrong states that cancer made him a better person.
God did not remove the trails from the lives of these faithful
people. The scripture says, “They were stoned, they were sawed in
two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins,
destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.  The world was not worthy of
them. They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”
(Heb 11:37-38 HCSB)
God blessing wasn’t that he removed the hardship; it was that
He used the hardships to build their faith, which in turn gave them the
endurance to make it through their trial. James 5:11 says, "We give great
honor to those who endure under suffering. Job is an example of a man who
endured patiently. From his experience we see how the Lord's plan finally
ended in good, for he is full of tenderness and mercy." (NLT)
Are you going through difficult times? You may think that
it is punishment from God and you may wonder if you will be able to see
it through, but I believe that this could be your finest hour. God
will use your faith to help you endure and use your endurance to build
your faith. In this process, God will help you accomplish His will
in your life and His kingdom work through you.
When trials make you want to give up, remember Johnny’s words,
“I'm almost there, I'm almost there” and keep swimming. Or better
yet, remember the words of Moses who wrote, “Be strong and brave. Don't
be afraid of them and don't be frightened, because the Lord your God will
go with you. He will not leave you or forget you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6