The Bare Soul - May 25, 2008
Perseverance Through Love

Romans 5:3-5 - And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Most of us have never experienced what the apostle Paul speaks of in this scripture. God has not put many of us in situations where we are literally suffering for the sake of Christ as the Roman Christians suffered. Even today, most that are able to read this devotional are in countries that allow and actually celebrate freedom of belief and religion. However, there are many who don't have computers let alone electricity who are in violent, Christ-hating regions where their very testimony is an act of extraordinary faith. Nonetheless, God meets us where we are and gives to us the measure that we need in our present circumstances. These in distant countries exult in their tribulations, knowing they bring about proven character. Circumspectly, those of us who do not know or understand true Godly tribulation  may still understand with measure what it means to persevere through our day to day trials. God has us all exactly where we are to be at this exact moment. Therefore, we must take every opportunity the Lord gives us to practice the instances of character building the Lord brings our way.

Before knowing the Lord Jesus, I ran away from and quit everything of significance that I ever started in life. I quit high school to join the Navy. I quit the Navy to be out on my own and to go to college. Quitting college after one semester, I quit innumerable jobs and relationships for many years until I came to the end of myself and I just couldn't run away from life anymore. I was physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. Once I re-committed my life to the Lord, I began to understand the importance of finishing what I had started. Enrolling and attending college, I gained more and more confidence as the semesters began piling up with high marks. The perseverance that I learned in college in my late 30s and early 40s were things most learned as youths and teenagers. Nonetheless, those were the days when I "grew up" and started acting like a man. The disciplines that I learned in those first few years of sobriety and re-commitment to the Lord carried over when I took up running once again in 1998. Sure, I had trained and ran a marathon a few years earlier. However, this was different than when I started running 8 years earlier. This was a commitment to a lifestyle -- a "life hobby" as my brother so appropriately called it.

Self-imposed tribulation as I experienced is never the ideal way to learn one's lessons and to "grow up". However, self-imposed discipline is CHOSEN and embraced to develop various physical as well as mental and spiritual attributes. I bore up under the pain through my own failings before Christ, and now I am continually learning how to deal with pain through disciplines that lead to success after success. Rather than look at our tribulations or trials as a catalyst to develop perseverance and ultimately proven character, hope, and love, we too often look at these perceived hindrances as nuisances and bothers. "Well, I'm just a little annoyed today" one might say with disdain and a gloomy countenance. Or, one might conversely say "I have the opportunity to be shaped more like my Lord through this ordeal". Perspective is the key. When running up hills during marathons I love shouting out "Hills are our FRIENDS!" Other runners look at me like I'm nuts (usually those who are walking UP the hill), but some nod in approval. They know that hills really show what a runner is truly made of -- they are to be conquered and not acquiesced to.

Winning attitudes toward life's respective "hills" aren't automatic on our proverbial "race days". Nothing has taught me more about tenacity and perseverance than running on a daily basis -- some days trudging away when no one but myself and God are there to acknowledge it. This simple commitment is a constant reminder to me of the lost soul that I was for so many years -- how doing something consistently reconfirms to me the mercy of the Lord to bring me out of a life of dogged failure and disappointment. My former self-imposed life of tribulation created the willingness in me to do something different which ultimately began molding the "character" I am today. Metaphorically speaking, when we finally get tired of running away from God, we can begin to run toward Him and to embrace the obstacles along the way as those which will save us and not enslave us to hopelessness and despair. This is only possible as we trust in the Lord and rejoice when the hard times come. Most assuredly, they will because He loves us too much to leave us as we are and desires us to be perfected through perseverance in His love.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Barefoot Rick

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