Hebrews 11 is the classic chapter on faith. It reminds us of Abraham who believed and went even though he did not know where he was going, and the martyrs who died though they only saw and welcomed the Kingdom from a distance. Such faith is hard to master, and it is also hard to wait without knowing when relief will come.
Waiting requires both patience and perseverance. James 1:2-4 reminds us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I think of faith, waiting, patience, and perseverance as elements of a workout routine. Each element works together to make us mature and complete for the next leg of our journey with Christ. You cannot, for example, get into excellent shape by only running 15 miles a week. You must change your diet, sleep enough, and develop a workout regimen that incorporates cardio, weight training, and stretching. Workouts should target the entire body and personal routine, just as trials can often impact every aspect of our lives.
At the beginning of a workout that targets muscles you never use, it’s normal to be in a lot of pain. To wince when you laugh. To hold the banister when you walk up two flights of stairs. But in time, the pain fades and you suddenly realize that you are much stronger than you were several weeks before. You can run faster and do more push-ups. So it is with trials of life. Perhaps a particular trial wore you out at first, but a few weeks, months, or years into it, you suddenly realize your spiritual muscles are working quite well. You pray more. You hear the Lord more clearly. You worry less. You stay calm during crises. You keep doing these things–not without failure, but to the best of your ability–walking along the path set before you with the most faith, patience, and perseverance you have. You do these things, waiting in hope that Christ will appear just as he said he would.
One of two things will happen when Christ suddenly comes. We can scramble to get ready to follow Christ when He appears, or we can have our bags packed and waiting by the door so that we only need to grab them when He says, “Come.”
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes, “Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. … the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. We wait with the idea that some great opportunity or something sensational will be coming our way, and when it does come we are quick to cry out, ‘Here I am.’”
When trials wind down, and our faith is realized, we must be ready to follow Christ immediately, taking only what is necessary for the next journey and remaining confident that what we learned in the last full-body workout has prepared us to navigate the uncharted territory ahead.