“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sit down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
When I read these verses, the first word I notice is perseverance, which is defined as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Paul is explaining in this passage that we are to exercise perseverance by finishing the race we are called to run. We do this by focusing on Jesus and the reward He promises, rather than being set back by the obstacles and struggles we may face along the way. And when I think about this kind of perseverance, I think about my little brother, Brett.
Brett is probably the most strong-willed, goal-oriented, and motivated person I’ve ever met. When he sets his mind to something, there is absolutely nothing you can do to get in his way, especially when it comes to basketball. Calling him a gym rat doesn’t even do him justice. The kid used to sleep with his basketball for crying out loud.
One of Brett’s main goals that he set for himself early on was to play college basketball. I watched him work his butt off for years to make that goal a reality. But he definitely faced his set of challenges along the way.
Let me start off by saying that Brett is 5’9 (on a good day) and weighs about 160 pounds. So he’s typically one of the smallest guys on the court. He will tell you, though, that he likes being underestimated. He has always used it as motivation. People have been telling him for years that he isn’t big enough or tall enough or fast enough or whatever else, and it would just fuel the fire. I’ve learned that if you want Brett to do something, just tell him he can’t do it, and he will prove you wrong real quick.
Aside from his size, injuries were sprinkled into the mix during Brett’s high school years. When he was in the 9th grade, he sprained his ankle in practice.
And instead of resting it for a few days, Brett continued to play. In the process, he overcompensated on his other ankle and ended up getting a stress fracture. The doctor made him wear a boot for 6 weeks. You would think that would be enough to settle Brett down…well think again. Not long after he was sentenced to the boot, he was playing basketball in the driveway while rolling around in an office chair so he didn’t have to put pressure on his ankle. You just can’t stop the kid.
Three years later, five games into his senior season, Brett was trying to go for a steal and in the process got hit in the face by another kid’s shoulder. I heard the crunch when it happened, and it’s not something I want to ever hear again. He came out of the game with a giant dent in the right side of his face. But within a few minutes, he was checking back into the game. He played his heart out until the coach took him out (despite Brett’s protests) so my parents could take him to the hospital.
Brett ended up having eight broken bones in his face and had to have multiple surgeries to repair the damage, which included placing a metal plate in his face. Plus he had to wear a mask for a few weeks once he was cleared to play. But once again, Brett didn’t stop. He kept practicing. He missed the minimum number of games that he could. And once he started playing again, he didn’t shy away from contact. In my eyes, he is the perfect picture of perseverance. He loved to play basketball so much and was so dedicated to accomplish his goal that there was no amount of pain, criticism, or adversity that could make him quit working towards his dream.
This fall, Brett will be starting his junior year at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee. And just in case you couldn’t guess, he’s on their varsity basketball team.
Watching Brett work so diligently for 12 years and finally getting to see him accomplish his goal has, in my mind, painted an amazing picture of perseverance, as well as the reward that comes with it. Just like Brett didn’t let anything stand in the way of achieving his dream, we should not let anything discourage us from following Christ and His will for our lives.
So often we think that if God has called us to something, it is going to be easy to fulfill that calling. I honestly think that couldn’t be further from the truth. John 10:10 says that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to kill our joy, steal our passion, and destroy our desire to follow The Lord.
So if we are truly making every effort to answer and pursue God’s call for our lives, we are going to face opposition, adversity, challenges and struggles. But the Bible repeatedly encourages us to not grow weary and to keep pushing forward, even when we are facing trials.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking that to consider facing trials as “pure joy” is so much easier said than done. There are some really tough trials we have to deal with in this broken world. It may be the loss of a loved one, an unmet desire, a difficult relationship, unemployment, a lack of self-confidence, a broken heart, or, like Brett, sickness or injury.
But whatever you are struggling with right now, whatever you are trying to persevere through, don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t let the enemy accomplish his goal to steal, kill and destroy. The Lord has a purpose for every trial He places in your path.
If you were to ask Brett, he would tell you that the trials he has faced have only made him stronger. And Jesus can do the same thing through your trials. He can develop perseverance in you “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”