Running a marathon requires endurance. When I was preparing to run the New York City Marathon in 1993, I knew that, in order to make it to the end of a 26.2-mile race, endurance was exactly what I would need. As I trained I worked on building that endurance by first building my endurance to run a 5K race. Once I had built up my endurance for that, next I worked toward running a 10K race, then a half-marathon. I ran hills and sprints to challenge myself. I was pushing my body each time, allowing the additional stress that came with longer and more challenging runs to build in my body the endurance I would need for a marathon.
Endurance is important for those who follow Christ. In our walk with Christ, what does endurance mean? It means that we possess the ability to persevere in the task set before us, in our calling, which is to spread the good news of salvation through Christ. As followers of Christ, we are called to endure when faced with trials and tribulations. Jesus said that His disciples would be hated by the world because of Him. Jesus knew that those who follow Him will suffer persecution, that they will face trials and tribulations for the sake of His name. But, He also knew that those trials and tribulations bring with them a spiritual reward. He promised that those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). When He returns, His followers will be spared the Great Tribulation that will come at the end of the age.
Although as followers of Christ we may face persecution, although we may be called to suffer for His name's sake, we should rejoice in that suffering. We should rejoice because it is through that suffering that we will build up endurance. When I trained for the marathon, the endurance I built up enabled me to finish the race. But the endurance that we build through suffering for Christ does so much more than that. That endurance produces character in us. We become more like Christ. And that character produces hope, a hope that will not put us to shame. It is a hope that we rejoice in because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.