going the distance is growing up


“After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3-4 CEB)

You know how it works. You start off like gangbusters with something new. You tell yourself, “I’m staying with this and there’s nothing that’s going to take me down.” And you know what, nothing does. Until, of course, you come across a hurdle. Until you find it wasn’t easy as your first thought. Until something else catches your eye. Until you just get plain bored or tried. Until.

Yep. Been there done that. Many times with many things.

And you know how the rest of the story goes, too, don’t you? Repeat that cycle long enough and you’ll eventually succeed at vaccinating yourself against ever trying it one more time. You’ll either give it up for good or try it only if it’s drop dead simple or you’re in a jam.

It’s a principle that holds true for anything that requires discipline. Exercise. Study. Dieting. Getting up early. Checking on a friend. Becoming good at a skill. You name it. Including faith. Especially faith. Particularly faith.

There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Showing up is half the game.” Given what James says here, me thinks it’s something more than half.

What James says it’s not is the story of the chicken and the egg. You know, “Is it you have to be mature to stay with faith when the going gets tough or is it the going with faith when it’s tough going that makes you mature.” No, in James’ mind it’s a no-brainer. There’s a distinct order with this one: you’ve got to stick with it or you’ll never see maturity. You’ll stay green and have the look of potential about you, but you’ll actually be good for nothing, never ripening to the point of being of real use.

Unless you stick with it, bearing up under the load, taking the licking and daring to keep on ticking. That’s the stuff that makes a person wiser, not just older. That’s the ongoing fortitude that makes makes the difference between merely marking time and making time. That’s the mind that says to itself, “I’m going to stay with him even if it kills me” and then discovers that in the doing of it, come hell or highwater, the old, selfish man inside of you begins to die, freeing you up to grow taller and stronger the way a human made in God’s image and re-made daily in the image of his Son was meant to be.

You know what really works. You know what it takes to stick with something so that it can show results over time, making you into something different from what you were before. It’s choosing to not even consider any other way. It’s deciding to burn the ships so that there is no way to retreat even if you wanted to with all of your being.

A couple in the church of which I’m a part just celebrated sixty years of marriage. Their marriage is not just “a marriage,” but a model marriage of health, vitality, mature wisdom, and deep love. I asked the husband what the secret was to their success when all around marriages on every hand go shipwreck. His succinct answer with a smile? “Putting up with each other.”

He’s right. He’s echoing James. The determination to go the distance, no matter the tests, but benefited by them, all the while offering our best.

“You know the product of faith that passes the test: staying power. And when staying power is fully developed, you are too, fully mature, lacking a single thing.” (James 1:3-4 DSV)

Father in heaven, I dare to approach you in the name of him who endured everything for me. How dare I then not back up my words with my ways? Help me to stay with you all the way, all of my days, giving my all to this end, that you would grow me up in you. This is all I ask. Amen.

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