During my first two years of high school I went to a tiny school in a rural town. We had 97 kids ninth grade through 12th grade, the smallest school in the county. Therefore, in the all important world of high school basketball, we were at a disadvantage by virtue of our smaller pool of available guys to choose from. There were many seasons that the Claypool Knights served as the doormats of the county. When people looked at their schedule and saw us they counted and automatic "w".
Thankfully, something changed. A new coach came to town with a new philosophy. He was a onditioning freak. His idea was that we have no control over how many players we have to choose from but we can control how good of condition we are in. If we can be in better condition than the team we are playing then about the time they are wearing down we can be winding up. So, his practices were grueling. In order to even go out for basketball you had to run cross country. And then to make the team you had to make the team you had to survive the first week of extreme conditioning. They call them "suicides" for a reason. We endured the pain of those practices for the promise of something we had little experience with - winning. Many times we would wonder if all the burning lungs, the cramping legs, and the morning after soreness was worth it.
Guess what? During the season, that conditioning began to translate into close games. Then those close games began to turn into some victories because in the late third quarter and into the fourth quarter when the other team was wearing down, we were just beginning to sweat! Before too long, there was a confidence that began to emerge. We knew if we could hang with the opponent into the third quarter, we would wear them down! That season we won as many as we lost! Given our losing tradition - that was huge!
Beginning the following season we ran into the first of three consecutive classes that actually had some athletes. Given the improvement in talent and the commitment to conditioning, the pain turned into gain! That was the first of three straight County Championships. After that third championship season our school got swallowed up in a school consolidation. Had that not happened we would have likely won two more championships.
What does this have to do with suffering? We suffered through those agonizing practices because we had out hopes set on winning. Monday through Thursday wind sprints turned into Friday and Saturday wins.
That is what Paul is talking about in this verse. Having the hope of a better future gives you strength to endure the momentary suffering.
Did you ever suffer for years with a high mileage beater of a car because you had the hope of saving up and trading it in for a brand new Cadillac some day? When you got a little impatient or discouraged with that old junker you would drive by the dealership and see that shiny beauty sitting in the showroom. You would say to yourself, "Someday! Someday I'll trade this in for that!"
If you can relate to that experience you have what it takes to endure though painful periods of suffering. You walk through that trial or you put up with that pain knowing that someday you will get to trade in this aching body for an eternal one.
That is exactly what Jesus did, "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 sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3
Are you suffering through a difficult trial? Are you a prisoner to pain? Has you misery index hit an all time high? Fix your eyes on Jesus Who understands suffering and can give you strength and courage. Fix your eyes on Jesus Who suffered so you can live in relationship with God and never suffer alone. Put your confidence in Jesus to lead you through temporary pain into eternal gain!