I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ~2 Tim. 4:7
Excessities, are, by nature, a here-and-now phenomenon. They are tied to the needs, wants, desires, anxieties, pleasures, and concerns of this life. But there’s more to you and me than just the here and now; there is a hereafter waiting for us. Who wouldn’t want to be able to say the same thing as the apostle Paul — that we’d fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith? This is a statement of victorious completion. It is a statement of confidence and peace.
Saying the statement is one thing; living the statement is quite another. What is implied in this statement is there was a fight going on; there were the possibility of not finishing and the potential of losing something vital. The statement is rock solid; the experience it’s based on, upon reflection, appears somewhat precarious. The experience it’s based on is called life.
It takes endurance to be able to make Paul’s statement.
In the midst of struggle, patience is what you have and endure is what you do.
Endurance is an interesting word. It means to undergo even something unpleasant without giving in. It means to accept or tolerate even something irritating. It means to continue in the same state such as a monument enduring for centuries. It means to remain steady without yielding even under suffering.
When I think of endurance, I think of long-distance running. I think of a runner at the end of the race, breathing hard, sweaty and tired. If you’ve had to endure, you know you’ve been through something long and difficult. I think most people would agree that running, especially distance running, reuires endurance. What you might not realize, however, is that while running requires endurance, it also provides it.
I started running several years back, and I’ve kept up with it, even as situations in my life have changed. When I first started running, I was dismayed at how quickly my body would tire. I couldn’t gulp in air fast enough; even going a short distance was a test of endurance. But, as I kept up with it, I got better. I could go longer distances more easily. Running required my endurance, but it also increased my endurance.
I used endurance to gain even more.
Whether or not you’ve articulated it as such, you’re in a race. It’s going to take endurance to get over your excessities, to turn down the volume on your Gotta Have It! demands. At first it will seem like turning aside from that desire takes all the energy you’ve got in your body and that saying no will leave you breathless. This a battle of the wills — yours against the excessity. You will need endurance to undergo without giving in, to stay firm without yielding.
When Steve first came to counseling, he was losing the race and about to give up. His battle was a secret one, a contest of wills that threated to overwhelm his life and drown him in shame. Steve’s excessity, his Gotta Have It! activity, was internet pornography.
At first, he thought he could outrun his enemy. He was very careful about when he accessed the pornography and how much he allowed himself to indulge. He kept one step ahead by always blaming someone or something else for the push to porn. His wife provided an almost endless supply of reasons, real or imagined. The stresses at work and the foibles of life billowed the sails of his excuses and kept him out in front of his excessity, or so he thought.
What Steve failed to realize was the relentless nature of his Gotta Have It! It grew stronger and began to intrude into other areas of his life. Images and feelings once relegated to secret settings began to surface and interrupt and complicate his day. The pull of the pornography began to take him further and further away from his wife and his family.
After a close call at work, where using company computers to view pornography was grounds for immediate termination, Steve realized his excessity was controlling him. It appalled him that it was his fear of losing his job — not the betrayal of his marriage or the damage to his relationships, especially with his teenage daughters — that finally woke him up to how close he was to losing it all. He realized how out of balance his life had become, and he knew he needed to make a change.
He knew what he wanted the ending to be; he just didn’t realize how much he’d have to endure in the middle.
Steve had to endure his wife’s moment of discovery and the subsequent devastation and loss of trust. He had to endure the physical and psychologcal drive to return to the pornography. He had to endure the realization that he was not as in control of himself as he’d always taken pride in. He had to endure peeling back the layers of his false assumptions, unmet desires, and self excuses in order to refute the lies and deceptions of the excessity.
Simply put, Steve had to endure exposure. For a private and personal man, this was hard. At one point, he almost gave up, rebelling against any outside accountability to his behavior.
He almost gave up — but he didn’t. When he thought he couldn’t say no one more time or withstand the growing pressure to succumb to his excessity, he did. When he thought he couldn’t stomach one more intrusion into the privacy of his past and present life, he did. When he thought he couldn’t endure one more moment of vulnerability, he did. He endured and refused to yield. Steve found his second wind in the race against pornography.
Source: Chapter 9, “God Provides Endurance” in Gotta Have It! by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc