Fatigue can make cowards of us all. We are more vulnerable to discouragement when we’re tired. As I’ve gotten older, I can’t push myself as hard as I once could. And when I do, I quickly become unproductive. I’ve recognized that my basic personality type—do more, accomplish more—is probably not going to change at this point.
I have learned, however, to change the way I work. When I’m working, I still work hard, as we all should. But, now I take time to rest and recuperate. Instead of breaks keeping me from accomplishing work, they actually enable me to do more in the long run.
Living the Christian life is like running a marathon instead of a sprint. It isn’t a hundred-yard dash followed by a long nap. It’s a consistent walk at a measured pace toward a goal. When I do this, I find I keep the giant of discouragement from interfering with the accomplishment of my goals.
For 45 years a godly man watched all of his contemporaries but one die. Yet, his enthusiasm for life, strength, and gusto continued—confident that God’s commandments are His enablements! And at 85 years young, God’s servant Caleb entered the Promised Land. He had “a different spirit in him and . . . followed [God] fully” (Numbers 14:24).
We are empowered to live a truly enthusiastic and passionate life when serving God is the object behind everything we do. Our passion is diluted when we live only to gratify self or win the approval of others. Peter and the other apostles of the early church made it clear who was at the center of their activities: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The passionate ministry of these dedicated leaders resulted in thousands of people turning to Christ.
Paul wrote, “Do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). Remember, Paul had been a very successful Pharisee, a well-educated man, a Roman citizen with every privilege that status entailed. Yet he gave it all up to live wide open, to follow his passion for Jesus Christ.
Paul was consumed with a passion for Christ, and it gave him joy in every circumstance—even while sitting in prison or waiting for slow legal appeals when he wanted to be traveling and preaching. “To live is Christ,” Paul said, “and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). There is no reason that you and I cannot live a passionate life with such an unsinkable view of reality.
And there’s nothing in the Word of God suggesting that we are ever finished living with enthusiasm and passion—being the people God wants us to be. Whether stricken with age or not, God expects the best from us. J. Vernon McGee had great vision and served the Lord with passion until he died at 80+. His radio Bible-teaching ministry is now stronger than ever—his passionate vision is alive and well!
Let me tell you part of my own story of how God gave me joy when I least expected it. The doctor called to say tests confirmed I had lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. That was the most terrible phone call of my life. I felt emptiness and despair rising up inside me.
I called friends to ask for prayer. When I called Lowell Davey, the president of the Bible Broadcasting Network, he said, “David, you are going to Mayo Clinic; and because your insurance will not cover it, I’ll raise the money myself.” “Surgery is only five days away in San Diego on Tuesday morning,” I told him. “But if you can get me into Mayo Clinic on Monday morning, then I’ll go.”
Two hours later, I received a call from a doctor at Mayo to confirm my appointment at 7:45 Monday morning. I was astounded. True friendship is a powerful force for encouraging joy and strength.
That Sunday I preached at both services. Afterward, I told my wife that in 25 years of preaching, I’d never felt the presence of the Lord as I did that day. At times it felt like I was sitting on a pew in the back of my mind, listening to someone else preach to me. I was deeply aware of Paul’s statement, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
I’d never been so weak, and the Lord had never seemed so strong. God once again honored His Word—what a joy that was to me.
“Consider it all joy,” the Bible says, “when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2–3 NASB). Testing gives you the fortitude to go the distance. When you feel the heat of the oven, remember the grace of God: “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).
After the fires of your testing have burned out, your joy is in the hope that God will restore you and make you strong and steadfast. When you find yourself wiser and better, realizing that suffering and strength are two sides of the same coin, you can thank God for the worst you’ve been through—consider it all joy.
Back in December of 1914, Thomas Edison’s great laboratories caught fire. His son Charles watched the burning buildings and ran around frantically trying to find his dad. Finally, he came upon Edison standing near the fire. Charles’s heart broke as he thought about his dad’s life’s work . . . burned up, destroyed, and he was no longer a young man.
When Edison spotted his son, he asked, “Where’s your mother? Go find her. She’ll never see anything like this again as long as she lives.” The next day, in the rubble, Thomas Edison turned to his son and said, “Charles, there’s a great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”
There is joy in just waking up every morning knowing God has given us a brand new day to start anew. No matter what’s happened in the past . . . whatever the problems, God gives us a chance to be renewed and to start again, knowing that He is sufficient to meet our needs. “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22, 23). Let’s be grateful for the sufficiency of Christ, and remember God’s goodness to us.