January 19, 2003
Looking back over the course of your life, what is it that you regret having quit? Maybe it’s an educational or business opportunity. Maybe you feel like you quit on a friend or a spouse. Maybe you feel like you have given up on God. Scroll back through your life and just think about those times, those instances where you stopped something. Think about the feelings of remorse and regret. We all have them. When I scroll back through my life, I can think about many situations.
One that comes to mind occurred when I was about sixteen years of age. I would love to tell you about it, but I can’t. There is, though, a person who can tell you about it much better than I can. Meet my father.
(Video of Dr. Ed Young, Ed’s father, describing the time Ed wanted a car. Dr. and Mrs. Young asked him to read a biography of Sam Houston in which they had written a note to Ed just a few pages from the end that they had a brand new car for him. Ed did not finish the book, never saw the note, and had to go all summer long without his new wheels).
Can you believe that? Even to this day, whenever I am driving down 45 South and see that ugly statue of Sam Houston, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I never have liked Sam.
We have a unique society, don’t we? It’s almost like we applaud people who quit things. Our culture is geared up for it. Most people we run into would rather bail out than blast through. A lot of people would rather leave than last. Some would rather throw in the towel than stay in the game. A lot of people have that job-quitting, vow-forgetting, excuse-making, work-faking mentality that runs from the character quality that I am going to talk to you about over the next several minutes.
We talked about discipline in our last session. We looked at Daniel because Daniel went deep with discipline. We defined character as something inward. We said character is an outward reflection of a strategically inward connection. We said that discipline is doing what we ought to do so that we can do what we want to do. It’s great to have discipline. I’m happy that we have it. But today’s quality is something that discipline must be strapped onto. It’s endurance. That’s what I want to talk to you about today—endurance.
What is endurance? Endurance is definitely on the endangered character quality list, wouldn’t you say? Endurance is stampeding through those stopping points of life. It’s whacking down the walls. It’s a quality that we desperately need. But again, from month-to-month apartment leases to escape clauses in contracts and from prenuptial agreements in marriage to free agency in athletics, our culture promotes a lack of endurance. It’s almost like, “Oh, you are a quitter? Good for you. You take the easy way out? Good for you. That’s great. That’s American. That’s what you should do.”
The Bible comes along and tells us that we are to have endurance that we are to have the ability from God to stampede through those stopping points, to whack down the walls. Today, we are going to look at a guy who was really empowered with endurance. This is a guy that everyone here has heard about. I’m talking about Noah. You know Noah, don’t you? Noah and the ark, the guy that built the boat.
Noah was a guy who exemplified true endurance. Read the book of Genesis. The first several chapters talk about the fact that we are made in the image of God, that we are one of a kind. The great thing about being made in the image of God is the fact that we have the freedom of choice. Isn’t that cool? You can choose good or you can choose evil. We can choose Christ or choose the contrary way. In Genesis 6, the world had degenerated to such a degree that God was sorry he made mankind. Are you ready for that? Our loving and transcendent God said, “I’m sorry. I’m regretful that I made man.” God said, “I am going to destroy the earth.”
In God’s economy, sin must have a payment. That’s why the New Testament says, “The wages of sin, or the paycheck of sin, is death and eternal destruction.” So, God was going to literally play Wipeout on the entire earth. You have to know something about God, though. God is perfectly balanced. On one hand, he is a God of judgment. On the other hand, he is a God of grace. God is always looking for a chance to extend his grace—to give people like you and me a mulligan. [Laughter] The golfers got that. If you didn’t laugh, you don’t play golf.
Check out Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” This phrase, “found favor,” is a cool phrase. It’s one of the first instances of the concept of grace throughout the Bible. “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” “Found favor” is the Hebrew phrase that means a superior person giving unmerited favor to an inferior one. That’s what God did. He found favor. He found his grace on the shoulders of Noah.
Look at Genesis 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God.” He didn’t run with God. He walked with God. Have you ever tried to run with someone and carry on a meaningful conversation? You can’t really do it unless you are an Olympic athlete. I’ve run with a few people, and they are in such great shape that they can talk to me and run with little strain. But I can’t talk to them. I have trouble doing both at the same time. Now, I can pretty much walk with anyone and talk. When I’m talking to them, I can listen to them and the whole communicative process is going on. That’s a cool thing.
Noah walked with God. Biblical meditation is filling your mind. It is being purpose-driven. Obviously, that is what Noah did. Noah heard God’s voice, and he obeyed his word. Meditation is making space to hear God’s voice and to obey his truth. That’s what we have to do as we walk with God. We have got to hear his voice and obey his word. We should hear God’s voice, those of us who are Christ-followers, because after all, we are God’s children.
I grew up in the Carolinas. I spent the first seven years of my life in North Carolina and another seven in South Carolina. During my first seven years, I met three guys. They were my good friends: Robert Campbell, Gary Ford, and Mike Harkins. We played together all the time. When we were playing outside and the sun would set behind those beautiful Smokey Mountains, we knew the inevitable would occur. We knew our parents would call us home. Every night it happened, especially during summer break.
My friend, Robert Campbell’s Mom, had a one-of-a-kind voice. She could embarrass Pavarotti. She would almost sing, “ROBERT, COME HOOOOMMMME!!!” The voice was unbelievable: the shrill, piercing voice. Robert would just run home.
My other friend, Gary Ford, had a big burly father. His father would look and just say his name once. “GARY!” Gary would just say, “See ya.” None of this counting, one, two…no, just “GARY!” and that was it.
Mike Harkins’ dad was laid back. He would walk up to us and take a long drag on that Camel cigarette and say, “Mike, come on home now.”
My mother, from Laurel, Mississippi, has this unbelievable southern accent. She would take the name, “Ed,” and put it in about five syllables. “EEEDDDDD, come hoooooome.”
Each of us recognized our parent’s voices easily. Why? Because we lived with our parents, and we were and are our parents’ kids. If you have been born again into the family of God—you walk with God, know God, spend time with God—you are a child of God and you should recognize and respond to his voice.
Wait a minute, Ed. You are saying that God speaks to people today? Yes, God speaks to people. I have never heard an audible voice, but God speaks. Anytime God gives you an impression, or he speaks to your spirit, make sure you check it out through the grid of Scripture. God never takes away or adds anything to this book, the Bible. The great thing is God’s word is in black and white. It’s documented. Isn’t that cool?
Also, when you feel God speaking to you, make sure you run it by some trusted Christian friends. Because some people run around like spiritual whackos and go, “Yeah, God told me this. Or God told me that.” You could have gotten a hold of some bad sushi. It might not be God. It might just be some problems in your stomach. However, God speaks to us. Noah heard God’s voice. Noah obeyed God’s word. He walked with God.
You might be saying, “Well, Ed, I have never felt God leading me or God giving me a Noah-type assignment.” I hear you screaming. Maybe you are not getting his assignment. Maybe you are not hearing God speaking to you because you are not walking with God. Maybe you are walking with him, and God is waiting to see if you are trustworthy before he is going to give you an incredible assignment. Noah was just a normal guy like you and me, a little bit older, but normal. Yet he walked with God, heard what God had to tell him, and obeyed God.
God tells him, and this is really strange, God says, “Noah, I want you to build a boat.” To most of us, that’s not too strange. But back then it was really strange because Noah had not seen a boat before. It had not ever even rained on the earth. God said, “Build a boat, because I am going to send rain, and I am going to destroy the earth. But I am going to save you because you are to get in the boat, Noah.”
So, Noah began to build the boat. The Bible says Noah was 500 years old when he started this project. He was going through kind of a mid-millennium life crisis. He didn’t buy a Ferrari or a Lamborghini. He built a big honking boat—450 feet wide, 45 feet high, and 75 feet long. Don’t you know he took some serious abuse? Don’t you know he was like a fixture at Home Depo? Day in and day out, he was building the boat. It took him 120 years to build a boat. I don’t know about you, but after about 80 or 90 years, I would have been going, “God, come on. I’ve been watching the weather channel. I don’t see any clouds. What’s the deal?” Noah—a man of endurance—whacked down the walls, and crashed through the quitting points. Noah endured.
Some of you are saying, “Well, Ed, you seem like an educated guy. I’m sure you have your master’s degree. Are you telling me that you believe that people lived to be 500 years old back then? I just can’t buy that.”
Yes, I believe it and let me tell you why. Read the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis says that there was a veil, a mist that surrounded and enveloped the earth. Back then, they didn’t have all the harmful junk that we have today in our world. If that’s not enough, talk to doctors and scientists. Our bodies are not made to wither and die at 100 or 110 years of age. They are made to live a lot longer. This is right after Adam and Eve had dropped the ball. In our pre-fallen state, our bodies were made to live forever. That is a whole other message. You hear what I am saying to you? I believe that it is true. I believe the Bible. I even believe the maps. I believe the whole thing.
Let’s get back to Noah. In Genesis 6:13, God said to Noah, “Make yourself an ark.” Noah did it. Look at Verse 22, “Noah did everything just as God commanded.” He heard. He obeyed. Finally, the boat was done and Noah said, “God, what should I do?” Look at Genesis 7:1, “Then the Lord said, ‘Noah, go into the ark.’”
Now, remember there was only one door on the ark. Noah went into the ark. Noah obeyed God. He didn’t worry about the details because God took care of the details. He didn’t say to himself, “Wow, I’ve got to turn into Steve Erwin and capture every animal.”
He didn’t do that. He just walked into the ark and knew that God would bring the animals into the ark. The Bible says when Noah and his family walked into the ark, and all the animals joined him in the ark, that the door was shut and it still didn’t rain for seven days.
I don’t want to be gross, but they were in that boat for seven days before anything even started to happen. Can you imagine the smell and the humidity? Can you imagine the doubt that began to assault them? Yet, Noah hung tough. He crashed through quitting point after quitting point.
God wants to move us from Point A to Point B. That’s what God wants. As we walk with God, we hear God, we obey God and we are going to hit quitting points. Quitting points relationally—maybe in a friendship or a marriage—quitting points financially, quitting points vocationally. God wants us to walk in a straight line from Point A to Point B. I don’t know about you. Here is what I have done sometimes in my life. I have crashed through one quitting point. “Yeah! All right, I did it. Now, this quitting point here, God, Whoa! This way looks a lot better for me. I’m going to go over here. This looks a lot better for me. I know Point B is there but this seems easier, so I’m just going to stay here, God.” Then we go around and around. We get dizzy and say, “Wow, look at all the time I have wasted. I’ll go back to your way, God.” We crash through another quitting point and go, “I’m finally here at Point B!”
Why in the world didn’t we go straight in the first place? Why did we take the detour? Because it’s the easy way, we thought. It’s the simple way. It’s the path of least resistance, we thought. Yet, we should have done it God’s way. That’s what Noah did, and that option is available to everyone. If we do it God’s way—if we build in space to hear God’s voice and to obey his truth, live out his endurance—then you will see and recognize God’s timing. Did you hear that? It’s very important that we understand God’s timing. My timing is my timing. I want things done now. I want this done now. I want that done now. You are the same way. As Christians, we have got to sync up with God’s timetable.
About fifteen years ago, I did a summer program for NBA players at our gymnasium in our church. A friend of mine and I had this deal where we would spend about two hours with all these NBA players. I would do a little Bible study for them, and they would play basketball. I would always set the gym up at about 2:00. After the second week, I noticed that the guys would never show up at 2:00. They would always show up at 3:00. I thought, “That’s weird. I say two, and they are here at three.” Finally, I got enough guts to walk up to these towering giants and say, “Hey, you guys are always an hour late. What’s the deal?”
He laughed and said, “Ed, you don’t understand. We are on NBA time.”
I said, “NBA time? What’s NBA time?”
They said, “NBA time is always an hour late. So, if you say one, we say two. You say two, we say three.”
I said, “I got it.”
So even though the gym was reserved at 2:00, I would say 1:00 knowing that they would show up at 2:00 even though I said to be there at 1:00. You get it? I had to sync up with them and their timing. So with God, we have got to say, “Okay, God, I want to sync up with your timetable. I don’t understand it. This is weird to me. Why am I going through this? This wall is tough. This quitting point is real. But, God, I am going to trust you. I’m going to hear your voice, obey your truth, and I am going to respect and follow your timetable.” We need to do this because God wants to use us in great ways during his timetable.
Let’s go back to Noah. It rained. It flooded. He was in the boat for a year. Finally, after the water resided, the boat rested on Mount Erat. Notice even though the boat rested on dry land Noah didn’t move until God said to move. Finally, God said, “Hey, get out of the boat.” And Noah got out of the boat. The first thing he did was not to roll around in the dirt and yell, “Yeah! Wow!” Just to be honest with you, I think I would have done that.
We have a hard time worshipping God after great deliverances. We have a hard time worshipping God after we have stepped out of our arks, don’t we? When we are in the ark, in those seas with all the animals and the seasickness, man, we will pray, “Lord, help me. Lord, I’m going to follow you for the rest of my life. I’m your man.” But once times are good and we are out of the ark, we are like, “Oh, man. I’m the man! I’m the woman!” We can see this across our country in church attendance. America goes to war—standing room only. The economy is a bear market—standing room only. The bull market comes back or there is peace throughout the earth, then I’ll say something and my voice echoes in here because the seats are so empty. It’s kind of funny. We should worship God in all circumstances and all situations. Just like Noah did. That’s what he did.
So the Bible says in Verses 20 and 21, Genesis Chapter 8, “Noah built an altar to the Lord…and the Lord smelled a soothing aroma.” Our lives should be an act of worship before God. Do you know people who are cologne and perfume people? I like cologne and perfume, but some people OD on the stuff. They just put too much on. Lisa and I have a friend that came over to our house one time. He sat down on our couch in our family room, and he had so much cologne on that it took us weeks to get the smell out of the couch. Our dogs wouldn’t even come near it.
As I live my life, I should have a sweet aroma to the nostrils, first, of God, and then of everyone I come in contact with. People want to see an offering. They want to see worship. They want to see an altar. Our lives should be an act of worship in everything we do, say, feel, and touch. Worship is not compartmentalized here. Worship is here but it should be an activity that we engage in with everything we do, say, and touch.
Noah was a man of endurance. Noah was a man who listened to God. Noah was a guy of great perseverance. Noah was a guy who was dialed into God’s timetable.
Let’s get practical on this endurance thing because a lot of you are saying, “Ed, I want endurance now. I need it. I need to read on this stuff.” If you have your Bibles, turn to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 12:1. The first thing you need to do is going to sound weird, but you need to get your head in the clouds. That’s what you need to do. That’s what I need to do to build endurance. We need to get our heads in the clouds. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….”
As we are living the life, as we are running the race, the Bible says that we have a great cloud of witnesses—those matriarchs and patriarchs in heaven who are cheering us on. Think way back to the day when the Cowboys were really good. Remember that? That was a long time ago. Texas Stadium would rock, “We will, we will, rock you!” Oh, man, the Cowboys were incredible. You should have heard the stadium man. The noise was unbelievable. Multiply that exponentially and it doesn’t even scratch the surface compared to the cheering section that is going on for your life and mine as we run the race.
Think about Able. Able is saying to us, “Nothing but the blood.
Think about Moses. Moses is saying to us, “Stand up and be a leader. You can do it.”
Think about David. David is saying to us, “I know you are facing a giant, but God will give you the octane to take the giant out.”
Think about Rahab, the prostitute. She is saying to us, “I don’t care what you have done; God can still utilize your life in an awesome way.”
We have that kind of cheering section. We have that kind of noise behind us. We have got to realize and understand that and that should motivate us with endurance. So, get your head in the clouds.
Number two, join Weight Watchers. Look at Hebrews 12, the last part of Verse 1, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” So, as we are going from Point A to Point B with endurance, we should lay aside (this means we should continually put off) that sin that we are most susceptible to. I don’t know what it is for you, but you know what it is. I know what it is for me. If you watch someone who is a great runner, they don’t run in all this cumbersome clothing—these combat boots and ankle weights. They run in lightweight gear. God wants us living the life in lightweight gear and we have that freedom as we follow him.
Number three, become a strong finisher. Why should I be a strong finisher? I’ll tell you why. Because Jesus is the ultimate finisher and he is standing at the finish line. He says, “Lock eyes with me.” Look at Hebrew 12:2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of throne of God.”
So Christ is saying, “Don’t look to the right. Don’t look to the left. Follow me. Look at me. I endured the cross for you. I had you on my mind when I was spilling my blood on Calvary. I will give you endurance. I will give you power.”
When it comes to endurance, it’s all about stepping aboard the ark. That’s what it is about. The Bible says the ark is a picture or an illustration of the cross of Christ. The ark was made of wood. The cross is made of wood. The Bible says in the Old Testament the ark was covered with pitch, a tar like substance that sealed the ark. “Covered with pitch” is also used in the New Testament to refer to Christ atoning for our sins. His spilled blood, his work on the cross, seals us for eternity. The ark saved Noah and his family from destruction. The cross will save you and me from destruction. The ark only had one door. What did Jesus say? “I am the door. I am the way, the truth and the light.” So, he gives you and me a choice. He says, “Either come on board or not. Either step to the door or not.” When we do, we, my friends, will be empowered with endurance—the ability to stampede through stopping points.
Father, thank you very much for this message. I pray that we apply its truth in every recess and realm of our life. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.