Training. Sending. Serving. Joining Globe

I have been struggling… it seems like for years… to lose those final ten pounds.

The “Final Ten Pounds” is not a metaphor; it’s a very real personal battle. I aspire for 180 pounds… I live at 190.

But, in truth, for many people, the Final Ten Pounds is a metaphor for a struggle with endurance. It’s that last push towards a desired goal, the final heat we can’t quite win, a discipline we can’t quite master, a change we can’t quite make, a relationship we can’t quite restore.

I’ve observed this struggle in the lives of countless people through the years. A few brave, determined souls master the push and get to where they are supposed to be. Many others settle for less than the dreamed-of-goal and the aspired-to-end. In short, instead of shedding the FINAL TEN POUNDS, they live with being a bit overweight, slightly overburdened, mildly unfulfilled.

It’s a life. It’s just not all that we dream life could be.

Changing one’s behavior is tough work. The beginning of the journey is unpleasant; reaching the finish line can be brutal. You gotta face reality, and reality is always uglier than we expect. That final push through discouragement – with its gut wrenching feeling of being under-resourced and unsupported – is not for the faint of heart. When I ran my first marathon, I was warned about the Final Ten Pounds. “Somewhere around mile twenty you will hit a wall,” I was told. “You have to push through the pain.”

The “push through pain” is an inaccurate and misleading depiction. We wrongly think that after we push through pain the remainder of the journey will be easier, because we somehow get an infusion of adrenaline and exuberance, with sunshine and roses thrown in.

The reality is, the remainder of the journey is more pain! The very essence of a reaching a difficult goal is, well, difficulty! Sunshine and roses are a finisher’s reward. You don’t get them at 190 pounds. You get them when you are ten pounds lighter. The final push is our determination to put up with difficulty until we reach the goal. Why? Because we WANT THE GOAL and won’t let anything deny us reaching it.

To quit is to succumb to almost there and not quite finished. In short, to quit is to accept mediocrity. Mediocrity – in career, in marriage, in physical health, in personal growth – is not some God-ordained reality to which we must capitulate because God won’t help us reach the goal. Mediocrity is the fruit of our inability to confront and change what it will take to lose the Final Ten Pounds.

The Apostle Paul languished in prison but he did not capitulate. Derrick Jeter of Dallas Theological Seminary, says the Roman Mamertine prison could have been called the “‘House of Darkness,’ because of its awful conditions. According to Jeter, “prisoners in the ancient world were rarely sent to prison as punishment. Rather, prisons typically served as holding cells for those awaiting trial or execution.” Paul lived under constant threat of execution; he thrived there despite overwhelming difficulty. How did he do it? In short, Paul had vision for something transcendent:

“…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:10-12 ESV)

The most common excuse for capitulation is the banal behavior of other people. I hear it all the time in ministry. “My marriage failed because SHE wouldn’t change.” “I lost my job because the leaders were jerks.” When the finger should be pointed back at my own chest – I wouldn’t change; I was a jerk; I couldn’t stand up to the test – it is always easier to shift responsibility to someone or something else.

Shifting blame is like saying, “I’m fat because SHE ate too much.”

Paul could have used this argument. “I’m in prison because the pagan Romans illegally put me here.” Or, “The hypocritical Jews lied about what I was doing and were jealous of my success.” Paul could have used the consummate human trump card, “God abandoned me.” But it would have all been a lie, and Paul knew it. Paul saw prison for what it was: an opportunity for God to do His work!

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14 ESV)

Paul rejoiced in prison because he understood one thing: God put him there. It is time – and American culture is long overdue for grasping this perspective – to see suffering for what it really is: God at work in our lives to help us become all that He envisions us to be.

We simply can’t be the best person, or have the best life, or be in the best marriage, or lead the best team without doing the hard work to shed the Final Ten Pounds. Perhaps, in your current difficulty, God is asking you to reflect more and react less. Perhaps, God is asking you to lean into Him for strength, to overcome inner struggles while you endure outer ones. Perhaps your race isn’t over yet. The finish line is near but you have more pain to endure and more inner resolve to discover. Perhaps God has an amazing future planned for you if you can stay focused long enough for Him to do His wonderful work.

Here’s to you losing your own FINAL TEN POUNDS.