Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. Mother Teresa

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Take the High Ground

Jeff O'Leary

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Increasing your Endurance

Three weeks ago, a woman was ordering Chicken McNuggets at a Fort Pierce, Florida, McDonalds.

Informed that the restaurant was out of Chicken McNuggets after paying for her meal, she called 911 -- three times, saying, "This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have Chicken McNuggets I wouldn't have given them my money." Apparently, the woman only liked Chicken McNuggets. Offered another chicken choice of equal or greater value, she raged against the employees and called 911 until the police came.

When I heard this, I thought this must be an urban legend, so I researched it until I found the story in the Fort Pierce local newspaper.

You may think this is an outlandish, unusual, and isolated aberration. What this incident aptly demonstrates is the principle subject that God has been impressing upon me in recent months. It seems we in America have vastly elevated expectations of what life owes us, and a microscopic tolerance for any discomforts. Sadly, this is not a societal problem that has left the Church untouched.

When I worked for FoxNews, no segment of the news would ever exceed eight minutes. That was five years ago and was based on the understanding that eight minutes was the attention span of most Americans. Now with text messaging and twittering, I suspect our attention span has been further reduced.

And how shall the people of God learn to "wait upon the Lord" (Isaiah 40:31a), when we can't wait patiently for the very mundane things in life -- lines at the store, traffic jams, service in a restaurant, phone queues, and on and on. Most church services in our country seek to keep their length to an hour, because we have a limited attention span -- even for the things that matter most in life. What we lack is the power that comes from the faithful who have learned to endure.

Peter tells us, "For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness" (2 Peter 1:5-6).

The Necessity to Endure

We may have faith, but it was Jesus who said, "You will be hated by all men for My name's sake, but he who endures to the end, will be saved" (Matt 10:22). And also, "Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end, the same will be saved" (Matt 24:12-13).

The One and Only Way to Build Endurance

While I served in the military, some of my work involved the possibility of being taken hostage as a P.O.W. To prepare for such an event, the military put me, along with about a hundred others, into a simulated P.O.W. camp for a period of time. It involved a lot of unpleasant, painful, and even humiliating moments. However, by the time it ended, participants had developed both survival skills and increased endurance.

Physical activities require regular training to improve skills and endurance. Why should we expect our spiritual life to be any different? In fact, James affirms this saying, "Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:3-4).

In the coming days, our faith in God's ability to provide for us, protect us, and to give us His wisdom is going to be tested. In many countries, this testing has been going on for decades. People are losing their homes, their jobs, their possessions, and their families. For many, even their faith that God still knows and cares about them is slipping.

The early Church had few possessions to lose, few jobs that provided more than necessary "daily bread," and few opportunities for what we call "the American dream." Yet, in spite of this, they possessed a vibrant faith -- an enduring faith. That is why James could say, "Count it a joy, when you face trials of various kinds" (James 1:2).

Why? It's because when we lose the things so many can't seem to live without, we learn we have been living without the thing that matters most -- a vibrant fellowship with Jesus. It isn't until everything is stripped away that we learn the things we thought were important were worthless in the day of trouble, and the God we gave only a passing glance to was -- and is -- the only one who can deliver us.

No one wishes for trials, suffering, or pain. Looking across America, though, it's apparent our entire nation is being tested. For believers, our testing has an eternal purpose. This is the day we learn God is able to do what He says: He alone is able to deliver His children in the day of trouble. We also learn how much more we need Him than the passing pleasures the world lusts after.

From these difficult days, may we be able to join the apostles in saying, "we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts" (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

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