Someone once asked Billy Graham, "What has been the greatest surprise of your life?"
He answered, "The brevity of it." That is so true. That is why every day needs to count. Time is passing by, and we don’t want to squander this precious thing God has given us called life. It is not enough to do well for the first five years or the next 20 years in this race of life. We must finish well too.
In his departure speech to the elders of Ephesus, the apostle Paul said, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).
That is the same goal we should all have. This is not the time for slowing down. This is the time for picking up the pace.
The Old Testament gives us insight into one such person who not only ran well in the race of life, but also finished it with flying colors. His name was Caleb. When the Israelites had come to the Promised Land and Joshua was assigning portions of it to the various tribes, Caleb, age 85, spoke up and asked for Hebron, the land God had promised him (see Numbers 14:24). Hebron was one of the most treacherous, mountainous areas of the Promised Land. There were some formidable adversaries there. No one wanted to take them on except Caleb.
Where did Caleb get his spiritual chutzpah to live so strong for so long? Let's look at some principles from his life that gave him his spiritual stamina.
He wholly followed the Lord. To be a winner in this spiritual race, you, like Caleb, must fully follow the Lord — not half-heartedly, but completely. A lot of people don't do this, which is evidenced by the way they live. It starts with their priorities. They expect God's help during a crisis, but seldom have time for Him otherwise. They expect God to provide for their needs, but don't give a passing thought to giving to His work.
Caleb was more concerned with God's approval than the approval of others. Caleb had been one of the 12 spies who were sent to the Promised Land. Although the others came back with a negative report of what they saw, Caleb and Joshua gave a positive one (Numbers 13-14). How easy it would have been for Caleb to go along with the crowd and not ruffle any feathers. But at the risk of being personally ostracized and even losing his life, he stood up for what was right. Caleb would not compromise.
We need to be the same way. As we are walking with the Lord, there will be temptations to cave in, to do what everybody else does and not stand up for what we know is right.
He took God at His word. Caleb had come this far. He had to wander around in the wilderness with these whining, complaining Israelites for 40 years and their talk of "the good life" in Egypt. Meanwhile, Caleb hung on to the promises of God.
We need to do the same. There will be times when some of those who have been walking with us will turn away and go back to the old life. There will be times when we are walking with the Lord and crisis hits. Hardship hits. We will have to believe God's promises.
Caleb was living by these principles and trusting in God's word to him. After 45 years, it was time to enter the Promised Land. He was waiting for his reward. Caleb took the mountain. He slew his adversaries. He was victorious. He had been strong all of these years.
It is interesting to note that Hebron is where Abraham met with God face-to-face and first received the promise of this new land. In the original language, Hebron means "fellowship, love, and communion."
Caleb longed for fellowship with God. While others longed for Egypt, Caleb longed for Hebron. While others looked back, Caleb looked forward. While others wanted to please themselves, Caleb wanted to please God.
Here is an essential key to spiritual longevity: You are always moving forward, always seeking to grow spiritually, and never looking back. Let's keep moving forward spiritually in this race of life.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.