One of my favorite all time movies is the original Rocky. Long before Rocky fought the Cold War on behalf of the good ole US of A, he was a near illiterate leg-breaker in Philly who just happened to be picked out of a hat by the reigning champion of the world Apollo Creed. Apollo wanted a good show – to give the people a true underdog they could cheer for, all the while thinking the fight would be little more than a blip on his radar. To Rocky, though, the fight was a way out of his life into something better.
So he trained and trained, chasing chickens, eating raw eggs, and rallying the support of the Philadelphia working class behind him. It’s a great movie – maybe the best of the underdog stories.
But if you’ll remember, the end of the fight is almost an afterthought. The fight goes the full distance, and at the end, pandaemonium breaks out in the ring. You can barely hear the announcer in the background give the ruling that the result was a split decision, and the victory would be assigned to Apollo.
That’s right – Rocky lost the fight. But the point isn’t so much whether he won or lost; it’s that he made it the whole time. He wasn’t knocked out; he stood toe to toe with the best and he persevered. He endured.
Endurance is more spiritually important than we sometimes think. In the book of Hebrews, for example, the writer exhorts the suffering and persecuted church over and over again to endure. Remain. Persevere. Stay in the fight until the end. But how do you do that? What’s the formula for endurance? It’s surprisingly simple:
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
How do you endure? Fix your eyes on Jesus. Focus on Him, and you’ll keep getting up.
Now when we hear that, the cynic inside all of us rises up and says, “Yeah, but…” It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Got to be more to it? But perhaps the simplicity in and of itself is what gives this formula its credibility. We have the luxury of overthinking so many things in life, and in so doing, we can analyze many things to the point of ineffectiveness. Let’s not do that with this. Because when you fix your eyes on Jesus, all those things in your peripheral vision have a tendency to become a little more unfocused.