Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

You've heard it said, "Winners never quit and quitters never win." That maybe true, but there are times when winners feel like quitting. What do they do then? You've heard it said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." That maybe true, but there are times when the going get tough that the tough want to crawl back in bed and hide from the cruel world. What do they do then?

Becoming a winner entails the strength to stay at a task even when you feel like giving up. It is the will power to keep on keeping on when you would rather resign. Call it whatever you would like - determination, endurance, persistence, tenacity - whatever, it is an undeniable mark of a champion.

I. The pictures of staying power

One can find examples of endurance portrayed in almost every walk of life. They are compelling stories of grit and determination. One is that of the apostle Paul. He had been imprisoned, flogged five times, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, gone without sleep and food, and been in danger from various elements. Yet he remained firm in his pursuits. His accomplishments are an unparalleled list of achievements for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

In one of his letters to the Corinthian church, he paints four pictures of endurance.

A. A picture of pressure

“We are pressured in every way but not crushed” (2 Cor. 4:8). The picture here is of a football quarterback being blitzed by linebackers, but evading the tackle.

B. A picture of confusion

“We are perplexed but not in despair” (2 Cor. 4:8). The picture is of a woman sitting in her office amid statistics, reports, graphs, and plans not knowing where or whom to turn to for help, but not giving up and quitting.

C. A picture of being chased

“We are persecuted but not abandoned” (2 Cor. 4:9). The idea here is of being hunted, like wild game, but eluding the outdoorsman.

D. A picture of being thrown down

“We are struck down but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:9). The picture is of a boxer who is knocked down, the referee is counting, but the boxer is rising to his feet.

Can you see yourself in any of these pictures? Do you feel pressured? Confused? Chased? Thrown down?

II. The secrets of endurance

All too often people are defeated not because of a lack of ability, but because they quit too soon. Many people lose heart and throw in the towel before the game is finished. Two times in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul wrote, “we do not give up” (2 Cor. 4:1,16). He uncovers the secrets of endurance.

What are some secrets that will keep us from quitting even though we may feel like giving up?

A. Realize that problems are real

Problems are a fact of life; we must expect them. Life is not a joy ride. It is not like riding Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean" where we float through the water on little boats, watching from a distance the cannon fire and the splashing water. Life is real with real pain, real problems, and real frustrations. People get sick, they experience disappointment, they shed tears, and they are touched by death. So what do we do?

B. Release the power of God

We have a secret weapon in facing the difficulties and pressures of life. “Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). We are like clay pots - fragile and easily broken - but we have a stabilizing force within us to prevent us from cracking under the pressures and attacks of life. God's desire is to help the clay vessels made in his image to mature in the furnace of trials without cracking.

C. Respond to other people's needs

This thought goes against our very nature. Most often when we are confronted with trouble the more selfish we become. The more we become wrapped up in our own selfish interests and concerns. But enduring strength comes not by becoming selfish, but by becoming self-less.

Endurance comes to those who give their life away to help others in a great cause.

D. Regain a new perspective

Endurance comes by discovering a new way of looking at the situation. Staying power comes by changing the way you look at your difficulties. The key to persistence is perspective.

Rick Ezell is the pastor of First Baptist Greer, South Carolina. Rick has earned a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology in preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach.