I was struck by this word – “endurance” – in my Bible reading this week, as Paul lists it among the many qualities that make up a faithful ministry (see 2 Cor 6:1-10). And so I decided to do a little word study on the words endurance, endure, and so on … and put together a little article on what the Bible teaches on this matter.
Well! What I found was far more material, especially in the New Testament, that I had quite anticipated. The Christian’s need for endurance comes up over and over (and over!) again! There are famous verses like Matthew 24:13 (“the one who endures to the end, he will be saved”) and Hebrews 12:1 (“let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”). There are verses that pertain particularly to gospel ministers, like 1 Corinthians 9:12 (“we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel”) and 2 Timothy 4:5 (“endure hardship … fulfill your ministry”). There is (often!) the call, specifically, to endure persecution (e.g. Matt 10:22, 1 Cor 4:12, Heb 10:32ff.). And there are examples of endurance as well – Job in James 5:11, and Jesus in Hebrews 12:1-2. Indeed, I count something like twenty New Testament passages that speak of the believer’s endurance!
And I come to the same conclusion, concerning myself and my readers, as the one to which the writer of Hebrews came concerning his own readers: “You have need of endurance” (Hebrews 10:36).
Now much of the need for endurance discussed in the New Testament relates to the need to endure suffering for our faith. And that is something for us to keep in our hip pockets for circumstances that may arise in the not-too-distant future. If I live and minister long enough, I suspect I’ll be writing and preaching more and more on verses like 1 Corinthians 4:12: “when we are persecuted, we endure.”
But even before that day comes, we “have need of endurance”, have we not?
Sometimes we encourage people to sign on as Christians by holding out to them the ‘adventure’ of walking with God. And, of course, sometimes the Christian life is an adventure! But on most days and for most Christians, our lives (and even many of the spiritual aspects of them) are just … well … normal. Much of life is even mundane and run-of-the-mill. Sometimes even s l o w. We are not always called to do great things. And often we don’t have the greatest of gifts for doing even the everyday things to which God has called us. Our days are average, and so are we.
Then, on top of it all, sometimes life (and even more so, life on Christ’s narrow way) can be just plain hard. Exhausting. Painful. Sometimes even gut-wrenching. And all of this is not even including any specific persecution we may endure for our faith! Not to downplay the joy of the Christian life … but Christian joy is often accompanied by sorrow (2 Corinthians 6:10), and very often by the hum-drum.
And therefore, sometimes, we must simply put one foot in front of another (joyfully, yes … but also routinely and doggedly) – pressing on through all the ups and downs … and especially in the unchanging scenery of life’s flatlands. And therein lies part of the call for endurance – to keep truly following Christ; to not give way to the world’s way of living; to continue doing what God has called us to do, even when we are not at the peak of the mountain, and especially when don’t see immediate or spectacular results. Friedrich Nietzsche (of all people!) coined the striking phrase “a long obedience in the same direction” (taken up more recently by the Christian author, Eugene Peterson). And if an unbeliever like Nietzsche thought this was a key human trait, how much more the believer in Jesus Christ! Because so much of a life lived for Jesus is just that … a long obedience, an endurance, a perseverance to keep running the race that is set before us – eyes fixed on Jesus who, Himself, had need for endurance for 33 years in this sin-soiled world.
So press on, Christian friend! Don’t turn back. Don’t give way the American Dream. Put one foot in front of the other – looking to Jesus, keeping eternity in view, and with faith that “your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” And when you experience the joy of the Lord, even in the mundane or the miserable, you’ll know that it is really the joy of the Lord, and not just the adrenaline of the mountain top.
“You have need of endurance.”