READ: Psalm 69, Ezekiel 40-42, Mark 13, 1 Corinthians 4
ENDURANCE IS WHAT WE DO
In our family we have three simple rules for our boys: Love Jesus, Don’t Whine, and Don’t Quit. Implicit in the last two rules is the virtue of endurance. Though it is not often extolled as a virtue, to be Christian is to endure. Our model for endurance is Christ Himself who “endured” the cross. As Christians we need to continually remind ourselves who we are and what we do: We are endurers, we endure. Endurance is the sign of the mature Christian. Those who are not deeply marked by Jesus do not have the capacity to endure and give in or give up at the first sign of trouble or opposition.
Endurance is not unique to the followers of Jesus. There are many who do not know Jesus that endure incredible injustice, poverty, shame, and physical abuse. Therefore, for our endurance to glorify God it often has to be in a form impossible to man’s natural strength. What distinguishes Christian endurance from other impressive demonstrations is the manner and the reason for our endurance. Sickness can be endured with grace or grimace. Sorrow can be bourn with frown or favor. Injustice can be swallowed in anger or peace. The follower of Jesus endures unimaginable things in unbelievable calm. It is not the fact of our endurance which exalts Jesus–it is the manner.
Christian endurance is also exceptional for its reason. It is one thing to endure Arctic cold for the fame of being the first person to the North Pole; it is another thing to endure hell’s heat for the salvation of souls. Enduring the elements or the competition for fame and fortune cannot be compared to enduring shame and suffering for the sake of someone else. Endurance for our own survival is a lower form of love than endurance for the sake of others. The greatest manifestation of endurance is that which suffers for the sake of enemies. First Corinthians 4:12 reminds us what we do in persecution: “Persecuted, we endure.” Endurance is what we do. While it is true we endure for our own dignity, for our families’ honor, and for the good of the organization we represent, it is more true that we endure for the glory of God. We can make God look good when we suffer well. We adorn the gospel when we endure for the truth. God’s gospel is most beautified when we endure for the sake of our enemies.
A primary reason God allows His messengers to be persecuted is for the sake of the persecutors. When persecutors see Christ’s ambassadors suffer well, it shakes something deep in their being. Saul never forgot the manner in which Stephen died. Stephen endured, in part, so that Paul could turn the world upside down. Who are we? Followers of the crucified. What do we do? We endure. Why do we endure? For the glory of God and the sake of others.