|Volume 19 Number 12 December 2017||
Vine’s Concise Dictionary of Bible Words defines endurance as “abiding under; bearing up courageously under suffering, persecutions, temptations, tribulations, and griefs. To wait patiently; to tarry; to hold up; to remain under; to be steadfast.”
Our lives are filled with shocks, upsets, disturbances, ordeals and sufferings of all kinds. Why? We live in a sin-cursed, fallen, broken world. In God Moments for Women by Carolyn Larsen, she writes in “Rolling with Life” (page 12):
How many times have you seen your life or someone else’s change in just a split second? An accident, a diagnosis or someone else’s choice changes everything. While changes can be disconcerting or even upsetting, they do not have to mean the end of relationships, careers, friendships or families. They only mean that things have changed. You have to roll with the punches… adjust and accept. How do you do that? Don’t forget that God is in the process. Remember… the only real constant is that God does not change. He is in control. He loves you. He has a plan. So, go with the flow and hang on to God for the journey!
“A bend in the road is not the end of the road—unless you fail to make the turn” (Anonymous).
The Book of Hebrews is filled with warnings against the danger of falling away from the harbor of salvation. Chapter 11 is chockful of faithful men and women who endured atrocities the likeness of which we can scarcely envision. Their faith was taxed to the breaking point, and yet, they endured! Hebrews 12:1-4 reads:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the righthand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
Jesus Christ is the supreme example of unsurpassed suffering and endurance. “Though He was a Son, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). All Christians will learn obedience precisely the same way.
As Christians, we are commanded to “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 ESV).
What does it mean to “count it all joy”? It means to expect the storms of life to test our faith. Our faith is worthless if it will not get us through life’s storms. We do not become strong and immovable spending our lifetime in the greenhouse. Daily habitual prayer and immersing ourselves in the Word are the hallmarks of endurance. These disciplines produce that spiritual joy and abiding sense of divine presence that no tribulation, test, trial, trouble, temptation, turmoil or tragedy can smother! As faithful followers of God, we know He holds the past, present and future in His hands. David said, “As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (2 Samuel 22:31).
Job is an outstanding example of staying true to God as he refuted his critics—his supposed “friends” during his sufferings. In Job 13:15-16 he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation, for a hypocrite could not come before Him.” Now, that’s relationship at its finest!
How is God always the God of our salvation? He is absolute. We can depend upon Him when all others are gone. He can help us when no one else can. Lamentations 3:25-26 reads, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly [silent endurance in obedient faith] for the salvation of the LORD.” This waiting obediently in silent endurance does not equal days of prosperity or years of pleasure. It does not equal getting our way with God. It does not equal refusing ownership of our words and actions.
He is always the God of our salvation because He is all powerful. Whatever trial we are facing, He is our source of strength. Isaiah 40:29 reads, “He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might, He increases strength.” He is always the God of our salvation because He is always available. He is never out of touch or out of reach. If anybody moved—it was us—not Him! James 4:8 reads, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” He is always the God of our salvation because He is abundant in grace and mercy. God’s lovingkindness flows toward us continually. Psalm 69:16 reads, “Hear me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies.”
King Nebuchadnezzar in his rage had commanded that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego be hurled into the fiery furnace if they refused to bow in worship to an image of gold that he had set up. Their allegiance to God was staunch. They said, “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:16b-18). Again, that’s relationship at its finest!
Casandra Martin wrote The Jesus Resolution. Pages 130-131 are entitled, “Marathons.” She wrote, “Life is a race. Some race to win something perishable—money, power, fame, friends, education, popularity or possessions. When we run in Christ…the Holy Spirit serves as our Trainer and Coach. Some days it is easy to run. Other days we can hardly find the strength to put on our shoes. But marathons aren’t won or lost in a single day. Marathons are won by the consistent, daily choice to make running well a goal.” We choose to endure and keep running the race.
The apostle Peter’s growth and maturity are evident in his writings of what we commonly call First and Second Peter. In his younger years, he was impulsive and egotistical. However, he matured and was granted the privilege of preaching the first Gospel sermon on Pentecost, and he also served as an elder in the Lord’s church. Take note of these two passages from his letters. “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:19-20). “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
How is it possible to be glad in times of trouble? By reminding yourself that there’s something to be gained from every loss, every failure and every setback—if you look for it. Enduring trouble and pain give us a perspective and maturity we can’t get any other way. Our hard-earned life experiences make us more mature—and more empathetic to other hurting people. (The Bible: 100 Ways It Can Change Your Life. Time Home Entertainment, 29)
God always knows what He is doing. He is eternally consistent in His purpose and objective—the redemption of humanity. Why? Because our redemption cost His Son His life. No matter what futile attempts are made by anybody to judge or question His actions, He answers to no one. This became crystal clear to arrogant King Nebuchadnezzar after God brought him to his knees. In Daniel 4:34-35 the king said:
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
God’s own people were taken into Babylonian captivity for seventy long years because of their unabated rebellion, shameless debauchery and abominable idolatry. Their deeds were untenable. Yet, they did not believe a word Jeremiah spoke to them about their impending doom. Jeremiah 29:1-9 records their imminent catastrophic destiny.
Even so, God assured them with hope after they have endured their captivity—the consequences of their sins. Jeremiah 29:10-13 reads:
For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me, and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you, and you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
One writer made this observation about the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. “We have God’s pardon, presence, protection, provision and peace. What more could we want?” God is the answer to the pain and the grief of life’s storms when rightly endured. Christians must recognize there is always spiritual advantage in adversity—greater strength, growth and maturity for the journey.
Go, Plant, Water and
Let God Give the Increase
Martha Lynn Rushmore
In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus taught the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The owner of the vineyard went out early in the morning and hired workers. He told them he would pay them a denarius for one day of work in his vineyard. These men agreed to this and went to work.
The third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours, the master of the vineyard went out and hired more workers. He told them each time that he would pay them what is right. They all agreed and went to work.
Then, at the end of the day, the master started paying the workers from those hired last to those who started working first. Since those who started working at the eleventh hour got a denarius, the first men hired thought they would receive more in wages. When they received their money, they complained against the landowner. 'You paid those who started working later than us the same thing you gave us.” The master said to them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong, did you not agree to work for a denarius for the day's wages?' He told them to go on their way. It was his money to do with as he decided.
Those who become Christians at an early age will receive the same reward as persons who become Christians in their old age. If you have been a member of the church for 50, 60 or even 90 years and are faithful at death, you will get your reward on the Day of Judgment. Then, those who have been Christians for a week, a month or a year will receive the same Heavenly home as those who have been faithful for many years. It does not matter how long we have been Christians, it matters if we are found faithful at our death. In 1 Corinthians 5:10, we are told that we will all stand before Christ at the Judgment.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ will separate the sheep (righteous) from the goats (wicked). What is important is that we follow God’s Word to its fullest.
In Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:16, we are told to go into all the world and teach. This does not say to teach only the young. These Scriptures say we are to teach all. The age of those who we are teaching does not matter as long as they are old enough to understand what is needed to become a Christian.
In 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered and God gave the increase.” We are to do the same as Paul—plant the Gospel.
We cannot all be preachers or teachers. Some of us are too timid to go up to someone and try to teach. We can all take tracts and lay them down in the hospital or somewhere else. In a restroom while traveling, I found a tract stuck against the wall behind the toilet paper holder. Whoever left it did it in private, but she did something to teach. Unfortunately, it was from a denomination. So, I did right by taking it so someone else would not pick up false doctrine. Sorry to say, I did not have a tract with me to replace it. Let us all do what we can to spread the Word of God.