A reader asked for my thoughts on the following passage:
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Rev 14:12, NIV)
When I was a younger man I might’ve preached a message on this verse that went something like this: “You gotta hang tough for Jesus. You gotta suck it up and stick it out or he’ll reject you.” What a terrible flesh-glorifying message!
And who was I to talk about endurance? I hadn’t been through half the stuff John the Revelator endured. I didn’t live in fear of the Roman circus or Pharisaical persecution. I not only lacked John’s credibility, I was reading his words all wrong.
God’s people must learn to endure. They must also obey his commands and have faith in Jesus. (Rev 14:12, CEV)
The NIV, CEV and a few other translations present this scripture as a command-that-must-be-obeyed. “You must endure. You must obey.” But that way lies disaster because the focus is on you when it ought to be on Jesus. Read this passage in other translations and you will find no such appeals to the flesh:
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. (Rev 14:12, KJV)
Spot the difference? Some translations say “You must,” others say “Here is.” One is a prescription, the other is an announcement. Some translations point to the faith of the saints, others point to the faith of Jesus. Big difference!
(You may be tempted to write in and ask me, “So which Bible can we trust?” I’m going to disappoint you and say no translation is perfect. Filter all you read through the Living Word.)
The point is not “we endure to become Christians” but “because we are Christians we endure.” You have a mighty Overcomer living inside you. It’s the faith of Jesus that empowers you to go through life’s trials.
How can we get this wrong? By focusing on ourselves instead of our Savior. By worrying about our faithfulness instead of resting in his.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being told to harden up and act like a spiritual Rambo. That sort of nonsense promotes self-trust and pretending. Human perseverance is a strength for sure, but God can’t use it. Believe me, no medals will be handed out in heaven for human endurance.
If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that everyone breaks and the sooner you break – or quit trying not to break – the better. Why? Because God can’t do anything with us when we’re trusting in our own strength or leaning on our own understanding:
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10)
Why does Paul say this? Because the key to enduring the unendurable, is to lift your eyes off your present circumstances and focus on what the Lord will bring about:
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Cor 4:16-18, MSG)
The faith of Jesus
As I have said elsewhere, we don’t go through trials to see if we can manufacture the right stuff. Rather, life’s trials reveal that God has given us the Right Stuff because he has given us himself. It is his faith that endures and his light that shines!
If you have been through tough times you may know this to be true. If you’re going through tough times you’re about to find out!
Here’s the takeaway: trust in your own endurance and eventually you will break. The bad news is that life is bigger than you, but the good news is that Jesus is bigger than all!
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:16-18)
In the old covenant you had to prove yourself but in the new we get to prove and affirm Jesus. He is treasure within. He is the light that shines and his is the faith that overcomes. We don’t endure and obey and act faithful to earn our place in the kingdom; we bear those fruits because we are connected to the Vine and it is his life that we now live.