There are nearly two dozen New Testament scriptures that speak of enduring or holding fast to the end. The wrong way to read these scriptures is to think, “I must sweat and strive and endure or be disqualified from the kingdom.” If the Christian race is a marathon, it begins at the finish line. Christ has already endured which is why, in him, we can have peace when troubles come.
So why does the Bible contain so many exhortations to endure? Because you and I have a great need for endurance, and God has promised to supply that need (along with all our other needs) according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Php 4:19).
It is essential that you see God as your need-supplier, otherwise you will get distracted by scriptures like this:
There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. (Rev 14:11-12, NIV)
The New International Version Bible makes it sound like your salvation is contingent upon your endurance and commandment-keeping. In other words, you’d better follow the rules and show some moral fiber when faced with persecution.
This is bad advice! Live like this and you’ll be as restless as those who worship the beast. Let’s look at that scripture in a literal translation:
Here is endurance of the saints: here are those keeping the commands of God and the faith of Jesus. (Rev 14:12 YLT)
John is saying, “Do you see it? Under this incredible pressure from a corrupt world system, the saints are enduring. Those who trust Jesus are staying faithful in the face of persecution.” John is not saying, “This calls for…” but “Here it is! Look! See what God is doing – he is keeping his saints!”
We don’t endure to become Christians; we endure because we are Christians – because Christ is in us and he is the all-time Overcomer and Endurer. As John says, it is the “faith of Jesus” that makes this possible.
It may not be in your nature to endure but rest assured it is in his nature, and as you allow him to express his life through yours, you too will endure to the end. Keep your focus on Jesus and you will be amazed at what you can endure.
The circus of endurance
Have you ever read how the first-century Christians endured horrific persecution. Can you imagine what it must’ve been like to be rounded up with other believers and sent to the Roman circus to face the lions? Can you imagine sitting in the holding cell waiting for your turn to be torn and devoured?
In my natural flesh I would have been climbing the walls trying to get out. Or perhaps I would be curled up in the fetal position trembling with fear.
Yet when you read about these Christ-followers you’ll find that many actually volunteered for the circus. Like Paul, they considered it an honor to share a martyr’s death with Christ. In other words, when the pressure came they found within themselves the supernatural steel of Christ’s endurance. They literally had Christ’s courage.
It’s the same today. I know of Chinese pastors who have thought nothing of going to prison. If you know anything about Chinese prisons you will know that’s not normal to be untroubled by such things, and yet they are. They endure the unendurable because Christ empowers them.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas 1:2-4)
In Christ you already lack nothing but you won’t know you lack nothing until you’ve been tested by the trials of life. It is only when you have gone past the point of your own strength and found your heavenly Father, strong and smiling, that you begin to realize that when you are weak, you can be strong indeed.
It is not a joyful thing to be persecuted. The joy comes in discovering through the trial that the faith God has put within you is purer than gold.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet 1:6-7)
The trials of life are not to see whether we can manufacture the Right Stuff for Jesus, for we can’t manufacture faith at all. Saving, enduring faith is a gift from God. The purpose of life’s trials is to show you that God’s gifts are awesome!
The marvelous gift
The faith he has given you – Jesus’ faith, remember – is not brittle but strong. You might not know this but when the trial comes you will and then you will rejoice. You will marvel like John and say, “Look! Here now is endurance of the saints!” You will marvel like Paul and say, “I am not discouraged. Even though on the outside it seems everything is falling apart, on the inside God is revealing his amazing life” (2 Cor 4:16).
What is the endurance of the saints? What is the secret to survival in a hostile world? It is the faith of Jesus working in those who receive it.
Understand that patient endurance is a fruit (Gal 5:22). You absolutely cannot produce the patience you need to endure life’s toughest trials so don’t even try. As branches we’re not called to produce fruit but to bear the fruit that he, the Living Vine, produces in us. Our part is to abide in the Vine – to rest in him, to trust him, and to quit trying to make it happen apart from him.
Our part is to behold Jesus who has already endured and marvel with gratitude as he continues to endure.
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