ENDURANCE: Staying, standing, strong.
Two words always seemed to stalk me in thirty-five years of pastoral service: patience and endurance. Doing some pastor coaching in this new chapter it was obvious that I'm not the Lone Ranger in trying to deal with either one. Apparently they're on the personal profile of many people called into ministry service. Even more, they may be two of the more prominent social indicators of the times. Notice the number of people constantly checking their watches, tapping computer keys, punching elevator buttons, or just huffing through the day. The other day at the doctor's office one guy stalked out in a rage because of a fifteen minute wait. In that instance, patience and endurance joined forces to send him packing.
Though similar, they are not the same, especially in the pages of Scripture. Here's a short tutorial---
Patience in the Bible is the Greek word macro-thumia, a compound basically
meaning "long passion". It means to remain passionate over the long haul. it is
derived in two very specific ways: natural personal growth as a fruit of the Spirit
(Galatians 5:22), or learned from circumstances in times of hardship (James 5:10).
Endurance is the compound hupo-meno, literally to "stay under". It implies that
action of staying under your circumstances over a period of time. Once again, God
gives us endurance (Romans 15:5) or it is learned in afflictions (Romans 5:3).
An interesting side-note is their connection. Evidently, patience yields endurance. And, this makes a lot of sense. Paul wrote, "May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience..." (Colossians 1:11) When our passions burn hot and bright, our endurance and ability to stay, stand, and be strong is fueled. When our passions are smothered and burn low, our strength to "stay under" the circumstances is sapped. Evidently keeping our passions stoked is one of the keys to endurance.
Every system has formal and informal organizational charts. I've never seem them listed on a nominating committee report or in a corporate prospectus, but there are always cold-water teams and wet-blanket groups in just about every hierarchy. Working in that world, whether in church or at the office or at school, they are among the daily tests of our patience, that is, our passions going long. No matter your place in the world, someone seems to derive great joy from raining on your parade. It's life in the big city, as some of my pastor friends are quick to say.
Keeping the passions burning is the deal to endurance. So, how does that happen?
1. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. It ought to grow in believers naturally.
This is about as basic as it gets. Usually when my patience, and therefore my passions, were running low, it was because my soil needed some nourishment. It's not agricultural science. Caring for the soil is essential.
2. Passions should be in front of us constantly.
There are three picture frames in my home office today, They have been visible in my offices in four churches, the SCBC building, for thirty-five years. They are my Life Verses, Ministry Verses, and Passion Verse. My circumstances changed over the years as I served four churches and at the state convention. But, these remained the steady passion guides through them all. If you cannot explain your passion in a paragraph, your patience may be threatened.
3. Other people can stir our passions.
The Apostle Paul reminded his readers to follow his example, or the example of the Prophets, as means of keeping passions alive. The author of Hebrews reminded us to keep our eyes on Jesus as our prime example of patience and endurance.
4. Ask God for patience and endurance.
Some people jump to the conclusion that praying for either patience or endurance is a quick side trip through some hard times. This isn't always the case. We must trust that God knows what we need and that he will give us what is needed to ignite our passions and produce endurance in us. Paul wrote that God gives endurance. So, ask him. (See Romans 15:5).
5. Connect the dots.
Endurance is part of a spiritual domino effect in the life of a believer. In Romans 5: 3-5 Paul explains the working of these connected dots---"And not only that, but we rejoice in our afflictions because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us...". It's a profound work of God, the way endurance brings us hope.
One of the cultural debates happening right now is whether or not we are a nation of quitters. Some argue one way, others another. Certainly the demographics raise the question and force us to take a closer look at the man in the mirror. Drop-out rates are significant when examining some of the key social indicators---church movement, political inactivity, sexual freedom, accommodation of moral slippage, compromise at just about every level of life. It's enough to dampen our passions, even extinguish them.
But, when we learn patience, we learn endurance. And, Jesus said, in his long teaching about the end of time, "By your endurance, gain your lives" (Luke 21:19).
Don't quit in a moment of frustration or disappointment. Fan those flames of the gift of God that is in you, and endure.