ENDURANCE: Staying, Standing, Strong
Endurance is revealed in our lives in several ways. That's why there's a sub-title to these blog posts. There's a geographical dimension, that of staying in place. In another direction, endurance can be positional, meaning the way we stay in place, as in standing. Finally, genuine endurance depicts an attitudinal presence, being strong. The proven character that endurance yields stays, stands, and demonstrates personal strength while under extreme circumstances. Enduring people can't be moved, knocked down, or overcome by weakness.
Sounds a little like stubbornness, doesn't it? But, no, endurance is not about being bull-headed. Some of us like to talk about holding our ground, not giving up, or taking a stand about certain issues, and in a world like this, there's some merit in having a hard head. But, there's a difference. Stubbornness is usually an expression of egotism, the deep desire to win, whether over people or circumstances. It is self-motivated and in many ways self-absorbed. On the other hand, endurance isn't competitive nor is it primarily about winning. When we endure we overcome the circumstances by remaining under them. It is the spiritual virtue that produces proven character, which, in turn, yields hope. Stubbornness is about me, and endurance is about him. Think up!
At the root of endurance is a simple little word---meno. It means to stay, remain, abide, await, continue, and in several instances, endure. A seminary professor told us it pictures the action of pitching a tent, putting down stakes, becoming fixed. The word we usually translate to "endure" is hupo-meno, all the above with the word "under" modifying it. So, staying is explicit in the idea of endurance. It is the central theme of endurance, the meaning of the root word. In the New Testament sense it depicts remaining or continuing (1) in the faith, (2) regardless of the circumstances. It is the expression of faithfulness that results in staying in place, unmoving in disposition.
Ephesians 6 demonstrates both the standing and strong elements of endurance, even though the words "meno" or "hupo-meno" are not actually used in the text. It's the Whole Armor of God passage at Ephesians 6:10-20. In this text, Paul speaks of perseverance using another term that means continuance, steadfastness, and several other related demonstrations of an enduing spirit. The word is actually translated as endure in several translations of Hebrew 11:27, "...for Moses persevered as one who sees him who is invisible". In Ephesians 6, the entire section is about wearing the full armor of God so that believers can "...stand against the tactics of the devil"..." (v.11), and "...to take your stand..." (v.13). The thought begins with "Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and by his vast strength..." (v.10). It is a vivid representation of the endurance of Christ, one who stayed and stood with strength to fulfill his mission from the Father.
That's the point. Several bullets---
1. Endurance means we should stay and stand in his strength until God compels us otherwise. Much of the movement that blights the witness of the local church today happens when we abandon our posts because of stress we've encountered in our assignment. Genuine character grows out of our endurance of those circumstances, and produces hope in us in spite of them.
2. Endurance begins before our assignment from him does. If God directs our placement (see 1 Corinthians 12:18 if you question otherwise), we must trust the assignments he gives us and make an endurance commitment before we actually agree to the commitment. Short pastoral tenure, now slightly more than three years, is often the result of not clearly anticipating endurance on the front end of a ministry call. The same may be said for all the fast church moves people are making today. It is a serious decision, the place where our family will grow and give witness to his grace. Moving because of short endurance is wrong.
3. Endurance isn't stubbornness. Scriptural endurance has some blood brothers, but stubbornness isn't one of them. No, endurance is related to steadfastness, continuance, perseverance, and abiding, all spiritual virtues. Stubbornness is egocentric while endurance is Christ centered.
4. Endurance requires spiritual discipline. Strength is the prime modifier of staying and standing. Scripture is quick to reference his strength as the source of any personal power. Paul wrote to Timothy, "You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1).
5. Endurance changes our perceptions about life. Mature believers grow to understand the place of difficulty in life. The entire process is the central theme of what Paul wrote to the Romans, the product of hardship in life. He wrote, "...we also rejoice in our afflictions because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4). Life is hard. But, enduring the hard places help us see hope. It's a whole new world-view.
Staying, standing, strength are great and admirable traits. Faith engages a flexible world of accommodation by inserting enduring people into it. They are witnesses of proven character when they endure the shifts and turns of cultures in flux. The see the stable, obedient character of endurance in real life helps establish a hopeful world-view.
Lord, give us endurance.