Endurance when I'm at the end of my rope
When hard times come we're usually surrounded by aisles of Hallmark sentiment. Like, "Hang in there, God won't put on you more than you can handle". Like most strugglers I've searched through the Bible from cover to cover to cover, in every version plus the Hebrew and Greek texts, and I haven't been able to highlight that one to date. Oh yeah, there is the one about temptation. What Paul actually wrote to the Corinthians is a great promise for those trying times when our will is angling away from what the spirit is saying to us--
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he
will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also
provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV
So, it's not about hanging in there at all. It's about God giving us what we need when we're being enticed by something totally delicious or depraved so we can escape it. Endurance is mentioned. But escape is the deal. Still, there's plenty about hanging in there when the thumb screws are being tightened. It's the spiritual discipline of endurance. What is more, Jesus is our most powerful model. The writer of Hebrews put him on display in many ways, the superiority of Christ being a central theme of the epistle. In Chapter 12 there's this powerful reminder about Christ's endurance---
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay
aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the
race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is
seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
At one time running the race with endurance was an objective of the Christian experience. Jesus said, "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). It was a grace laced into the spiritual fiber of God's great leaders in history, the discipline of "hupomeno", that is, hyper-staying. Endurance is the strength of character in spiritual leaders that keeps them and the people they are leading on mission when the assignment is long, hard, and without visible reward. This staying power isn't a caffeine jolt, energy drink, adrenaline rush, or pat on the back, though each of these may be warranted on occasion. It is the spiritual discipline of living under unpleasant or trying circumstances without giving way.
The Apostle Paul was intimately familiar with endurance. He wrote about it often and lived it visibly throughout his mission experiences. There's not space here to record every sentence he penned about endurance. Let me simply list a couple for clarification---
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces
endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and
hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our
hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5, ESV
Here he clearly identifies suffering as a source of endurance that produces character and eventually hope. Later in Romans, and then again in Colossians he offers what may have been a prayer to God for their endurance.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony
with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.
Romans 15:5, ESV
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all
endurance and patience with joy.
Colossians 1:11, ESV
The point is that endurance is a provision of God to those he has called to his service, those who lead and those who follow. It's an important consideration in a culture when the back doors of the church are spinning off, ministerial tenure is low, the drop out rate of church attendance is escalating, and the "nones" are the fastest growing religious preference. Endurance demonstrates God's strength in his people, especially those he has called to lead.
There's a litany of promises we can recite when we're tested and ready to step away. The one that has meant most to me is Philippians 4:13. You know it.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
It's a promise that shifts our vision to the one who gives us strength, Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, who endured the cross for the joy set before him. We're called to walk in his steps. And, that means enduring.
It's a character trait many leaders have left behind. Pray for it.