Distress has many disguises. It visits us as pain, grief, suffering, trials, anguish, bother, temptations, hardship, difficulty, criticism, agony, irritation, hurt, opposition, or hundreds of other deceptive identities. When persistent, they challenge us spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Patience gives us the spiritual fruit to delay the storms they can stir in our lives. Endurance and perseverance equip us to withstand their tenacious assault and continue our course in spite of them.
King David's prayer "How long, O Lord?" was his plea for the spiritual strength to live under the constant barrage of personal distress in each of these three dimensions. Take note of these variations of this often repeated prayer---
Patience How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you
hide your face from me?
Psalm 13:1, ESV
Endurance How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those
who persecute me?
Psalm 119:84, ESV
Perseverance O Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?
They crush your people, O Lord, and afflict your heritage.
Psalm 94: 3, 5, ESV
The king asked God to equip him to wait, withstand, and continue as the harsh realities of life weighed on him.
In the New Testament these virtues were expressed by two vivid terms---makrothumia (long passion, a spiritual fruit) and hupomeno (remain under, a spiritual discipline). Endurance and perseverance are the two most often repeated translations of hupomeno. Translators searched the context of the passage before determining whether hupomeno was rendered as either a form of endurance or perseverance. Each was an expression of living under severe circumstances, one the strength to withstand the distress, the other the spiritual grace to stay focused under the hardship, no matter it's duration. The most prevalent modern versions rarely render hupomeno as perseverance. Endurance is the usual translation.
The model of endurance in Scripture is Jesus Christ the Lord. The anonymous author of Hebrews penned a memorable verse about his 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.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that
you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV
And, that is the final point. Patience, endurance, and perseverance are missing elements of spiritual fruit and discipline in the religious landscape of our nation. King David asked God for each of them. The Apostle Paul reminded his readers that Patience should grow in the life of every believer, naturally. Endurance and perseverance, however fine tuned they are in definition, should be visible in the life of maturing believers because Jesus modeled them, and we should follow him. .
Many observers characterize us as a culture of quitters. With a broad brush we are suddenly people who cannot finish. The shallow worldview of secularism teaches that these qualities are learned in the playroom or gym. As a result, patience, endurance, and perseverance are no longer traits visible in our population as a whole, or in the church, for that matter. Which means two things: (1) we're not growing spiritual fruit, and (2) Jesus is no longer our prime example. Following in his steps doesn't seem all that important in the contemporary concepts of discipleship. Making disciples may no longer be our primary mission. Finishing is no longer the deal.
Then, there's Job. All my life I've tried to find the patience of Job. But, it wasn't patience that marked Job's life. It was endurance. James clarified Job's spiritual life in his Epistle. He wrote---
We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job
and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of
compassion and is merciful.
James 5:11, NASB
James used the word hupomeno when he described Job. Job endured and persevered. And, that's the prayer I'm praying for myself and God's people in these strategic times, that we grow the fruit of patience, and that we learn the disciplines of endurance and perseverance as we serve him. It's the example of King David, Job, and Jesus. Maybe it should be so visible in me too.
That's my prayer. Yours?
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