ENDURANCE

The words 'endure' and 'endurance'; are often used negatively; as though their only meaning is that of putting up with things.
 
However, most dictionaries, and, certainly, the Bible, demonstrate other, positive meanings of these words. To 'endure' is something that we can do; actively; rather than something that we simply put up with, passively.

 
'Endure' means: to undergo or tolerate ... to submit to ... and to remain in existence. 'Endurance' tells of the power and ability to be strong, in situations and events which may come against us.
 
The Bible offers us many positive examples of endurance: the greatest of all, being that of Jesus Christ; throughout his earthly ministry: and at the Cross in particular. He underwent; tolerated; submitted to, and withstood, in very active and positive ways.
 
Through overcoming death, at the Resurrection; he not only remains very much in existence; but also gives meaning, direction, faith and hope to his followers.
 
Our word 'endure' is rooted in the Latin words 'duras', which means 'hard’; and 'durare', which means 'to harden'.
 
In Christian terms, this doesn't mean to 'harden' in the sense of resistance, which may break under strain; but in the sense of resilience, which has the ability to undergo pressure, without breaking.
 
The Bible teaches us that endurance is essential to the Christian life, in the here-and-now of our daily situations; and central to our hopes of the future.
 
New Testament teaching often links the present with the future, in order to demonstrate that salvation is a process. To the church at Corinth, St. Paul wrote: ‘To us who are being saved, (the cross) is the power of God. (1. Cor. 1: 18).
 
Jesus put this into even sharper focus, when he said: 'He (or she) who endures to the end will be saved’ (Matt.10:22). Endurance is an active, positive, ongoing process which, eventually, brings about the desired rewards.
 
However, to say that our spiritual journey of faith needs endurance to see us safely through to the end; doesn't explain from where endurance draws its strength.
Jesus began to show how, and from where, endurance draws its strength, in his famous parable, which begins with: ‘A sower went forth to sow’.
 
He said: 'Other people; like seed sown on rocky places; hear the word, but, since they have no root, they endure for only a short time’.
 
Of yet others, he said: ‘When trouble or persecution comes; because of the word, they quickly fall away’. The point being made, in the parable, is: 'no root, no endurance.
 
In other teachings, Christ made it clear that: 'no endurance, no salvation'. Endurance draws it strength from being firmly rooted in the right place.
 
That Christ's personal endurance was firmly rooted in the right place; is surely proved by the facts of his life and ministry; sufferings and death: and the New Testament does not leave us guessing as to what was 'the right place'.
 
It was Christ's strong, unchangeable desire to please the Father, through perfect obedience of his will ... that enabled him to undergo .. tolerate .. and submit to, all that he was called to endure, and to triumphantly achieve the desired goal.
 
In relation to mankind, the crowning-point of the Father's will, is that all should be open to receiving the salvation that was brought into being by Christ, through his ongoing endurance.
 
It is to be noted that there wasn't a ‘reserve Messiah’, in case the original one failed in his mission. God placed all his trust in the obedient endurance of his Son. In response, Christ rooted his endurance both in that great trust; and in his strong, firm desire to undertake a life of obedient service.
 
The more we look, the more clearly we can see, that Christian endurance is entirely active and positive; with desired, obtainable goals in view.
 
The writer of 'The Letter to the Hebrews' has something encouraging to say at this point: 'Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus' (the 'desired, obtainable goal') 'who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross; scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God…
 
...'Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men; so that you will not grow weary, and lose heart'. (Hebrews 12:2+3).
 
The text said that Christ: 'for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross'. Then; and now; there is just one source of true joy, which is the obedient service of the Father's will, in all matters.
 
Obedient service very seldom comes about easily. Often it is quite costly, and it always needs to draw daily strength from endurance; and such endurance, itself, draws strength, through being firmly rooted in knowing, and doing, God’s will.
 
Whenever, and wherever, we undertake the will of God, we not only receive a bit more of the joy that results from obedience; but also become more Christ-like.
 
Christ-likeness cannot be missed. It shows forth in an attractive and often compelling witness to others.
 
St Paul wrote, to the young but growing church at Thessalonica: 'Your faith is growing, more and more; and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing’ (Paul couldn't help but see the developing Christ-likeness in them) ...
 
... 'Therefore, among God's churches, we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials that you are enduring’. (2.Thessalonians 1:3+4).
 
The faith and love of those Thessalonian Christians; came into prominence; and witnessed to their Lord; in the midst of troubles that were actively, positively, and creatively endured.
 
Endurance is a good, recognizable testimony to the validity of faith.
 
God the Father sent his Christ into the world, for a truly great purpose; and, through his active and positive endurance, Christ fulfilled it.
 
St Paul, recognizing that what Christ had done for the world; he had also done for each individual; made a clear-cut decision about his own way of life. He expressed something of this to Timothy, when he wrote:
 
'I endure everything for the sake of the elect; that they, too, may, obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus'. (2. Timothy 2: 10).
 
What a lovely attitude towards a meaningful life!
 
In John 17, we find the great prayer of Jesus; who had made his mind up to endure to the end. With a view as to what he wanted for his disciples, in the future; Christ prayed for them, and then said:
 
'My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their words’ (John 17:20). That prayer has never ceased to be effective; and our very existence, as believers, is part of the ongoing answer to it.
 
God calls us to active, positive and creative endurance; which takes the light of truth; given through effective witness; into otherwise dark and ineffectual places.
 
The Lord is never merely content that we have done what he required us to do; for his own generous nature will insist that we are fully rewarded.
 
In James’ letter, we read: 'Blessed is the man who endures under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him' (James 1:12).
 
Faith, hope and love are essential and beautiful qualities; but what determines whether or not they continue to be found in us, is endurance.
 
May our love for Christ, and our desire to serve him, give us an endurance that is not only positive; active, purposeful and creative; but also that which strengthens all other good qualities in us.
 
May such endurance continue to give witness; to ourselves, and others; the validity of the Christian faith; and the blessings that arise out of loving obedience. Amen!
 

READINGS: Hebrews 12: 1-13.
2. Tim. 3: 10-17. (No gospel reading used).