Monday, October 30, 2017

A Theology of Endurance

Douglas Frank Photograph

A Theology of Endurance

It is often the enduring or persevering that is most difficult in life. Trials sometimes seem to go on forever. In fact we know that they will, we don’t need to ask for them. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of diverse kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete lacking nothing.”  This is one of the many hard Scriptures like “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). I am glad that Jesus adds some solace in the Beatitudes saying,
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:10).  We are to be firmly planted in the truth of the gospel. He warns the one who receives the seed of salvation on rocky soil with joy, ‘“yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away’” (Matthew 13:21). Jesus warns us explicitly in Matthew 24 of the signs of the End of The Age when there will be wars and rumors of wars, coupled with great travail and persecution of many kinds. This time of “birth pains” seems be upon us.  Jesus warns of Christians turning cold and falling away, something that is happening in our world right now. We are to “stand firm to the end and be saved.”

So, how are you doing in your persevering and enduring faith? I must say, the heat is ramping up and as I get older, my body in falling apart too. The Apostle Paul said of this, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day(2 Corinthians 4:16). He tells us our temporary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all the hassles. What to do? We fix our eyes on Jesus, and not on what is seen. We are to, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34 and elsewhere).

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (Isaiah 40:8). The Lord and all He is endures. Righteousness endures. His kingdom is eternal and will endure forever. But we cannot stand against His wrath. Disobedience has consequences that cannot stand before the Lord. We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that trials and temptations are part of our lives, but that God is faithful. If we trust Him, He will provide a way out or through so that we can endure it. Paul tells his mentee, Timothy to “endure hardship, conflict and suffering” and do the work of an evangelist. This endurance for the cause of the gospel will cause us to not grow weary. If we suffer for doing good and endure it, it is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:20).

Jesus told the church of Philadelphia in Revelation by way of encouragement, ‘“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth’” (Revelation 3:10). He told them, “I am coming soon.”

 In Romans 5:3-5 we read Paul’s encouragement, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and to character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who He has given us.” He tells the church of Thessalonica “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance(2 Thessalonica 3:5).

In 2 Peter we are told that God has given us His very great and precious promises so that through them we might participate in the divine nature and escape the evils of the world. “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to your knowledge; self-control; and to your self-control; perseverance; and to your perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ…For if you do all these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Peter 1:5-11). This is our calling to live a godly life even though we will suffer.  We may have a unique calling like my own as a healthcare chaplain to help others in their suffering, so that they might persevere.

God will reward the persevering with His eternal love. As Paul admonishes, we press on toward this goal and higher calling in Christ Jesus as we forget the past and look to Him and His guidance.  The photograph above by my cousin Douglas Frank is of the ravaged scene after the clearcutting of a forest.  Today it is blooming and full or new growth.  Keep walking!

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