I have recently noticed the number of times the word “endure” appears in various forms and expressions in the New Testament. There is a whole lot of value given to sticking around through the tough stuff. In almost every one of Paul’s letters, the necessity of perseverance, of hanging in there, of not giving up, is a core value. In fact, James suggests that, with the proper attitude, we can take advantage of the winds that will inevitably blow against us to build up our endurance. Over and over again John records the risen, reigning Lord encouraging the people in the local churches to whom he writes to endure to the end. Endurance is rewarded.
For the early church, endurance was the key to their survival. They had to keep pressing on, heading into the hard realities of life. Often persecution would come on the heals of other, more natural disasters – famine, drought, war, civil unrest – as well as the normal things that happen to everyone – loneliness, fear, family breakdown, sickness, death. Before Christ, they enjoyed status and standing in the society, had the protection of the state, sat to dinner with their family in peace. Now, and often because of their embrace of Christ, they have lost their place in the society, they are open targets for criminal opportunists, family members have turned against them. The temptation to abandon their new faith in Jesus must have been almost overwhelming at times. They have to simply tie a faith knot in the bottom of the rope and hang on – get through it – not give up – not quit. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is stick around.
Today the pressures for most of us are not as extreme, but the need for endurance is every bit as crucial. You can’t parent without the simple determination to just not quit – to hang in there with your confused teen whether or not she comes out the other end. You can’t hope to celebrate your fiftieth wedding anniversary without making the decision to not give up at various points along the way. Every job comes with its standard number of bad days, bad people, and bad situations – including the job you are tempted to switch to! Every church goes through seasons of difficulty and discouragement. Every person who is seeking to grow to maturity in Christ will encounter tough times along the way.
The key is to have an attitude that rides the contrary wind higher. But even without that kind of attitude, the secret to getting to the end is not quitting in the middle.