Summary: Endurance is required if we will be courageous in the face of opposition and if we will fulfil the duties Christ assigns.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Duty! Courage! In previous messages, we’ve explored a couple of qualities that should mark the child of God. We’ve seen that these qualities should especially mark the lives of men who wish to be identified as followers of the Master. Now, we will consider yet another quality that should characterise the people of God—steadfastness or endurance. The word translated “steadfastness” in our text, is the Greek term hupomoné. The word is variously translated throughout this English Standard Version of the Bible as “endurance” or “patience” or one of the cognates of “patience.” This provides us with a somewhat fuller understanding of what the first readers would have understood James to be saying.
The word hupomoné is a favourite of the Apostle Paul; he uses the word more frequently than any other writer of Scripture. The word spoke of the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances. In that respect, I should think that the word appealed to Paul in part because of his concept of manly service. Paul frequently compared Christian service to the conduct of a soldier. He would speak of his co-workers as “fellow soldiers,” as he did when speaking of Archippus [PHILEMON 2] and Epaphroditus [PHILIPPIANS 2:25].
Seeking to encourage a young pastor, Paul invited him to join in suffering—suffering that was comparable to the discomfort and danger a Legionnaire would have been called to endure in the course of completing the duties he would be assigned. To Timothy, the Apostle has written, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” [2 TIMOTHY 2:3, 4]. No matter the manner in which the word may be translated into our English tongue, the overarching concept that is conveyed is undoubtedly the attitude of fortitude.
As an aside, we admire those brave men who endure hardship to accomplish a hard task. We admire the man who can endure the training to be qualified for duty within the ranks of those we know as Special Forces. We admire the constable who endures hardship to pursue a criminal to bring a breach of the peace to successful conclusion. We admire the individual who endures opposition and hardship in order to bring a company out of financial distress and to ensure solvency. Similarly, we should admire that conscientious follower of the Master who speaks the truth in love, refusing to be turned aside from living a righteous and godly life while eschewing every inducement to do what is wicked. We admire the Christian who stands firm in truth.
THE CERTAINTY OF TRIALS — Let me clarify what must assuredly be a common theme from the messages I have presented: Christians can expect opposition because they are Christians. The cautionary statements have been presented multiple times in messages I have delivered. Nevertheless, it is to the benefit of all who listen to hear some of these statements once again.
First, think of Paul’s blunt statement to believers at the conclusion of the first missionary journey. “When [the missionaries] had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” [ACTS 14:21, 22]. Take special note of the “encouragement” given to these new Christians—through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God!
The word translated “tribulations” is the Greek term thlĩpsis. It conveys the idea of trouble involving direct suffering. It is affliction causing pain. In light of this, let’s look again at the Apostle’s statement. “We must suffer many things to enter God’s Kingdom,” is one recent translation. Another Bible that I frequently cite renders Paul’s warning, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the Kingdom of God.” Thus, it would appear certain that those early Christians understood that because they were followers of the Master they would face opposition and lives marked by pain.