Summary: We can neither escape experiencing the evils of this world nor can we avoid God’s testing the quality of our devotion by letting us experience reality. It is important, however, that we do not let the hard times damage our faith and service to Christ.
Illustration: The Battered Bastards of Bastogne
Most people recognize endurance to be our not quitting an endeavor; especially when we are experiencing an unpleasant, difficult, or dangerous situation. A perfect illustration of endurance was demonstrated by the 101st airborne division, in December 1944, when they held off ferocious German attacks on the Belgian town of Bastogne. The town of Bastogne was a vital transportation hub for the area, and it was imperative for the Germans to capture this town if their Battle of the Bulge offensive was to be maintained. The American soldiers were vastly outnumbered; and, they were lacking in ammunition, food, medical supplies and cold-weather gear. This situation was compounded by the worst winter weather in recorded history, which not only impacted human survival but made it impossible to resupplied the besieged Americans or provide them with tactical air support. In spite of hardships beyond our comprehension, the American soldiers of the 101st airborne division held their ground … they endured.
Many Christians do not want to hear anything about endurance because it disturbs the calm waters of their health, wealth and happiness myth. A literal menagerie of prosperity-Svengali preachers have convinced people that God will make their life wonderful just as long as they belong to the right church and give it lots of money. One of the detached scriptures prosperity-Svengalis use in their fabricated myth, about Jesus promising to give us health, wealth and happiness, comes from the parable of the Good Shepherd. To be honest, in this parable Jesus does make the statement that He came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:1-21) The Svengalis totally miss, however, the possibility that Jesus might have simply been stating that He is the source of an abundant spiritual life: for those who are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and who obey all that Jesus taught. (Matthew 28:16-20) The prosperity-Svengalis totally ignore the fact that we are not of this world; and thus, we have no need for an abundant worldly life. There is also the fact that we have died to self-interests; and, we cannot deny scripture repeatedly teaches we are to suffer trials and tribulations. When you take a holistic approach to the New Testament it is obvious that health, wealth and happiness are not the source of a Christian’s abundant life; instead, we endure the world and long to leave it. (Philippians 1:21-26)
Of course, we are not saying that Jesus has not given some Christians an abundant physical life; but, we have to be honest to the fact that all Christians do not experience such worldly abundance. Right now, at this very moment, there are Christians in Islamic lands who are enduring a life filled with hardship, physical sufferings, and even horrible deaths; just how abundant do you think their physical life is? Even those of us who are blessed with living in a pseudo-Christian nation do not experience a life constantly filled with good-time events. After all, Satan roams about this earth seeking to destroy all who are endeavoring to walk with Jesus. There is also the fact that we live in a fallen world where bad stuff just happens, thanks to the world being corrupted by its ruler: Satan. Most assuredly, Jesus does bring to the Christian an opportunity for a good life and the more truly yielded and obedient we are the greater the opportunity for blessings. Yet, we must acknowledge that we can neither escape experiencing the evils of this world nor can we avoid God’s testing the quality of our devotion by letting us experience reality. What is important, however, is that we do not let the hard times damage our faith … we must endure.
2. Spiritual Funk
It really does not matter if our suffering is the result of crap just happening, or it comes from our sin and slothfulness opening us up to an attack from Satan, or God testing us; the fact remains, suffering hardships sucks. Most assuredly, if we are the source of our suffering we need to fix the problem. There are those time, however, when crap just happens, and it is beyond our control to fix the problem. When this happens we can feel overwhelmed, and we may eventually let the situation dampen our spirit. Here then is the greatest danger. We may not allow ourselves to be defeated by the bad times; however, it is possible that the bad times will throw us into a spiritual funk. When we allow hard times to quench our spirit we have allowed hard times to damage our service to our Lord and Master. The most important aspect of endurance, for a Christian, is to maintain the right attitude of service in spite of the hard times.