When I hear the word “endurance” it brings images into my head of someone running on a desert road, sweat running down their face, the look of determination in their eyes, but still with a long way to go. The images aren’t that inviting to tell you the truth.

It’s kind of why I shy away from ever attempting a triathlon or the like, even though I am regularly encouraged by friends who achieve such great feats. I feel like my emotional endurance is being built naturally by life, though my muscle endurance probably has much to be desired! 

God bless you! … with endurance??

When someone blesses or encourages someone, it’s more likely you will hear them say something about good health, long life, or prosperity rather than blessing them with endurance, perseverance, long-suffering, resilience, fortitude, and persistence. These are not exactly the words you want to hear.

And yet, in Romans chapter 5, Paul tells us to “glory” or rejoice in these things, which kind of goes against everything you might be feeling at the time.

‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ (Romans chapter 5 verses 3-5)

Saul had it all wrong, until he got it all right

Paul (also known as Saul) was a naturally determined kind of person. In his early years, he was trained in the Jewish law and became a bit of an expert in it, gaining a place of respect amongst the Pharisees, whilst persecuting those who were preaching the good news of Jesus. 

That was, until Jesus met him in a great light on the road to Damascus. Saul was blinded by the light until he met Ananias whom Jesus sent him to, and whom God had previously spoken to, instructing him that when Saul arrived, he was to put his hand on him so that he might receive his sight. Ananias was not too keen on this idea as Saul had been the reason for the persecution of many of Jesus’ followers and even the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen.

‘But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Romans chapter 5 verses 15-16 NKJV)

And suffer he did.

Clarity

When Saul was healed, he received sight like he had never had before. Romans 5:18 tells us, 

‘Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptised.’

It was not just eyesight Saul received, but spiritual sight. He now saw the truth about Jesus, and nothing would stop him from telling everyone. 

Paul – endurance personified

This, however, gained him many enemies and Paul (also known as Saul), found himself before courts, expelled from regions, bound in chains, stoned, held in prisons, beaten, starved, on a shipwreck, and rejected many, many times. Yet he counted it all joy. In fact, he would insist on being taken to the next level of authority for judgment, bound in chains, just so he could spread the good news higher up the line in the hope of impacting governments. 

Finding purpose in unlikely places

His joy came from a place of purpose. He found purpose in all his circumstances. Having gone through many of these things, Paul met a Jew named Aquila and his wife Priscilla who had come from Italy when Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome. Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers and as this was also Paul’s trade, he stayed with them and worked. There was purpose in their trade: to support the ministry. 

Tentmaking may not have seemed like it had a godly purpose, but Paul saw purpose in everything, and in this case, tentmaking was financing the mission. 

We may not have to go through all the things that Paul went through like prison cells, beatings and the like, but for each of us, our own reality of endurance can be a real challenge. It may be that tentmaking isn’t quite where we thought we’d find our purpose, and then realising the purpose in the trade is to finance the bigger picture – the mission. Suddenly, tentmaking is great! When we let the scales fall off our eyes and gain some clarity, everything can have purpose. It’s all about perspective.

Don’t suffer unnecessarily

There is, however, no point going through great trials without purpose, that’s just wasted pain with no joy added to it. There are unnecessary things that should be, and can be, avoided, but trials from purpose is another thing altogether. Those kinds of trials are endurable and commendable. 

‘For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.’ (1 Peter chapter 2 verses 19-20)

So, if we find ourselves enduring what seems to be trial after trial, even the humdrum of monotony, maybe it’s time to discover if our sufferings are from a place of purpose, or of bad decisions? If our sufferings are useless, get rid of them. If they are from a place of serving God, then yes, we can rejoice. 

So now, when I hear the word “endurance”, instead of seeing a sweaty desert runner, I will picture joyful Paul, and remember that suffering will produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. It’s productive. And hope does not put us to shame. 

Last modified: March 21, 2024

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