By Rick Thomas
The call to live the Christian life is a call to die. When you were born a second time (John 3:7), you were granted two gifts. The first was salvation and the second was suffering. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil. 1:29).
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 16:24-25). Typically when a person enters into a relationship with Christ they are full of hope and confidence, assuming there will be a good time ahead. How could it be otherwise?
As the new Christian continues the journey, he begins to realize how things are more complex and challenging than what he first imagined. The temptation to quit when things become hard is a common human experience. It is easy to look for the exits when relationships become difficult. It is impossible to avoid relational conflict, whether the conflict is with God or someone else. The faith you had when you began the relationship will wane during the relationship.
Every relationship begins with the hope and expectation of good things to come and then stuff happens.
1. Did you know suffering in our world is a component of relationship building?
2. Did you know the ability to endure situational difficulties between two people is an essential ingredient for relational success?
3. Did you know endurance is a distinctive of the Christian life?
Endurance is a grace gift from the LORD. He gives this gift to His children, not just to survive in the relationship, but to mature through the relationship. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Rom. 5:3-4).
Endurance grows out of suffering. No suffering; no endurance. Suffering is a promise from God (Gen. 3:8-18). You do not get to choose as to whether you want to suffer. The mature Christian not only understands this, but he engages suffering with hope, knowing Christ-like character is formed in the crucible of his difficulties. Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1).
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. (Heb. 10:34). Though they did not know all the reasons why they were going through conflict, they did know who was with them in the conflict. Though they were not getting all of their questions answered, they were aware how there was something that transcended their unanswered questions.
They knew God, and their knowledge of Him, was enough to stabilize their souls during the difficulties they were experiencing. No matter how hard you try, there will never be satisfying answers that will adequately explain all you may want to know about what is happening to you. Your strength and your sanity will come from what you know to be true about God during the hard times.
What you know about Him is what will get you through your dark times. If you are more aware of the God, who is in your trouble, you will only then be able to endure your trouble. Endurance does not come from knowing all the answers for why you are going through hardship.
Endurance comes from knowing God and radically holding on to Him when the hard times are hurled upon your life. God is calling you to Gospel-motivated and Gospel-centered suffering: using your pain as a message to help others. Properly stewarding your pain will happen if what you know and who you know is greater than your pain and your problems.
Christians, who are able to endure hardships, spend more time thinking about God than their problems. Christ kept the end in mind. His deep confidence in what the Father was going to accomplish through Him steadied His soul as He poured out His life on earth.
• If you are lacking endurance, then there is something about your suffering in which you have not come to terms.
• If you are lacking endurance, then there is something you want more than God.
Endurance comes between suffering and character. It is the bridge that connects the two. The way you cross the bridge is by wanting Christ more than anything else in this world. RickThomas.net