I never imagined I would be so tired of being in my house.
Why, I haven’t been to Walmart in over a month. Haven’t gotten together with my children or grandchildren in person. Haven’t gotten together with our friends. I sit on my couch and watch our church services on YouTube. This is a crazy time.
I can’t imagine how horrible this time is for so many. People who have lost loved ones. People who have been horrifically afflicted by this virus. Hospital and personal care home workers. People in poor nations who can’t get food. Unimaginable. My pathetic “shut in season” is nothing compared to what multitudes have to endure.
Actually, for every believer, much of the Christian life is about enduring.
When I first became a believer, I pretty much believed that all my troubles were over. And my biggest trouble was truly over. Jesus had borne the wrath that I deserved in my place on the cross. But my troubles weren’t all over. Little did I realize as a new believer, that the Bible is full of verses about the need for believers in Jesus to persevere and endure many troubles in this life.
Believers will suffer. It’s not all health and wealth, folks. We will suffer. But in our suffering, we also have hope that unbelievers don’t have. Here are a few verses that say Christians will suffer:
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:17-19
There are times we will be brokenhearted. Times we will be crushed in spirit. We won’t go through just a few afflictions, but “many.” But in all these, we can call on the Lord and he promises to be near us, save and deliver us.
So how do we endure? How can we persevere?
First of all, we endure in God’s strength, which he promises to supply:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus… 2 Timothy 2:1
Paul didn’t encourage believers to live the Christian life in their own strength, but in God’s strength. Supernatural strength. The very strength provided by the maker of the universe.
Second, we endure by “looking to Jesus” to see how he endured.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, 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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2
Jesus endured more than we can ever imagine. He endured the hatred, unbelief and rejection by the religious leaders of His day. He endured the weakness of his disciples, and their abandonment when He was arrested. He endured the beating, scourging and mocking by Roman soldiers, then endured being nailed to the cross, and hanging there in unbelievable pain for 6 hours, while the Jewish leaders continued to mock and insult Him. And the most unimaginable thing He endured was when His Father credited all our sins to Jesus as if he had committed them, then poured out his wrath upon Him and punished him for all of our sins. In essence, Jesus experienced hell on the cross. Yet He endured this for the glory of His Father and our salvation.
How did Jesus endure all he did? When we look to Jesus’ endurance what do we see?
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Jesus endured the cross by keeping his eyes on “the joy that was set before him.” He kept his eyes on the throne of God, where he would reign. He kept his eyes on the glory he would enjoy in heaven.
Even in this life, we endure many things by keeping our eyes fixed on an eventual reward.
Athletes endure training and exercise and practice by looking forward to finishing a marathon, or winning a victory or simply getting in shape and feeling better. Students go to class, sit through lectures, write papers and study for exams because they look forward to getting a job.
How much more may we endure in this life by looking forward to the day we will be with Jesus, face to face.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4
Someday we will not have to endure any more. Jesus will wipe all our tears away. There will be no more affliction, sadness, heartbreak, disappointment. No more sickness, pain, fear, anxiety, depression. Nothing to worry about.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2
We are God’s children. He loves us. As our Heavenly Father, he will protect and help and pour out his steadfast love upon his children. But wonderful things are coming – in heaven we will be like Christ. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him.” We shall be sinless. We shall be perfectly conformed to Jesus. We shall reflect his glory.
C.S. Lewis said:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
Of course we will not be “gods and goddesses,” but we will be “like” Christ. We will be filled with his beauty and glory. We will be sinless. We will be transformed into his likeness.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29
This is what God is doing in us in this life. Everything God brings into our lives or allows to come into our lives is to make us more and more like Jesus. Whatever we go through is designed by God to conform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
That is how we endure. By continually looking to Jesus, and by fixing our gaze on him and what he fixed his gaze on – heaven and its joys and rewards and glory.
Third, we endure by crying out to God, and asking him to help us.
God tells us to bring all our cares and worries and needs to him.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah Psalm 46:1-3
We endure by running to our “refuge and strength,” our “very present help in trouble.” By crying out to him.
Fourth, we endure by regularly taking in God’s word:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word! Psalm 119:28
God’s word strengthens us. As we regularly meditate on God’s word, we will be like trees planted by streams that refresh us. And despite suffering we will bear good fruit in season. Our “leaf does not wither” – we keep going. We keep enduring. We keep producing fruit.
We endure by fixing our eyes on Jesus, by keeping our eyes on the goal: seeing him face to face and being with him and like him in heaven. We endure by regularly meditating on his word and crying out to him in prayer.
There are many other ways we endure: by fellowshipping with the saints, by seeking to serve others, by rejoicing in all things, by praising and thanking God constantly.
Let us make our goal to bring God as much glory as we can while going through the trials of this life, both large and small, knowing that someday he will reward us.