Is spiritual endurance the gift of God? Is it a quality that we need to develop today? One definition of ‘endure’ is to ‘sustain without impairment or yielding’ which implies the ability to continue through hard or difficult circumstances, without giving way to them. That is a tough call as so often we allow our feelings to govern our actions. We are not automatons, we experience the full range of human emotions from joy to sorrow, peace to anxiety, and rest to chaos. They can engulf our lives at any moment, so how then do we carry on, undeterred by our circumstances and our emotions?
Examples of endurance in the Bible
Do you remember the story of Caleb and Joshua – out of the twelve men that Moses sent to spy out Canaan, they were the only two who brought back a good report. Those who were intimidated and fearful, influenced the people, and treated the word of God with contempt, and were condemned to die in the wilderness and never enter the promised land.
But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.Numbers 14:24
When the Israelites arrived near the border of Canaan God instructed Moses to send men to explore the land ‘which I am giving to the Israelites.’ Caleb believed God’s word from the moment of his commission and nothing that he saw or experienced changed his mind! He was wholehearted in his belief in God’s power to fulfil his promises.
And over forty years later, when his peers had died in the wilderness, Caleb arrives once again at the border of Canaan. As the land is being divided by Joshua and allocated to the different tribes, Caleb reminds him of God’s personal promise to him. Because he had followed God wholeheartedly he had been promised an inheritance in the land.
So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day.Joshua 14:10-12
Caleb believed wholeheartedly in God’s promise to the people, but more than that he assimilated this promise! He lived by faith that the faithfulness of God was greater than any of his circumstances. He endured the wilderness because he was heading for the promised land, and he continued until he received his reward.
Endurance running the race
For When I am Weak, Then I am Strong
We know that the apostle Paul was a person of strong ideals, ‘zealously’ persecuting Christians until he had an encounter with Jesus – which changed his life for ever. He was chosen by God to minister not only to Israel but also to the Gentiles, and their kings. Just after his conversion he spoke ‘fearlessly in Jerusalem’ but his preaching was so reactionary, that the apostles sent him away to Tarsus.
Then there was a period of waiting – for God’s perfect timing. The gospel slowly spread out from Jerusalem, and the vision for the church changed with an inclusive message. Nearly ten years passed before Paul’s first missionary journey began and he was released into his ministry.
Run with Endurance Scriptures
The apostle Paul used the imagery of our journey of Christian faith as a race:
However I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.Acts 20:24
Do you know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.1 Corinthians 9:24
Paul was relentless in his commission, he was attacked, stoned, received death threats, shipwrecked, flogged, and imprisoned, but he was not deterred. He used every possible opportunity to preach the gospel and fulfil his calling.
Paul shares his ability to endure in his letter to the church in Philippi – the secret of being content in any circumstances. He had learned by experience, that when he was weak God’s power rested on him, and then he was strong. God is faithful to accomplish His purpose.
Near the end of his life Paul wrote to encourage Timothy, to remember the way that he had lived, knowing his purpose, his faith in God, his patience in God’s timing, his love, and endurance.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.2 Timothy 4:7
He had endured, and was looking ahead to his reward in heaven, his goal was in sight. God given endurance is the ability to complete effectively the task that He has given us, with the strength and capability to continue to the very end.
How do we develop spiritual endurance?
Some may think that spiritual endurance is a contradiction to the full, abundant, and victorious life that Jesus has won for us – but it is the testimony of true abundant life, knowing that we have all that we need in Christ Jesus. It is knowing that His grace is sufficient for whatever lies ahead.
Spiritual endurance is found in the abundant life of Christ – where we can have nothing and yet possess everything.Tweet
Caleb was commended by God for having a different spirit, with wholehearted commitment to God. His commitment did not waver through a life spent in the wilderness. He is a witness to us of endurance and of God’s faithfulness.
Paul is often regarded as a controversial character, but he demonstrates a life wholly committed to God, and the endurance that God alone gives. Faithfulness in the face of opposition is only what God can do – for when we are weak, then we are strong.
As in all things, Jesus is our ultimate example:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3
When we consider what Jesus endured for us, we are inspired by the depth of His love, and the strength of His commitment to us. Whatever difficulties we may face, Jesus knows, He understands, and through our hard times He is interceding for us. As we yield to God’s will for our lives, and fix our eyes on the Lord, we will receive His grace, which is all sufficient, to be strengthened and sustained by Him.
7 Scriptures for Endurance
The gift of God – “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6
For hope – “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement that they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
For God’s enabling power “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses” 2 Corinthians 6:4
A prayer for strength – “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” Colossians 1:11
For Thanksgiving – “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3
A prompt to pursue – “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11
And a promise – “if we endure, we will also reign with him” 2 Timothy 2: 12
God is the ultimate source of all endurance and encouragement. They are His gifts, His grace is sufficient, and He will provide all the strength that we need. As much as we love encouragement, let our prayer also be for the gift of endurance.