Endurance is a powerful word. It means the ability to continue despite pain and hardship. The word itself conveys strength, fortitude, toleration and a multitude of patience. Endurance is the power to go through an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way, without giving up, and without giving in.
When you think about it, endurance is one of the leading character qualities we admire most in people we consider heroes. Think about George Washington at Valley Forge, Abraham Lincoln during the War Between the States, the life and death of our Lord Jesus, His apostles and His followers throughout centuries of persecution. The list of heroes who endured hardship is long.
William Carey, the first Baptist missionary to India, was a man of incredible endurance. With his wife Dorothy and their four children under 9 years old, they sailed from England in 1793. They did not know they would never see their homeland again.
During their first two years, two children died, and Dorothy went insane and required constraints until her death 15 years later. During that time, Carey’s support got so low he had to take a job at an indigo factory to support his family. He was on the field for seven years before leading the first Indian to Christ and baptizing him. Imagine that—Seven years!
After learning the language, he translated the Bible into Bengali and Sanskrit, only to see his print shop and all his work burn to the ground in 1812. But William Carey had endurance. He admitted his first translation was not his best, and immediately set about on a new translation. And he was right. The newer translation Carey produced is still in use today.
William Carey is quoted as saying, “Expect great things from God—Attempt great things for God.” Because William Carey endured, over 1,400 people came to Christ over the three decades that followed those first difficult years.
Someone said, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running,” and that rightly defines endurance. So, how can we learn to endure? Fortunately, the apostle Paul knew a great deal about durability and tenacity in life, and in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 shared how to develop endurance.
As Paul led up to addressing the need for endurance, he began with four pairs of contrasting conditions of difficulty paired with enablement he had faced: ”We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed—perplexed, but not despairing—persecuted, but not forsaken” and “struck down, but not destroyed” (verses 8-9). He said they were “constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake” (verse 11), but they also knew “that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” (verse 14).
Paul then shares how “we do not lose heart,” in the final three verses (2 Cor. 4:16-18). He gave three ways to develop endurance:
First: You must daily renew the inward man—It takes Persistence.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (verse 16).
The outer man is the physical body, whereas the inner man is your spiritual life. God wants you to be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). If you want to endure as a Christian, to be strong and godly, not faint and lose heart, you must daily renew the inner man.
Just as we care for the outer man, by food, cleansing and clothing; So we need to care for our inner man—our spiritual man—by feeding on God’s Word and prayer (Matt. 4:4; Acts 17:11; Psalm 88:9), and by fellowshipping together, (Matt. 18:20; Heb. 3:13). Be persistent renewing your inner man.
Second: You must rightly evaluate affliction—It takes Perspective.
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (verse 17).
We have a tendency to exaggerate affliction—when we should rightly evaluate it. When you must suffer as a Christian, you need to keep it in perspective, so you will not become discouraged and quit. You can do that by comparing the cost to the reward—the affliction to its effect—the hurt to the blessing it will bring. Paul did this when he wrote; “our momentary light affliction” is producing for us “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
When we evaluate our suffering compared to its product, we will find that: Our “affliction” ends in “glory”—We may suffer now, but it will result in incomparable praise! Then we will realize that our affliction is “light,” compared to the glory it produces, which is a “weight” (heavy!). Finally, we will realize that while our affliction now is “momentary,” it creates an effect that is “eternal”—Our suffering will end, but its positive results will continue. Seek to view your affliction from God’s perspective.
Third: You must constantly focus on the eternal—It takes Perception.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (verse 18).
If you would develop endurance, you must focus on doing things that have eternal value and not waste time on temporary, passing things. Paul readily gave up his home life, income and reputation because he focused on the eternal.
What should we focus on that is eternal? People—every person will exist forever; Heaven—it is God’s throne and will be home to all believers; God’s Word—it is eternal (Psalm 119:18; Matt. 24:35), everlasting and unchanging. In the midst of affliction—focus on the eternal—God’s perspective.
With God’s help, develop endurance, and keep on keeping on, walking with the Lord!