Peninsula Community Church
Enduring Until the End
September 4, 2016
Matthew 24:9-14 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Romans 8:18-25 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
The topic of discussion today will be the idea of “endure” or “endurance.” In the Oxford dictionary the word endure has been defined as “suffer patiently.” How paradoxical are those two terms. To suffer patiently seems so impossible. To understand this paradox perhaps it would be helpful to understand the concept of enduring. Biblically, the word endure often implies a painful or difficult situation that one must navigate but to succeed spiritually, there must be an enduring faith that keeps one stable and focused not in the moment but in the future. It is noteworthy that in terms of the Greek New Testament the use of the word endurance is almost always also based in a view of what is to come and the future hope for believers. In other words, I can endure the temporary trials and difficulties of life because my heart is set on the eternal hope that is in Christ Jesus. Some have called this an eternal perspective. Additionally, in almost every reference to the concept of endurance in the New Testament, there is the idea of unbreakable and patient endurance in face of evil and injustice in the world. This is one of the true characteristics of believers that separate true believers in Christ from all other religions and all other secular philosophies. We endure because of our focus of what is to come.
I do not know how many of you love the Olympics but they are always filled with amazing stories. During the Olympics we hear of the back stories of the athletes. We hear the stories of what they had to go through to make it to where they are. We also hear of the positive acts performed by some of the athletes. One of the most inspiring moments in this year’s Olympics occurred when track and field star Abbey D’Agostino tripped over New Zealand’s runner Nikki Hamblin. They were running the second semifinal heat of the women’s 5,000-meter race. D’Agostino, a twenty-four year old distance runner from America showed a remarkable case of Olympic spirit when she stopped along the race to help a fallen rival.
It all started when Hamblin took a fall on the track. As she fell, D’Agostino tripped over Hamblin and fell to the ground herself. Rather than get up and plow past D’Agostino, Hamblin did an amazing thing. She stopped to check to see if her Olympic rival could continue and helped her off the ground. The selfless move quickly caught the notice of Olympic broadcasters, who commented on her show of sportsmanship. Continuing on, it was clear the pain of D’Agostino’s leg injury was settling in. Moments later, she collapsed to the ground. It was Hamblin this time who came to her aid, checking to see if she was okay to continue but D’Agostino wouldn’t back down. She got back up on her feet, and completed the rest of her laps at a very slow pace. She knew the goal and was determined to make it all the way. It did not matter if she won, what mattered is that she finished. That is patient endurance.
You see in Scripture we have been challenged with the fact that we must endure hardship, trouble, and persecution. We do so not for some earthly prize but for a heavenly prize that is eternal and lasts forever. The prize we obtain lasts not just for a few mere moments or is subjected to loss or corrosion. You see we endure the difficulties of life not because of what we have here but what has been promised to us in the future. That is our hope and hope keeps us moving forward. In the second passage we read today Paul relates this idea of enduring to the groaning and the moaning that takes place when a mother is giving birth. It is an imagery that most men cannot fully appreciate. It is one that most men have only experienced from a distance. As a woman who has given birth to a child you know the pain and the agony of giving birth. That is the agony of enduring that Paul is discussing here. Here is saying that the end is near so just keep pushing through and you will be victorious.
A second problem is that too often pastors and teachers communicate a message that everything is going to be wonderful and exciting all of the time, if you are a believer in Christ. If there is a problem then it is your fault because you did not have enough faith or did not do all of the right things. But the reality of life says this is nowhere near the truth. In fact, it is the opposite. Listen to what Paul has to say not only in this verse but in James 1:2-4, James had this insight to suffering. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
A second imagery that Paul uses for endurance is that of a runner. He uses the marathon runner as an example of this because the marathon runner is in it for the long haul. Paul often talks about running the race with patient. He talks about enduring to the end. So how do we endure and survive here in this life? I would suggest the following.
First, we must refuse to be distracted. While we are running this race for Christ too often the issues we face become distractions for us. These distractions force us to take our eyes off of the prize and we begin to focus on the problems we face. The enemy is so good at doing that? How often do we feel distracted and just out of sorts. Rick Warren has suggested when it comes to distractions we can find ourselves experiencing spiritual ADD. We are all over the place and we flit from one spiritual thing to the next. We tend to encounter one problem after another and another. The result is that we are distracted by the problems and not focused on the power of Christ to bring healing and help. The problem is not so much the distraction but how do we get back to where we need to be when we have been distracted? To get back we repent? We start over and we go back to where we lost track.
Second, refuse to dwell. Don’t dwell on the failures and mistakes made. Take steps to change and move beyond the failures of a given day. Marathon runners will tell you that one of the most difficult things they face is move beyond having a bad day of training. It messes with their psyche and they tend to allow the events of one day to effect their training on the next day. But good marathon runners will also tell you that they must put the failures of the previous day behind them and move toward a new day. Doesn’t that sound familiar. It should because Paul made a very similar statement in his teachings. Listen to his words in Philippians 3:12-16. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Third, refuse to be detoured. In Galatians 5:7-8 we find that Paul states You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. You see the purpose of the issues we face in life too often serve to detour us away from the direction we are to take. The result is that we are take pathways and make decisions that God never intended for us to take or make. Detours are interesting. While God can use the detours of our lives, there are detours that serve to get us off the path chosen for us by God. We find that we are at a loss of direction and we are in unfamiliar territory. We can be detoured by our calendars, emergencies, difficult people, and financial problems. We can also be detoured by the words that are spoken to us and about us. All of these can cause us to be detoured away from God’s purpose and plan for our life. That is why the writer of Hebrews 12:2 stated that we are to look 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. He paved the way so we can stay on track with Him.
Fourth, never forget that others are watching. In Hebrews 12:1 we find this amazing passage. 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… Here is the deal and it is an amazing deal. There are people in heaven who have gone before us who are watching us. They are there to cheer us along. How are they cheering us on? It is by looking at their examples and their tenacity to keep the faith. Once again in the Olympics, we watched as people lined the streets to cheer the runners on. They were there to encourage the runners and the athletes.
In contrast, we also have those around us who are watching us and are observing how we deal with problems and the stressors of life. Here is a fact. How you live will effect others. People are watching you even when you don’t think so. They are observing and watching you to see how you handle the stressors of life. You see people want to see how we run the race. When we fall do we get back up? Do we keep the faith? How do we respond to the difficulties of life? By doing these things we show our dependence on one that is greater and more powerful than any of us. We focus on the author and finisher of our faith. In Him we have nothing to worry about.
So how are you doing this morning? Do you feel distracted? Are you dwelling in the past or are you focused on the future? Do you feel you are in a detour season of your life? Do see that there is a cloud of witnesses that have gone on before us to pave the way and to show us that it is possible to endure until the end? They have shown us that we can do the same thing because of a focused faith and an enduring hope. When we are discouraged, we can remember Moses who was a great leader even though he was not always liked by those who followed him. We can remember Daniel and the three Hebrew children who refused to bow to the outside influences in their life. We can remember the disciples who gave themselves to preach the gospel. Through their testimonies we can be encouraged and blessed.
Finally, we have a great opportunity to show the world what it means to live a life filled with hope and enduring faith. We have the opportunity to show others that we can stand again and that we can be all that God desires. Yes! we will have trials and difficulties but we can also endure because our hope is not in the present but in the future. How awesome is that?
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom