Have you ever met someone whose perseverance through their own struggles motivated you to do better?
For me, it was Angela, a 33 year old Christian with Down’s syndrome whom I met while preaching in the Birmingham area. Though she only came up to my shoulder she had a personality that was bigger than life. Angela was nearly the first person who shook my hand the morning I arrived at the church building. She marched right up and greeted me with a bright smile, saying, “You must be Andrew Roberts. I am looking forward to your sermons.” Then she quickly returned to her pew. She greeted me every night of that week-long preaching meeting.
There were interactive outlines for my sermons during the week but Angela would not take one. She told the ushers, “No. I don’t want it. I take my own notes.” Then on Friday night, after the last service, she handed me a stack of papers. She said, “Here are your sermons. And I want you to have them.” As I looked down, I realized that she had handwritten nearly everything I’d said in each sermon!
I was overwhelmed at her perseverance because I understood that every aspect of the note-taking process was more difficult for her. She truly endured. From her fine motor skills, to her cognitive ability, to her visual acuity – everything was just a little harder. And I treasure those papers as a testament to her faith and a poignant example of endurance.
The Hebrew writer admonishes: we all need endurance. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Endurance is necessary to “do the will of God” (Hebrews 10:36), “live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38), and “run the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). We need endurance because doing, living, and running won’t happen accidentally. Furthermore, we need endurance because we don’t know how long we must continue doing, living, and running. Will we serve God faithfully for the next 60 years? Will Jesus return tomorrow?
What exhausts our endurance? The book of Hebrews shows Christians who began running their race amidst great struggles. Hebrews 10:32-34 recounts how, as new converts, they were mocked, imprisoned, lost property, and shared their goods with persecuted saints. Yet, according to Hebrews 10:23-25, those same Christians currently wavered about their confession and rarely assembled with the saints. They used to go to jail for Jesus and now they won’t even go to church!
Without endurance, Christians “draw back to perdition” (Hebrews 10:38-39). Being burdened and ensnared in sin, they cease to run their race (Hebrews 12:1).
So, what encourages endurance?
The Hebrew writer directed Christians to follow good examples of faith and endurance. First, they were reminded that faith fuels endurance through many Old Testament examples (Hebrews 11). Then they were directed to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3)! Jesus is the primary example of perseverance for the prize. Finally, they needed to consider their leaders and spiritual forebears (Hebrews 6:12; 13:7). These all received God’s promises.
The Bible recounts God’s faithfulness in the past and promises for the future. It makes the case for endurance today. Furthermore, we benefit from the good examples of leaders in the church or beloved elderly saints who’ve shaped us and endured in the faith.
Endurance is rewarded in receiving God’s “promise” (Hebrews 10:36) – “the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39). We can endure! What helps is time spent reading Scripture, an intent focus on Jesus, and meeting saints like Angela who, themselves, persevere.
By Andrew Roberts