Adding Steadfastness To Self-Control — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

It would be profitable to do a Google search of online images which have to do with patience.  You’ll find pictures, cartoons and memes, mostly including some encouragement (even some Bible verses) and referencing many aspects of life…financial, emotional, marital, even spiritual.  Why is there such an emphasis on the importance of steadfastness?  Everyone agrees that “patience is a virtue.”  Bible verses about being steadfast, patient, enduring, forbearing, and persevering occur repeatedly in scripture.  Our answers to these questions progress from lesser to greater importance.

Why Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials And Hardships? 

Ourselves.  We begin with the least important motivation, ourselves.  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Ja. 1:2-4).  Notice the results of the testing trials.  There’s joy, endurance, and the completion to come.  Endurance is ONLY brought about by testing the very faith we claim to hold so dear.  Having gained the ability to endure, we’re proverbially “complete, lacking nothing.”  How so?  Because we can face future trails and say, “Bring It On.”  How could Paul ask, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Co. 15:55)  He knew there’s a temporal, mortal, corruptible body but also an eternal, immortal, incorruptible body that will…endure.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:3-5)  The benefits of persevering through tribulations are character, hope, a lack of disappointment, and knowledge that God’s love and Holy Spirit permeate our lives plus this inspired permission to glory in those tribulations knowing these benefits are present.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”  (Ja. 1:12)  Our ability to endure what comes at us in life reveals both our love for Him and assurance of the crown of life.

Our Siblings.  Our Christian family is one of the best benefits for believers.  Yet, like our physical family, our spiritual family requires enduring others.  There are two reasons we endure centering around our Christian siblings.

Sometimes, we endure because they’re the source of our trials.  Consider when Jesus said on one occasion, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Mt. 17:17,cf. Mk. 9:19; Lk. 9:41).  Contextually, Christ was having to endure His own disciples.  They were the source requiring His endurance.  Predictably, we’re also called and encouraged to endure one another.  “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Co. 3:12-13).  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ep. 4:1-3).  Can it be any clearer?  As blessed as we are to have them, our own spiritual family is, at times, the source of our need to practice patience.

Other times, we endure mindful that our spiritual family are superior to our trials.  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph. 2:3-4).  Often, we go to chapter two of Philippians to discuss theological facts about Christ (vs. 5-11), but those verses appear within the greater context of how we are to treat one another.  The “mind” Paul speaks of beginning in verse 5 is the attitude he commands of us in verses 3-4.  When a given trial is linked to a fellow Christian, rest assured, they’re more important than your trial.  What is to be done “through selfish ambition or conceit”?  Nothing.  Instead, focus on what best for them.  Ask yourself, “What do THEY really need out of this situation?”  For the benefit of our siblings, our spiritual family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, we patiently endure.  Our Lord and Savior and example of suffering did the same.

How Do Christians Bear Up Under Trials and Hardships?

Our Savior.  Our Savior is our Head.  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (He. 12:1-4).

We endure by “looking unto Jesus” and considering.  He is the perfect, sinless, only-begotten, one-of-a-kind Son of God and even He had to suffer.  He is our leader, the Head of the Church.  If He was required to endure, who are we to ever think we deserve a better existence?  We sing “Follow Him” and “Footprints of Jesus” (among other songs) for the encouragement they provide in pointing us to and reminding us of our King Jesus and the love and endurance He showed toward us and exemplified for us.  “He the great example is, and pattern for me.”  Where He leads, we must follow.

Our Savior is our Healer.  “For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” (2 Pe. 2:20-24)  He, who knew no sin, endured the punishment for our sins and we garner to ourselves the benefit of spiritual healing.  How?  “…by whose stripes you were healed.”  How could any of our trials or hardships compare to His?

Our Savior is our Helper.  “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Th. 3:5)  Succinctly put, “We need help.”  We’re divinely directed by the scriptures into the patience of Christ.  No one should pretend to fully understand Divine direction.  We know it’s there “because the Bible tells me so” and that’s enough.  Take heart, fellow Christians.  We are not alone.  We have a Helper.

In conclusion, we offer personal encouragement.  Is there some specific trial you’re struggling to endure?  First, re-read the thoughts above about Christ and study His suffering in scripture.  Second, recall Acts 5:41:  “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”  The disciples were joyful that they were counted worthy to suffer, especially for the cause of Christ.  Third, reflect on Peter’s words in John 6:68-69:  “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Where else can we go?  Jesus gives life (Jn. 6:33, 63), has the words of life (6:68), and is the life (11:25; 14:6).  Where else would we want to go?  Focus on Christ.  Fourth, reassure a friend. If you’re on social media, do a Google search of those images of patience and post one.  Your friends and connections, Christians and non-Christians, could use the encouragement, too.  Why?  Because patience, perseverance, steadfastness, endurance…really IS a virtue.

robertbedenbaughjr@gmail.com

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.

 

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