Tag Archives: patience

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.

 

Benefits of Suffering – Brett Pharr

From a human vantage point, it is almost illogical to think of the benefits of suffering. There are certain things that require effort or even pain that have a positive end result. But it does not take much imagination or experience to recognize some elements of our lives are void of benefit, at least from an earthly perspective. A Bible based view however, can give us better insights into every element of suffering. It will not alleviate the very real negativity that is often a part of the human experience. But it may give us a better framework for the context of difficulties.

Suffering can come from various sources. Sometimes we suffer because of our own poor decisions. For example, stress is created by shortsighted decisions; or illness occurs due to poor substance or food choices; or injury happens as a result of unwise risk taking. Sometimes suffering is the result of another person’s actions. A drunk driver hits the innocent; a building collapses because of poor engineering; relationships are destroyed because of another’s unfaithfulness. But finally, there is the category of suffering that emboldens the atheist and at times troubles the Christian. Bad things happen for no apparent cause. Weather events or “natural” disasters, such as a tsunami that kills thousands, or unexplained accidents, or terminal illnesses that strike a child, often have such devastating impact they crumble the faith of some. Can one rationally speak of a benefit in these kinds of circumstances?

From a biblical view we can gain several perspectives on the benefits of suffering. One is the concept of chastening or discipline. In Hebrews chapter 12 we are encouraged to put suffering in context, both as to its relationship to the suffering of Christ, but specifically, that it may do us some good. In verse 6 we read a quotation from Proverbs 3, “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

That is, just like with children, there is some suffering that occurs in our lives that are for the purpose of making us better people. We know from experience that some people turn or return to God when they have had a “wake up call” enter into their lives. These are often not pleasant, but may well cause someone to reconsider his or her spiritual path. God may well be directing suffering into our life for our long-term benefit. (It is important to acknowledge that we know this happens by faith, not by a specific experience, as we do not know in individual cases the intention of God; we only know that He works in our lives for our ultimate good.)

Another benefit of suffering is it allows us to model Christ to others and position us for better service. Paul in Colossians 1 was describing his prayer for the saints and among other things, he asks that they may have “patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col 1:11). Patience means to stand up under a difficult load. Longsuffering has the additional elements of time without retaliation. Both of these are characteristics that are exercised when we are under duress; that is suffering. When we can show the world and our fellow Christians that we can face suffering with the steadfastness of Christ, and not break down under the load, we not only strengthen ourselves but also everyone who sees. In James, reference is made to the patient enduring of the prophets and of Job, and these serve as an example.

“My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate” (Jas 5:10-11).

The suffering Christian today can well serve as an example to all that see. The obstacles are often overwhelming, but the opportunity is real.

For those that have passed through suffering there is another benefit. We become uniquely able to serve with empathy. The widow can better comfort the new widow. The cancer survivor can comfort the one who is enduring cancer. The parent of a deceased child can better comfort the parent of a dying child. These are talents; perhaps talents we would have preferred to avoid, and yet gifts nonetheless.

But finally, there is suffering so great or so unconscionable that it seems completely void of value. How do we deal with tragic birth defects, freak fatal accidents, the horrors of war crimes, the violence of tornadoes, and such like? The Christian cries out “Why Lord?” The atheist proclaims the “Epicurean” problem of evil: Does your God not know, is He not able, or does He not love? (The simple answer to this is love defined by whom?) Is there any real benefit in such things?

The chief benefit of all suffering is to remind us of the effects of sin on a fallen world. In Genesis we read about the perfection of the creation. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

There was no suffering, no tragedy, and no “natural” disasters. When God calls something very good, there are no imperfections. But in the epistle to the Romans Paul says: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Rom. 8:22). What caused this change from “very good” to “the whole creation groans”? Of course the answer is the ravages of sin from the Fall in the Garden of Eden, the corruption and change of this natural world from the flood, as well as the deterioration of mankind as demonstrated in Romans 1 and 2. Much could be written about this change, but this is sufficient to illustrate that the world is not what it could have been for us. Still, where is the benefit in this? First, it reminds us this is not our home. The scriptures are filled with enjoiners to not get too comfortable here. John said, “Do not love the world” (1 John 2:15). Paul helps us get to the right perspective in 2 Corinthians, when he says:

“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, … For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven… So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. …. pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:1, 2, 6, 7) .

Notice the principles that are to be in the mind of Christians. We groan in this body. We earnestly desire Heaven. In the body we are absent from the Lord. If we have this mindset, we can better serve. Suffering, whether our own, or that which we see in others, helps us get to the spiritual maturity of Paul when he said, “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil 1:23).

But there is yet another benefit of unexplainable suffering; suffering helps us put a face to sin. When we recognize that all suffering is the result of sin in this world, whether direct or indirect, it helps us break through the appealing nature of temptations. Every Christian struggles with sin. One of the ways to submit ourselves to God, so that Satan will flee from us (Jas 4:7), is to see suffering when we are confronted with sin.

Do you struggle with a pet sin, or even an addiction? The next time you feel tempted, think of the worst tragedy you know, whether personal or well known. Acknowledge to yourself, that this is what sin, my sin does. It may well help us to be shocked with the reality of the horrors of sin. If a by-product of suffering is living more Holy lives, it will indeed have had a benefit.

Suffering in this world cannot be minimized. We will all endure it to some extent. But it is not evenly distributed, which may seem, as it did to Job, grossly unfair. In the end however, speaking eternally, “…we know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).

Building our faith and trust throughout our lives, will make us better equipped to endure any suffering that comes our way with patience and longsuffering. We must be able to declare the trust of Habakkuk: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills” (Hab 3:17-19). May God help us to that end.

brettpharr@yahoo.com