These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
I’m not into poetry, but every now and then something grabs my attention by saying something that needs to be said in a way that is much better than I could say it. The author is unknown, the title is unknown but I call it The Two Frogs.
Two frogs fell into a can of cream
Or so I’ve heard it told.
The sides of the can were shiny and steep,
The cream was deep and cold.
“Oh, what’s the use? Said Frog No. 1,
“It’s fate and no help around –
Good-bye, my friend! Good-bye, sad world!”
And weeping still, he drowned.
But Frog No. 2 of sterner stuff,
Dog-paddled in surprise,
While he wiped his creamy face
and dried his creamy eyes.
“I’ll swim awhile, at least,” he said
Or so it has been said –
“It wouldn’t really help the world
if one more frog was dead.”
An hour or two he kicked and swam –
Not once he stopped to mutter.
But kicked and swam, and swam and kicked,
Then hopped out, via butter.
Persistence. Perseverance. Determination. Endurance. We all need it in our life. We need it in our marriages. We need it in our families. We need it in our jobs. We need in relationships. We need in every aspect of our lives. Today, through His Word, God is going to talk to us today about spiritual endurance. About not giving up and pressing on.
With that said, let’s look at James 1:2-4, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance (hupomone) has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT). From those three verses we see three important reasons why God allows troubles and how He uses these trials in your life. These are so important we are spending time on each one. Last time we learned that God uses problems in our life to develop our faith in Him. Today we see that God uses our troubles in life to increase our spiritual endurance.
The Meaning of Spiritual Endurance
Let’s dive right into this. You and I need spiritual endurance, but what is the meaning of spiritual endurance. Spiritual endurance is determination, hope, and courageous obedience to God that comes from Christ when facing hardship or offense. Spiritual endurance refers to the spiritual fortitude to fight temptation while under pressure. It’s when you are under pressure you will feel the pull to lash out, to compromise, or to give in to sin, the devil, and the world. It is very important that you understand this definition before we go any further. So let’s unpack it and see what God means by “endurance.” Let’s break this definition down into bite size pieces.
Spiritual endurance is determination in the face of hardship.
Number one, spiritual endurance is determination in the face of hardship. Endurance refers to the ability to stay under pressure. It’s that part of you that continues to carry a heavy load even though you want to drop it. It’s that part of you that continues running when you would prefer to quit. Spiritually speaking, it’s seen when you persistently keep saying no to sin and yes to righteousness. It’s experienced when you faithfully sacrifice for others when you would prefer to be selfish. Its to keep on doing what God wants you to do when you don’t want to do it anymore.
Let me give you an example of this from the Bible. In the Old Testament there was this guy named Nehemiah. He worked for the king. One day he heard about the walls of Jerusalem being in rubble and the people of God being scattered out and about. Since the walls were in shambles they had no protection from their enemies. God placed on Nehemiah’s heart to begin a rebuilding and restoring program to bring the people of God back together and rebuild the walls around the city. This was a massive operation. He began the process and the people of God rallied together to begin the work. They eventually finished it. However, in the midst of the rebuilding efforts there were threats made against their lives and they were greatly opposed by some who did not want to see this happen. With that said, listen to what Nehemiah said Nehemiah 6:9, “They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination” (NLT). Don’t let opposition stop you from doing what God wants you to do, let opposition act as your motivation to be more determined. Spiritual endurance is determination in the face of hardship or opposition.
Spiritual endurance is hope in the face of hardship.
Number two, spiritual endurance is hope in the face of hardship. Endurance refers to the ability to focus on a hopeful future. It has in it a forward look, the ability to focus on what is beyond the current pressures. Endurance is not consumed with the pain of the present, but consumed with the victory in the future.
When Jesus faced the cross He was placed under great pressure. However, He didn’t focus on the pressure, He focused beyond the current pressure. God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (NLT). Jesus knew there would be joy on the other side of the cross. The same is true for you. There are joys and rewards on the other side of whatever is placing pressure and weight upon your life. Endurance helps you see where you are headed, not where you are. Spiritual endurance is hope in the face of hardship.
Spiritual endurance is courageous obedience to God in the face of hardship.
Number three, spiritual endurance is courageous obedience to God in the face of hardship. Spiritual endurance is not a “grin and bear it” mind-set. It is courageous obedience during difficult times, knowing that God can bring good out of evil. Joseph understood this when he said after years of imprisonment and abandonment by his family, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, ESV). There is a difference between enduring something and enduring it well. Spiritual endurance helps you to see God at work even while you are in the darkness of a valley.
Spiritual endurance comes from Christ.
Number four, spiritual endurance comes from Christ. This involves your will-power and your mind being driven by your relationship with Christ. This is spiritual endurance. Look closely at 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ” (NLT). The type of endurance we are talking about can only come from your relationship with the Lord. From your relationship with Christ you gain greater levels of wisdom about your situation, you have better understanding of why it is happening, and because of the Holy Spirit working in your life He is helping you approach this with things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Spiritual endurance comes from Christ.
Spiritual endurance is needed when facing hardships.
Number five, spiritual endurance is needed when facing hardships. You are going to experience difficult days. You are going to be offended, get your feelings hurt, be disappointed, and angry at people, the situation you find yourself in, and maybe even angry at God for allowing it to happen. But when that hard day comes and it turns into weeks, months, and maybe years you need this spiritual endurance to walk through it and glorify God in the process. Peter echoes this when he says in 1 Peter 1, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while” (v.6, NLT).
You see this endurance when Jesus faced the cross. You see this endurance when the first Christians were severally persecuted. You see this endurance when Noah built the ark. You see this endurance when a follower of Jesus is ridiculed for their faith at work, at school, or at home day after day, week after week, year after year. You see this endurance when a parent loves, trains, and prays through the rebellious years of their child. You see this endurance in a wife loves her husband, when the husband doesn’t love her. It’s an endurance that sees past the pain to the horizon of God’s promises. It’s an endurance that does not give up until victory is won. It’s an endurance that’s able to handle whatever the world and the devil throws on its back. You cannot and will not grow in this kind of endurance without problems, troubles, and trials. But when they come, see them as opportunity to develop this divine endurance that can only come from God.
Principles of Spiritual Endurance
Now that we have a better understanding of what spiritual endurance really is, let’s talk about “your endurance.” Let’s talk more specifically about you. Let me show you some Biblical principles regarding your endurance.
“Your endurance” is unique to you
Number one, “your endurance” is unique to you. Look at James 1:3 again where it says, “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (NLT). Just like your faith, my faith, and everyone else’s faith is at different levels so is your “your endurance.” Your level of “endurance” is different than others. Let’s think about this for a moment and as an illustration I’m going to use two people. Kevin Wilburn and myself in regards to physical and cardio stamina:
- Kevin Wilburn is a distance runner. Kevin Wilburn runs 10 miles a day when he’s training for an event. The longest he has run in an event is 78 miles. He has a high level of physical endurance.
- I am not a distance runner. When I used to run, the futherst I had ever run in an event was 15 miles.
To be able to run those long distances Kevin has to go through various levels of pain and discomfort in smaller increments. When the main event shows up his body is prepared to endure the distance. His endurance is different from mine and mine is different from yours. Keep that in mind has we go through these next few points.
“Your endurance” is for your race
Number two, “your endurance” is for your race. Listen carefully to Hebrews 12:1 which says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT). You have a race coming up, it may be a 3 mile valley or a 100 mile valley, but God knows what is ahead of you and He is trying to get you prepared for your race so that when that valley starts you have the spiritual stamina to finish it. Don’t compare your race with someone else’s; don’t compare your valley with someone else’s. Let the smaller valleys in life prepare your spiritual endurance for the longer valleys in your life.
“Your endurance” is your answer
Number three, “your endurance” is your answer. If you have tuned out I need to you tune back in for one a moment. I want you to see something that may be a game changer for you in your situation. I want to show you Hebrews 10:36 which says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will” (NLT). Sometimes you don’t need a miracle, you need patient endurance. Sometimes you don’t need faith to move a mountain, you need patient endurance climb over the mountain.
Listen carefully, God knows what you need before you ever ask Him. He knows that three years from now or thirty from now you are going to cry out to Him for deliverance, for help, or for a miracle. Instead of giving you a miracle or plucking you out of the situation your answer is patient endurance. Now watch this, the answer to your prayer later is being developed in you right now. Your endurance is God’s answer to your endurance right now.
“Your endurance” needs to grow
Number four, “your endurance” needs to grow. Let’s go back to James 1 which says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow…” (NLT). You can quit at any time. You can give up, throw in the towel, and walk away but if you do you will not grow, you will not become stronger, and you will not be ready for the next valley. So let it grow.
The way you “let it grow” is to submit to God the way you would a personal trainer or coach. Just like a coach wants to strengthen the athlete and prepare the athlete for the match ahead God is wanting to do the same for you for your life ahead. God is not trying to hurt you, destroy you or defeat you. He is preparing you, equipping you, and strengthening you for what lies ahead. You let your endurance grow by doing what God tells you to do, the same way you would let your physical endurance grow by doing what the coach tells you to do.
You have a significant part in developing your spiritual endurance. Listen to what God’s Word says in 2 Peter 1:5-7, “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone” (NLT). Your endurance needs to grow, so let it grow.
How does God use the problems in your life? He uses them to develop spiritual endurance so that you will have the determination, the hope, and the courageous obedience to continue to do what God would have you to do during difficult times and opposition.