|Passages on Endurance|
Lisa Barry: As someone who always tries to pick the shortest line at the grocery store, who grumbles when she hits a yellow light, I'm the last person who should be talking about faithful endurance. Thankfully, it's Elisabeth Elliot who is talking about the subject, because she's a lot better at it than I am. Let's all see what we can learn about this important characteristic next on Gateway To Joy.
Elisabeth Elliot: "You are loved with an everlasting love." That's what the Bible says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." This is your friend Elisabeth Elliot, concluding my talk today on faithful endurance.
Why talk about such an unpopular subject? If you've been listening to Gateway To Joy for any length of time, you've heard quite a few unpopular subjects. I'm amazed at the positive responses that I get from my listeners. Thank you for writing your letters. I do want you to know that I read them. You may receive a letter from someone else, the staff in Lincoln, Nebraska that handle my mail, and I am very grateful and indebted to them that they can do this. But they do send them on to me. I want you to know that I read them and I pray over them and I thank God for you. So even if I speak on unpopular subjects, you've written to me and I do thank you.
Now what do I talk about most of the time? Unpopular subjects. Why? Well, for a very simple reason. I take my cues from the Word of God. He doesn't pamper us. He deals with sin and sorrow and suffering and things like faithful endurance because He wants to give us the only true fulfillment, comfort, stability and joy to be found anywhere in the universe. It is God and God alone who can give us fulfillment and comfort and stability and joy. He made it. He knows how to run this world and He loves us with an everlasting love. Please don't ever forget that. He calls us to the same tough course which He assigned to His own Son, Jesus, when He came to earth. Faithful endurance.
Did you know that there are more than 70 references in the New Testament alone on the subject of endurance? We might call it stick-to-it-iveness. The great Russian writer, Solzhenitsyn, as you know, was in labor camp for many, many years, a prisoner. While he was in camp, this is what he wrote-I find this quite startling, this first statement in his prayer: "How simple for me to live with You, O Lord."
Can you try to picture what a Russian labor camp would have been like? The starvation? The endless cold? Hardly any food. Hardly any clothing. Hardly any shelter. Forced every day to go out into that bitter, icy weather and work twelve or fourteen hours a day. Here is Solzhenitsyn saying, "How simple for me to live with You, O Lord. How easy to believe in You. When in confusion my soul bears itself or bends, when the most wise can see no further than this night and do not know what tomorrow brings, You fill me with the clear certainty that You exist and that You watch to see that all the paths of righteousness be not closed.
From the heights of worldly glory"-and you remember that Solzhenitsyn was a world-famous writer-"from the heights of worldly glory, I am astonished by the path through despair You have provided me; this path, from which I have been worthy enough to reflect Your radiance to men. All that I will yet reflect, You will grant me. And for that which I will not succeed in reflecting, You have appointed others."
I want to read this one line again. "From the heights of worldly glory, I am astonished by the path through despair that You have provided me." Is some listener walking a pathway of despair? Can you believe that God provided that path for you? As Solzhenitsyn says, "This path from which I have been worthy enough to reflect Your radiance to men."
I have seen the radiant reflection of Christ in a number of people who have walked the path of despair-people who have found that-in the midst of the darkest night and the hottest fire and the deepest water-the presence of God. Endurance.
Suffering makes pleasure more poignant. That is, perhaps, an explanation of the endless pursuit of sports. You do have to suffer to a certain degree, don't you, if you're really going to play a strenuous kind of sport. But it is that very suffering, that very pushing yourself, that endurance which makes pleasure more poignant.
If we would come at the lessons in endurance, as valiantly and as eagerly as we watch those who are enduring the crossing of the Antarctic ice, for example, how simply we would view our own hardships. "For the joy that was set before Him." For the joy, He endured the cross.
I have made a little list in my notebook of some of the passages about endurance. It would be worth your while to study them. 2 Corinthians 1:7: "If we ourselves have been comforted, we know how to encourage you to endure." 2 Corinthians 6: A genuine minister of God, whatever we may have to go through, patient endurance of troubles, or even disasters. Being flogged. I'm abbreviating these quotations a little bit.
1 Thessalonians 1 has this one: "The hope that you have in our Lord Jesus Christ means sheer dogged endurance." Sheer dogged endurance. 2 Thessalonians 1: "You have shown such endurance and faith in all the trials and persecutions." Hebrews 12: "Eyes fixed on Jesus." "He Himself endured a cross and thought nothing of its shame because of the joys He knew would follow."
There are so many different kinds of endurance. We've talked quite a bit about physical endurance. The lady who was finding it difficult to take care of her mother, and yet as she learned the joy of Christ, she found joy in doing that very humble and unsung kind of work.
Well, I can remember the sheer dogged endurance with which I had to pursue an unwritten language. I went to Ecuador to do linguistic work and work with tribes whose languages had never been written. Oh, there were times when I just wanted to throw in the sponge. To try to listen to what those people said and to try to write it down phonetically, when they kept right on talking, and couldn't understand what it was that I was scribbling away in my notebook about! They had no idea what a pen was, let alone a piece of paper or a notebook.
There were times when I just wanted to give up, and yet I knew that this was God's assignment. God had put me there. If I was going to learn the Auca language, it was a case of sheer dogged endurance. One of the difficulties of life there, was that these people did not know that there were other languages in the world. Can you imagine that kind of isolation? They had seen Indians of other tribes, but generally they had killed the ones they saw. They had never sat down and had a conversation, or tried to have a conversation, because of course their language was totally different.
People sometimes ask me if it was dialects that I worked on. No. It was languages. The Auca language was as different from English as Chinese is from Greek. So God was pushing me all the time to say, "Stick with it. Endure. Don't give up. Don't throw in the sponge."
How well I remember Dr. Edmond, who was President of Wheaton College when I was a student there. I don't know how many times in those years I heard Dr. Edmond say, "It's always too soon to quit."
The prophets of the Old Testament give us an example of patient endurance in suffering. They were called blessed. Revelation speaks of the faithful endurance to which Jesus calls us. Maybe you're in a church and you're beginning to suspect that you're in the wrong church. If it's because of the doctrine or the way things are done officially in the church, maybe you need to give it some serious thought. If it's because of somebody that you find it difficult to get along with and you'd rather just pull out of the church and go somewhere where people are nice, I would strongly urge you to endure.
The endurance of the saints is spoken of in Revelation 14--those who are now without fault before the throne of God. Peter says, "Since Christ had to suffer physically for you, you must fortify yourselves with the same inner attitude that He must have had." Since Christ had to suffer physically for you, you must fortify yourselves with the same inner attitude that He must have had.
I can remember the endurance of my six-year-old granddaughter, who was absolutely sure that there would be no way that she was going to ever learn arithmetic. Teaching her arithmetic was sheer dogged endurance for my daughter Valerie. Learning two and two makes four was, for Christiana, sheer dogged endurance.
It doesn't have to be something big and dramatic, but it is a spiritual test. So I ask you today, "Will you trust God? Will you love Him? Will you stick with Him? And as far as you can, learn the message that He is trying to get across to you and keep on enduring?"
"The Lord God will help me; therefore, shall I not be confounded. Therefore, have I set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
Lisa Barry: Well, as we say good-bye for this week, I want to give you one more chance to purchase a copy of this one-week series. We'll be onto another topic next week, so this is a good time to write to us. The series is called FAITHFUL ENDURANCE and the cost is $7.
You can send that, along with your request, to Gateway To Joy, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501. Or call toll-free: 1-800-759-4JOY. That's 1-800-759-4569. Our Internet ministry address is gatewaytojoy.org. Gateway To Joy has been a production of Back to the Bible.
Next week Elisabeth challenges us to endure hardness. Find out what that means Monday on Gateway To Joy.