This word is generally translated "patience" in our
Authorized Version, and by "endurance" in the New Translation by J.N. Darby. The
original meaning of the Greek word is "remaining behind." It comes from the
verb, "I remain behind," which in Luke 2:43 is translated this way.
We find a very beautiful example of this word in the lovely story of
Shammah in the field of lentiles in 2 Samuel 23:11–12. "After him was Shammah
the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop,
where was a piece of ground full of lentiles; and the people fled from the Philistines.
But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines; and
the Lord wrought a great victory."
Shammah "remained behind." Shammah "endured." There
are, perhaps, few things more difficult than to endure. When others have given up, to
remain behind, is not easy. I suppose Shammah’s friends and fellowsoldiers told him
it was hopeless, it was certain death to stay where he was, and anyway for a field of
lentiles it was not worth remaining behind. I suspect David had given that field of
lentiles to Shammah to defend. And you and I have been given a field of lentiles to
defend, in the midst of which "great David’s Greater Son" has placed us.
Our field of lentiles may be our home, or the office, or the shop; it may be the little
feeble company of two or three gathered to our Lord’s own Name, that others have
despised and forsaken for something greater and more attractive. Our field of lentiles may
not seem worth defending, and we may feel like giving up, or perhaps we are turning our
eyes to fields that seem to us more attractive, and more worthwhile. Let us remember
Shammah who remained behind when the others fled, Let us endure, as he endured.
Our God is called "The God of endurance"; (Rom. 15:5, N.T.)
Many years ago some kind friends were urging a young man to give up some work the Lord had
given him to do. He went in his perplexity to a dear old brother. He will never forget the
way he exclaimed: "Give up? All giving up is of the devil!" Yes, our God
is "the God of endurance."
I suppose every Christian is willing to "boast in hope of the
glory of God." (Rom. 5:2, N.T.), but how many of us can truthfully add: "And not
only (that), but we also boast in tribulations, knowing that tribulation works
endurance." The word tribulation comes from the Latin word
"tribulum," "a flail." The flail I used when a boy was a cruel looking
instrument, made of two sticks of wood fastened together at the ends with a thong. You
held one of the sticks, swinging it so that the other came down with terrific whack on the
wheat. The result was that the chaff and straw were blown away, while the wheat remained.
The wheat endured. The flail brought tribulation to it, right enough, but by that
tribulation the wheat obtained endurance.
It may be you have been having some pretty heavy blows with the flail.
You may feel that you have been having more than your share of tribulation. May the God of
endurance give you to boast in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation works endurance.
You will have noticed the way James opens his epistle. Immediately after the greeting he
plunges straight into his subject. "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into
various temptations (Peirasmos: An Experiment, a trial, a testing, a temptation. We are
put into the crucible, like the chemists do the substances they are testing). "Count
it all joy when ye fall into various temptations, knowing that the proving of your faith
works endurance." Ellicott says: "In the noble word hupomone there always
appears in the New Testament a background of andreia (manliness)…it does not
mark merely the endurance, but the perseverance,…the brave patience
with which the Christian contends against the various hindrances, persecutions and
temptations that befall him in his conflict with the inward and the outward world."
Yes, endurance is so precious, and of such inestimable value, that we
may count it all joy when we fall in these trials, because we know they work endurance.
"But let endurance have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete,
lacking in nothing." (James 1:2–3). And the passage we looked at in Romans says:
"We also boast in tribulations, knowing that tribulations works endurance: and
endurance, experience; and experience, hope; and hope does not make ashamed." Yes,
endurance works experience. That is what our hymn tells us:
"His love in times past
Forbids us to think
"He’ll leave us at last,
In trouble to sink."
This is experience, and it was endurance taught it. Do you think
Shammah would have missed the experience he gained by that fight in the lentile field?
Never! An when we get Home, we will see that some of these hard places on the road were
the bits we would not have missed for anything. They worked endurance.
The first mark of a true servant of God is "endurance." In
everything commending ourselves as God’s ministers (or, servants), in much
endurance." (2 Cor. 6:4) The false servant, the hireling, fled when he saw the wolf
coming; but the Good Shepherd "remained behind." He endured. Endurance was also
the first sign of an apostle. "The signs indeed of the apostle were wrought among you
in all endurance…." (2 Cor. 12:12)
Years ago my work took me to the woods in the North of Canada, far from
any Christian services. One Lord’s Day morning I was reading the first chapter of
Colossians. I got as far as the eleventh verse, and I read: "Strengthened with all
power according to the might of His glory…" and I stopped there, somewhat
overwhelmed by the stupendous display of mighty power. And as I stopped, I dreamed of the
great deeds I would some day do for the Lord, with all this mighty power on which I might
so freely draw; what crowds might be converted; how the heathen might be won for Christ!
Then I decided to finish the verse: "Strengthened with all power according to the
might of His glory unto all endurance and longsuffering with joy." It was a
bit of a shock, for in those days I had never thought very much of endurance, or of
patience either, as it is put in our English Bible. But God’s thoughts are not our
thoughts; and God knows the true worth of endurance, and just the power that is needed
for, especially when "longsuffering," or "suffering-for-a-long-time,"
is connected with it; and the whole is done not with a spirit of being sorry for
ourselves, but "with joy." Ah, my brothers, my sisters, you will find you
do indeed need to be "strengthened with all power according to the might of His
glory," if you are to have "all endurance and longsuffering with joy." We
never, never can do it in our own strength, but thanks be to God, He does not ask us to
use our own strength, and He offers us all this vast store of power on which to freely
draw, with unlimited demands, and all for the sake of endurance: "Endurance
and longsuffering with joy." It is not easy, but, thank the Lord He can do it for us;
He can work it in us.
The apostle used to boast about the endurance of his dear
children in faith, the Thessalonian Christians. "Remembering without ceasing your
work of faith, and labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus
Christ." (1 Thess 1:3). And their endurance kept up, for in the second Epistle we
find he is still boasting of it. "Your faith increases exceedingly, and the love of
each one of you all towards one another abounds; so that we ourselves make our boast in
you in the assemblies of God for your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and tribulations, which ye are sustaining." (2 Thess 1:4). They had the real genuine
thing; their endurance did not break down.
There are some things that pursue us, press after us. This word
"Dioko," "pursue" or "press after" is an intensely
interesting word, but we may not stop to pursue it now. The things that press after us are
very often troubles, (not always: for goodness and mercy are amongst the things that very
earnestly press after us, as well as other good things); But we are to press after
quite a lot of things; you find a list of some of them in 1 Tim. 6:11–12; and amongst
these you will find endurance. These days are apt to be soft days, and we do not
like to endure hardness if we can help it; but remember it is not wealth, nor ease, nor
comfort, nor learning, we are to press after; but endurance, as well as other
blessed graces we may not mention now.
The apostle could say to Timothy, his son in the faith: "Thou hast
been thoroughly acquainted with my…endurance." (2 Tim. 3:10) Yes, Timothy knew
how Paul had remained behind when John Mark gave up and deserted him; he knew how Paul had
endured when Peter gave up the truth at Antioch, and all the others with him, so that even
Barnabas was carried away; but Paul remained behind in the true faith. And in 2 Timothy
4:16 the old apostle, Paul the aged, tells his child in the faith how "all deserted
me." But Paul endured, he remained behind, and faced Nero alone; "and I was
delivered out of the lion’s mouth." Few there are indeed who have endured like
Paul, and few were acquainted with his endurance like Timothy.
Paul tells Titus that the "elder men" were to have endurance,
though this would indeed include patience (See Titus 2:2, N.T. note.) It may be that as we
get older we learn to value this quality more. The urge and impetuosity of youth has
passed away, perhaps. But, thank the Lord, endurance is one quality we old folks who are
not good for much may, and should, have. Keep on in the race, dear old friend, the goal is
almost in sight. "Press toward the mark!" Endure!
And Hebrews 10:36 tells us we have need of endurance in order that,
having done the will of God, we may receive the promise. We can see "the streaks in
the sky." The Bright and Morning Star will soon appear, and make good all the
promises. But now, in the darkest part of the night, just before the dawn, "Ye have
need of endurance." And those who have endured, we call happy. "Ye have heard of
the endurance of Job, and seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is full of tender
compassion and pitiful." (James 5:11). Sweet attributes are these to link with
endurance. It did not look like tender compassion and pity in the early chapters of Job.
But it is true for Job, and it is true for us. Tribulation did work endurance, and if we
let it, tribulation will work endurance for us too, and we also will prove the Lord to be
"full of tender compassion and pitiful."
And in that famous addition sum of Peter’s (2 Peter 1:5–6),
we find our word once again; endurance! To our faith add courage: to our courage add
knowledge: to our knowledge add self-control: to our self-control add endurance,
and to endurance add brotherly affection: and to our brotherly affection add love. May God
help us so to do.
"Let us therefore, having so great a cloud of witnesses
surrounding us, laying aside every weight, and sin which so easily entangles us, run
with endurance the race that lies before us, looking steadfastly on Jesus the leader
and completer of faith: who, in view of the joy lying before Him, endured the cross,
having despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider
well Him who endured so great contradiction of sinners against Himself, that ye be not
weary, fainting in your minds." (Heb. 12:1–3)
as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 2:3