“Every calamity is to be overcome by endurance.” Virgil
The ability to have “stick-to-it-tavness” is a learned trait. The fact is endurance is both a gift and a habit that can be developed. That means our ability to learn how to endure is something we hold within our power to control.
Most of us know someone in our lives that just seems to be able to stay with a challenge until it is overcome. The truth is we are amazed at the endurance of some in our lives. How do they do it? I knew a man a few years ago who faced personal and professional tragedy. About the same time his career was falling apart, his family was doing the same. When he was asked “How are you able to keep going in the face of all this?” he answered “What choice do I have? I have to hold on because others depend on me.” He endured such heartache and tragedy, but his tragedy was temporary and his endurance strengthened his faith and his ability to face future challenges.
Endurance is fed by a nobility of vision. If a person has the grace to see beyond this or that temporary circumstance to deeper and more foundational truths, then the winds of trouble may blow hard in their lives, but they are never stronger than those rooted truths. No wonder a deep rooted tree stands strong even in the face of a hurricane.
In both our Gospel Lesson and our Epistle Lesson, we read of the power of endurance. In Luke 21:12-19 our Lord warns His disciples that all who follow Him will face persecution and trouble. In fact, some of His disciples and followers will feel the particularly cutting betrayal of even their closest family. The Lord’s followers will be brought before courts, but these followers of the Lord aren’t to worry about their defense. The grace of the Lord will give them words of wisdom to show the power of their faith in the face of strong opposition. Then the Lord ends with the words we focus on today. He says “By your endurance you will gain your lives.” Luke 21:19.
Then the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Thessaloniki. He tells them “…if you stand fast in the Lord, what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?” 1 Thessalonians 3:8-13
Too many times in our lives we want magic over faith. We want some “quick-fix” or “magic formula” that will make our lives OK. And over and over again we prove these are just fantasies that get us no where. The fad diet, the “fix everything” self-help book,” or even the religious “short cut” all prove to be wishful thinking rather than the immediate remedy to our challenges and failings.
But the faith teaches us something else. The steady practice of the disciplines of the faith, the lives of endurance we read in the lives of the saints (by the way, there simply is no better roadmap to spiritual maturity than reading the lives of the saints), the gift of living simply and with vision and purpose, all are the tried and true principles for endurance in the face of whatever life throws at us. There is just is no short cut past this valuable life-lesson.
And this is also the greatest legacy we can leave our children. If we want them to stay connected to the faith, then we have to model this endurance in practice, devotion, and love in front of them. No magic, just faithfulness.
Today, you will be asked to endure. But you won’t be asked to endure what might be. That fear is just another lie to distract you from living right now. And you won’t be asked to endure what has past. That trap is just another trick to keep you paralyzed. No, you have today’s challenges. Face those. Tomorrow’s challenges will be here when they arrive, and yesterday’s challenges are only to be learned from and repented of any stumbles. Move on!
Your endurance can be strengthened for the future, and it can be a hope to all your past stumbles. What do you have before you today? Endure. And watch as God adds His strength to your faithfulness because endurance always pays off in the end. You always give up too soon. Today, endure and be free.