Successful athletic teams have endurance coaches to help players endure the physical and emotional rigors of their respective sport.
We have business consultants that seek to help companies endure the changing culture and difficult economic times. But for everyone, even non-athletic types, endurance is important. Sometimes you have to endure a bad work situation, a difficult marriage, failing health, a struggling business, an uncertain future, emotional fears, mental discouragements, and 100 other potential looming challenges.
For all of us, we can find hope in the fact that Jesus knew we would need to endure hard things throughout our lifetime. In Hebrews 12:1-2, we are told to run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
I believe this concept is what the Apostle Paul had in his mind and heart to sustain him while in prison. For two years, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. Instead of an ankle bracelet tracking device, Paul was chained to a behemoth Roman soldier every day. He was forced to eat disgusting prison food; he slept on prison floors; he lived in dirty prison conditions for two years, waiting for a sentencing from the judges of Rome. Each day his future was uncertain. With each knock at his cell door, he could be issued papers that call for his beheading. With all of these "wonderful circumstances," you would imagine his letters to his friends and church congregants might read like a modern day millennial critique of life in America, listing one complaint after another. After all, in some sense, Paul was a victim of societal injustice and persecution. He was simply planting churches and helping the community to better itself. And yet, here he finds himself, living in wretched conditions with little to no hope. In fact, in Philippians 2, you can hear Paul's uncertainty creep in as he writes, "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
But, the letter from prison, which we know today as the Epistle to the Philippians, is far from a whiny and disgruntled complaint. In fact, it is a letter filled with joy, hope, counsel, and encouragement. Here are three of seven total keys to Paul's strength and endurance taken from the words of Philippians. (Stay tuned in a week for the other four.)
#1. You Endure By Being Selfless. — Philippians 2:1-8
Selflessness is vital if we are going to endure hard times. In truth, selfish people are rarely able to endure anything. Selfishness leads to victim mentality and "why-me" and "poor, pitiful me" thoughts, none of which will help you endure difficulty. Thinking of others, and how to bless, minister to, and help them in your hard times is one of the greatest ways you can find the strength to endure your own trials.
#2. You Endure By Mining Out That Which God Has Placed In You. — Philippians 2:12-13
When Paul commands the Philippians to "work out" their salvation, he uses a word that would have been very familiar to the colony of Philippi. The town was surrounded by gold and silver mines. In order to gain the treasures in the nearby mountains, the men had to dig, chisel, hammer, and pound their way deep into the mountain in order to find the valuable treasure. Much in the same way, as Christ-followers, Paul is urging us to "mine out" that which God placed in us at the moment of salvation. We have been given all that we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3-4) — "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."
We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing according to Ephesians 1:3. Galatians 5 describes the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is in us, things like agape-love, joy, peace, patience, hope, and kindness. Paul wants us to "mine out" all the good treasures God has placed within us. We endure best when we use the resources God has placed within us for "life and godliness."
#3. You Endure By Rejoicing! — Philippians 2:18. 3:1, 4:4
Notice he is being "poured out" as an offering. This has both positive and negative spiritual connotations. It involves suffering and draining. I know that in the course of my many years of ministry, I have often felt "drained" and "poured out." Yet Paul's charge for us is to rejoice with him and share in this "draining" and to share our joy with others.
Notice also Philippians 3:1 — "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord." Philippians 4:4 — "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."
The rejoicing Paul speaks of here is not a silent, somber, self-talking rejoicing. He wants your rejoicing to be external! He wants your rejoicing to be shared by others. It's part of your testimony to a lost and dying world. We live in a culture of bad news, fearful headlines, and uncertain futures. As followers of Jesus, we must rejoice out loud so that others can have hope and come to know Him as we do. Rejoicing greatly enhances one's ability to endure!