When you think of admirable virtues, what comes to mind?
I'll bet it's not the pink bunny!
We instantly think of the virtues we can see: love, joy, patience, gentleness...
All those traits we admire in others and wish we were known for.
But there is one character trait that often goes unacknowledged and undervalued. Oddly enough, God thinks very highly of it and mentions it throughout both Old and New Testaments.
James chapter one talks about persevering through trials and choosing to be joyful. The King James version translates this word patience, but I think in our culture it would be better read endurance.
When we think of patience, it's usually in relation to other people. We show patience when someone ticks us off and we don't respond in anger. We work on patience with our kids, our spouses, our co-workers. And that's all good. But patience is not exactly the same thing as endurance.
Endurance means you keep doing what you're doing until it's done because it's the right thing to do. You keep cleaning up the messes, keep toiling like a slave for pennies, keep serving those unappreciative people with a smile on your face, keep believing the best when everyone is telling you it won't work.
Not much glamour in that. Not very attractive, flashy, or spiritual-looking. You don't win many awards, commendations, or publicity when you're stuck in an unpleasant situation and choose not to quit, even when it seems the only smart thing to do.
So why is it so special to God? Because enduring is a minute-by-minute testimony of God's grace in your life. You could give up if you chose to, but you don't. And the reason you don't is because God put you there and you're choosing to trust his plan and not your own.
In light of that, isn't it funny how we don't think of endurance as a Christlike quality? It's just something we do because we have to.
But look closer. Enduring is not the same as pouting. The virtue is not in finding yourself in a bad situation. Everyone does that from time to time. The virtue is in choosing to stay there with a good attitude rather than quit, curse God, or curl up inside yourself.
Scripture tells us that Jesus endured the cross, God's promises endure forever, Paul endured persecution, early believers endured suffering, and Godly people endure ridicule from the wicked. And we're not to be surprised when tough times come our way because they are God's tools to make us more like his Son.
The word endure paints a depressing picture. You endure surgery without anesthesia. You endure a root canal, childbirth, losing your job, a spouse, or a child. There's nothing fun about it. No spiritual highs, victorious elation, and you're often misunderstood by those who've chosen to give up--like Job's wife.
But God promises special blessing to those who endure under fiery trials. You may be stuck in an impossible situation and see no way out. Sometimes there is no way out, but God promises a way through if you'll keep your hand in his and let him lead you.
Enduring means you're in it until God pulls you out. You set your jaw, put a song in your heart, roll up your sleeves, and prepare to stick it out until. And you keep doing it until.
God knows where you are. It's not an accident. You haven't been abandoned. You're following Jesus' example and enduring, just like he told you to. So beat that drum and keep going, and going, and going...
He that endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:12)