Paul prayed that Christians might be “strengthened with all power according to [God’s] glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father” (Col. 1:11–12).
We’re called to a life of endurance empowered by Christ, and accompanied by joyful thanksgiving. Endurance requires patience, because reward for today’s right choices will come, but it may be months or years from now, or not until we leave this world. Those who drum their fingers waiting for the microwave to finish demonstrate that patient endurance doesn’t come naturally.
Paul challenged his disciple, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). Soldiers expect hardship and are trained to face it. As comrades locking arms in the service of our Commander, Christ’s humble warriors are to live out, on enemy-occupied territory, what Eugene Peterson called “a long obedience in the same direction.”
Today’s roadblocks and distractions make endurance in the Christian life seem unattainable. Our temptations aren’t worse than those in first-century Corinth. But televisions, computers, and even cell phones bring into our homes what used to be found only in back alleys. In our technological Corinth, temptations are only a keypad or mouse click away. Failure to endure—in marriage, jobs, church, or any part of life—has become normal.
A consistent long-term obedience, without periodic diversions into sin and unfruitfulness, seems an impossible dream. Sin has become so common, so expected, that holy believers are either elevated as heroes or dismissed as legalists. In our disposable society, we use something up, then toss it (whether a paper plate, a spouse, a church, or a career). The stick-to-it philosophy is a relic of another age— something monks once did, but we can’t. And why should we? Who wants to work hard or become bored by staying a course when endless alternatives call to us?
But the essence of the Christian life cannot change with culture. Paul’s words to the Colossians and Timothy are words to us. We should not shrink from hardship. We should endure it with patience and thanksgiving. We are to follow Christ from start to finish, repenting quickly of our sins and moving forward in deeper devotion. Yes, there will be dry times, but overall, the arc of spiritual growth will steadily rise higher, not trail off so our lives end in a wasted whimper. Endurance is Christ’s call to follow him, to finish strong for God’s glory. There is no higher calling, no bigger privilege, no greater joy.