This Sunday we are continuing with the theme of reconciliation and take up an aspect of reconciliation that centers on endurance. To be reconciled to Christ takes an understanding that things don’t happen instantaneously. This is a hard concept to grasp within a society that, thanks to modern technology, with the right factors, you could attain almost anything you want within a very short time.
It is a great thing in many ways, but at the same time it makes me wonder. How are we ever going to develop the skill of endurance when we never have to practice? The problem is that endurance is not just waiting, but it is waiting with perseverance and hope. As I understand endurance in the context of the passage we are looking at this week is that endurance is the perseverance to keep going despite any interference that may come in the way, and hope that God will provide in the end.
In Christendom this is important. The passage this week is one of the many apocalyptic passages that are found within the Bible. Unlike many of the apocalyptic writings, this one is fairly straightforward. Before the end comes, everything is going to turn to, well, . . . you know. The key that Christ says is that we have to have the endurance to wait it out come to the other side and see the glory.
The problem is that there is no instant gratification nor is there a defined way to cope. With faith, God will provide for our need and if we listen, God will guide us. If we prepare, or follow some prescription for survival, the warning that the passage gives is that we most likely will be lead astray.
It reminds me of a time when a former member of one of my congregations came to visit me. He left the church soon after choosing to go to a bible college. After studying things like dispensationalism and the fundamentals, he was sure that he had all the answers and no longer needed to ask good questions.
About ten years later, now the father of two active boys, he found himself in a situation where there were tragic deaths in his wife’s family, he lost his Job, and had an illness that he was dealing with. He came to me because he could not find the answers anywhere. His greatest frustration was that, as he saw it, he and his family had done everything right. They were faithful and good people, they had followed the teachings to the best of their abilities, but nothing seemed to fill them. Moreover, the answers they had did not seem to fit the problems they were facing.
As I sat and listened, I began to be amazed at what this man was saying. In fact, at one point he laid out that his greatest fear was that he doubted God, because what God told him to do seemed to only bring more pain. That blew me away.
We realized in our discussions that he was preparing his life one way, but in preparing for one type of life, his eyes were closed to what God was doing for him. The breaking point in our discussions was when we were talking about his boys. He said that he never saw his boys as a gift; rather, they were a reward for his faithfulness! What a different perspective, and one that was not working.
It was interesting because after he verbalized that, and heard himself say it he realized how off his thoughts were and slowly he began to, as he put it, “let go and let God.” That was not the first time I had heard that, but it worked. As he began to do that, he began to see where he could find the answers and the Joy that he felt was missing from his life.
He also began to see that instead of his life being a manufactured thing, he understood it to be a work in progress that when he came to the end would be incredible. I would love to say that his life was perfect after that, but it was not. However, moving forward he had a great deal more joy and more importantly he was able to grow in faith and adjust to whatever life threw at him. More than anything, he found the endurance to live fully and trust God.
Christ tells us over and over that there is one way that we can prepare for whatever life throws at us, and that is to have faith. When we have faith, we gain endurance because we know that whatever hardships, difficulties or whatever else life might throw at us, we will be reconciled with God in the end.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen