Endurance That Leads to Assurance
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Suffering, especially that of resisting sin, has the potential to bring about more discouragement than anything else in our life. When plagued with questions like: "Am I really saved?" or "Will I always struggle with this sin?", a biblical understanding of suffering and endurance is critical. God means to use suffering (mainly overcoming temptations to sin) in our lives as a means of assurance. The devil wants you to sulk in a pit of questions and doubt, but God means for you to come out victorious with confident assurance that you are indeed a child of God.
In the theme of Sharing in suffering, when you find the Greek word hupomone, or endurance, the word is most commonly associated with this kind of sharing in suffering that we talked about last week: resisting sin and the devil. In fact, because of the context of this word throughout the NT, hupomone actually means patient endurance, or even enduring trials (temptation to sin). So, the most common use of the word hupomone in the NT is in the context of patiently enduring temptations to sin. It is translated different in different passages as patience, patient endurance, endurance, or even steadfastness.
When we look at a text like 1 Peter 1:6-9, we see that God doesn’t test us so he can see how strong our faith is, God is omniscient – He knows all things, rather He tests us so that we can become more aware of the strength of our faith. He tests us for the sake of our own assurance, so that our faith is made stronger and we gain confidence, becoming more like Christ. God’s purpose in our suffering is not to destroy our faith, but to make it even stronger. And to fill us with faith-filled confident hope and assurance.
As John Willison says, God sends afflictions, never to unfit, but to quicken us for the performance of duty. To make us repent more thoroughly, pray more fervently, flee to Christ more earnestly, and mind heaven more intensely. This is what it means to endure. Is that your experience? In your light and momentary afflictions that God has sovereignly allowed to come upon you, are your temptations to sin leading to deeper repentance? Are you praying more fervently? Are you fleeing to Christ all the more quickly? Are you thinking of heaven more intensely?
This is why Paul prays specifically for endurance for the saints. He knows that it is critical to every part of their walk (Read Colossians 1 and 1 Thessalonians 1). Endurance may be the most underrated piece of the gospel. It may be the most underpreached piece of our sanctification and pursuit of godliness. Partially because not many believers truly understand what endurance means, or what it’s role is, or even realize that it is required. (Read Luke 21:10-19; Matthew 10:22; Romans 2:7; Luke 8:15; Colossians 1:22-23; Hebrews 3:14; Revelations 14:12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
Read Romans 5:1-5 again. This text is possibly the most crucial for our understanding of endurance. Paul is building quite an argument. He is revealing that suffering is crucial to our sanctification and therefore essential to the Christian life.
We have been justified he says. So have peace. In other words – rest from your striving. You have been saved by faith – that gracious gift from Ephesians 2. God did it for you. You cannot and could not and did not earn it. He justified you. God has declared you righteous before the Father because of the work of Christ. You did nothing. God did all. So, in one sense – stop your striving – and in another sense – strive all the more – with His gracious, Spirit-empowered strength. You have obtained access to God by faith. What glorious grace. What rejoicing this should cause in us. What great hope we have.
And then Paul BUILDS on this… He says “not only that..” This is a crucial phrase. Paul is progressing his argument. He’s just getting started. He is building up to a main point. And believe it or no,t Paul’s argument is Romans 5:1-5 is centered on suffering. The foundation for all of Romans 5:1-5 is that we have been justified, but the climax of our peace and experience in Christ is based on what this suffering is producing.
Paul says, “we also rejoice in our sufferings.” Paul is not saying that any suffering is pleasant in and of itself. It is painful, it hurts. There is often sorrow and mourning, there is serious warfare against our sin and the devil – we do not rejoice at these evils or sufferings. Paul is saying we rejoice for what it is producing in us. Suffering produces endurance. A patient endurance during trial. Hupomone. In fact, it is actually a patient endurance without anger – remember you are rejoicing – you are not angry. You are not shaking your fist at God. Suffering presents us with the opportunity to endure. But the endurance is not an end in and of itself. We endure because it is a means to an end.
Follow Paul’s argument. If all endurance was about was overcoming trials and that’s it, then there isn’t a lot to rejoice about. I am tempted and tested – I say no to sin and receive nothing… that is not worth rejoicing over! But Paul says – no – There is a reward! You gain something when you endure. Rejoice because it produces character. And you may say – that’s it? I endure and get character? What, like integrity? Or people respect me? Maybe even pity me? This is not what Paul is saying. This is where translation is really important! The Greek word here is dokime – translated as character – but it is more than character. It is the quality of being tested and found real! Piper translates it as an approvedness. In other words, endurance produces this: You are real. This is what suffering aims to produce! By enduring, God keeps us from sin, and through the fire of suffering we have found gold! Namely – I AM A CHRISTIAN! Look at my character! Look at my new nature! I passed the test! The Spirit is living in me! I just shared in Christ’s suffering and the suffering of the saints! I am a saint! I am a child of God! I am a co-heir with Christ!
So, this suffering is producing a patient endurance that is not angry, and when we overcome the temptation to sin, resist the devil, and endure the suffering, we produce this character. We produce this affirmation that we are a new creation. Paul says that this is what produces hope. Deeper faith. Trust! Confidence! Assurance! THERE IS NO ASSURANCE OF SALVATION WITHOUT ENDURANCE THROUGH SUFFERING! How could there be? There is no testing of your faith.. How do you know if you are all talk? How do you know if you truly treasure Christ? All the saints in the world will share in this suffering, and only those who endure to the end prove to be saved.
Unless suffering comes into our life, we will not be able to experience or know the depth of our faith. The character that is produced from endurance is a character that has endured the test of suffering and come out proving to be a Christian. Is there any greater joy in this world than to come out of a trial and confidently know that God lives in you and is preserving you for a greater glory? Our hope increases when we experience the authenticity of our faith through testing! (Read Hebrews 10:35-39; Hebrews 12:1-3,7; James 1:2-4, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5)
This is why guilt and shame exist when you fall into sin. This is why doubt arises when you fall into temptation. This is why those who lack assurance and confidence the most are often times those who are the quickest to give into temptation. Maybe because they aren’t saved, or maybe because they don’t truly understand the power of the gospel and the hope within them.
This was specifically Paul’s warning in Galatians 3. In chapter 3:3-4 Paul says: “ Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?” Don’t suffer in vain. Don’t be foolish. Don’t resist the devil and sin and persecution in your own strength is Paul’s point. You didn’t start by the Spirit to just endure and be perfected in your own strength. That is foolish. You can’t! In fact, Paul goes on in verse 10 that those who live in such a way are living under a curse. That is suffering in vain. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that Jesus learned obedience through suffering. Jesus endured, therefore, only in Christ can we endure. So our assurance, and endurance is not ultimately up to us.. and thank God! This is the beauty of the doctrine of the preservation of the saints – or the perseverance of the saints – or the endurance of the saints. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Remember what Paul said in Colossians 1:11, we are working with all of God’s might. But what does that mean? How does this practically work itself out that I work hard, and yet it is God working in me? Better yet, how do I work in such a way that I am not relying on myself? This is really the question. If I am called to endure – and this is fruit, and bears fruit that I am really saved, and if it’s God who is the one ultimately causing me to endure – then what if I’m not enduring? And to this I would say – pursue God! Don’t let the mystery paralyze you! Look at the imperatives (commands) in Scripture and see them as gracious gifts that God has given to you to seek Him, and know Him, and love Him, and ultimately be strengthened by Him to endure.
Meditate on God’s Word! Pray without ceasing. You say – no Pastor that doesn’t work – and I respond – Yes it does! Ask anyone who is overcoming sin, being sanctified, and enduring how they are doing it and they will reveal to you a life of spiritual disciplines! Ask anyone in here who is not enduring, and is giving in to sin, and you will most likely find someone who is not disciplined, is unengaged in the body, does not have God’s Word stored up in their heart etc. Think of what Peter says: Don’t be surprised at the fiery trial.. BE PREPARED! Don’t come to your test unprepared. Pray to be prepared and ready! Study the text book! Review with friends. Go to trainings! And then realize you will be tested everyday.
Remember what Paul told Timothy “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Ligon Duncan notes that a good soldier who has trained is not surprised when he finds himself in war. He has been trained for it. Likewise, we ought to consider our job to be prepared to suffer. To train for it (Hebrews 12). It is not a surprise, it is not an interruption. We prepare ourselves through several means – the gathering of the saints, corporate and personal constant prayer, singing, reading, studying, meditating, the gifts of the body etc. But one thing we know – we must keep in step with the Spirit. We must be abiding in God and His Word, growing in our delight for Him and His Word so that we may be able to obey and endure when the trials come. The reality is that we endure trials with an inner strength that must be fed. Our faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. This is why Jesus says in Luke 13:24 to “strive to enter the narrow door.” We know that God is equipping us with everything good that we may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight (Hebrews 13:21).
Now, if all that exists, meaning if you would say “Pastor I am doing all of that” – then I would say the problem is delight. There is a striving after disciplines and holiness based on duty and not delight. I would remind you that biblical endurance and suffering is almost always associated with joy! Has 2 Corinthians 3 & 4 happened to you?
if you are paralyzed with sin and doubt and fear and a lack of assurance and a lack of joy – Pray like you have never prayed before. Weep! Mourn! Here is how one Pastor says you ought to pray: “Keep me! Preserve me! Defeat every rising rebellion! Overcome every niggling doubt! Deliver me from destructive temptation! Nullify every fatal allurement! Expose every demonic deception! Tear down every arrogant argument! Shape me! Incline me! Hold me! Master me! Do whatever you must do to keep me trusting you and fearing you till Jesus comes or calls.”
Abide in God! Delight in God. And then obey God! This is what Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians 9:8 “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” When I live and face life and temptation in such a way that I have not stored up God’s Word in my heart, and I have not been engaged in prayer, I am left weak and malnourished. Then I am seeking to fight sin and endure based on my own strength. This is not the discipline that the Pastor in Hebrews talks about or that Paul commands Timothy to pursue. This battle is not at odds with our joy – it is a battle to maintain joy. And since the joy is so precious – we must aim to fight against sin and endure in such a way to protect, preserve, and increase that joy.
Faith-filled and faith-fueled endurance is both hard and easy. It’s like the story of the monkey who’s hand is stuck in the jar holding a nut. It would be easy for him to slip his hands out of the opening, except that he has his fist clenched around the nut. If he loves the nut more than he loves freedom from the jar, then getting his hand out of the jar will be hard. But what could be easier than dropping a nut? The battle of defeating sin and keeping in step with the Spirit is the battle to love the freedom of faith more than the nut of sin. Dropping a nut is easy – but killing a desire for the nut – that requires supernatural grace!
God is sovereign over everything in His created universe. Nothing is outside of His control. Including evil and suffering. And what man is responsible for because of sin, and what satan is intending to use for evil, God is using for good – namely His glory, and the joy of His people. Therefore, when we face any kind of suffering in this world, we must arm ourselves with the same way of thinking as Jesus did. We must place that joy before us. We must put on the armor of God and be renewed in our minds by putting on the mind of Christ. And we must reconsider what suffering really is. We must understand that the suffering we share with Christ and the saints is that of resisting the devil and sin. This process and this suffering is promised to everyone who follows Christ. We have not resisted sin to the point of shedding blood, therefore God must discipline us. He tests us in order that our weaknesses may become apparent, then through repentance, and the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we are corrected, we are chastised, and we are trained. And then we go back out for battle. Then, as we resist the devil and wage war on our sinful flesh, Christ in us causes us to persevere and overcome sin – to defeat the devil - and through endurance we find that we are indeed a new creation. We have a new character. We are producing fruit. And this brings us a confident, faith-filled assurance of a hope that cannot be taken from us. It is in this hope that we are saved. We must endure to the end, and in Christ we will endure to the end waiting for this hope with joy, patiently enduring every test and trial knowing that the result of all these sufferings are making us more like Christ, increasing our joy, increasing our effectiveness of ministry, and preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. HALLELUJAH!
So, endure! Endure to the end! Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Endurance leads to assurance! And God means for all who have been justified to rest in the peace and hope that only comes through enduring suffering. What a gracious gift. What a merciful God. What a glorious gospel!