Are you finding life difficult? Are you hanging on by your finger tips- not sure if you can carry on? Perhaps just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse: it did. I’ve been there, and sympathize. How can faith help? It can help a great deal when we remember that God, in his love, is very generous. And one of the things he gives generously, according to St Paul, is endurance.
GOD IS GENEROUS WITH ENDURANCE
Paul writes (verses 4-5): “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance … we might have hope … May the God who gives endurance ….”
God GIVES endurance. It is a gift and it is a willing gift. If you have children or grandchildren, you don’t sit their grudgingly wondering how little you can spend on them. You long to give to them. You look forward to seeing their faces light up as they open the present and begin to enjoy it.
God is like that with us, his children. If you’re going through pain, suffering and anxiety, he is longing to give you endurance. Believe it and ask for it boldly, in the name of Jesus.
GOD IS GENEROUS WITH ENCOURAGEMENT
Paul writes (verses 4-5): “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through … the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives .. encouragement..”
Are you feeling depressed – everything is too much trouble. You just want to go to bed and fall asleep. Are you anxious? You lie awake at night worrying yourself sick. You anticipate bad news. If it can go wrong it will go wrong, you think. Do you feel hopeless? What is there to live for? Remember the generosity of God. He is longing to give you encouragement.
God GIVES encouragement. Believe it and ask for it boldly.
But Paul adds that encouragement often comes through Scripture. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (verse 4)
It helps to read the Bible a little but every day. The Gospels and many of the Psalms can be a real encouragement. I know the Bible very well, I’ve been reading it for some 60 years and have studied it in depth. But I’ve often had the experience of reading something, familiar words, but it is like the ink is still wet and it was written just for me that day! The coincidences, in terms of relevance to my need, have often been so great that I can’t possibly believe they are coincidences. They are, in fact, God speaking to me. Try it yourself.
However, God knows that the fellowship, friendship and support of other people is also important in encouraging us and helping us to endure. So he is generous in that too.
GOD IS GENEROUS WITH UNITY
For the church to be encouraging and to support is in enduring, it needs to be united. God gives the church unity. So if the church is not united it is the fault of us human beings. Paul writes (verses 5-6) “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Are you concerned about unity of your church? Are you worried about niggling and backbiting? Well God GIVES unity. Believe it and ask for it boldly.
However, we have to cooperate in this. Paul writes (verse 7): “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Jesus accepted us “warts and all.” The Bible teaches that “While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” So we should accept each other “warts and all” whatever our differences and disagreements. Here are some differences relevant to many churches. We must overcome such differences and accept one another as Christ accepted us. We need to be generous in our approach to one another.
You’re a Prayer Book person: He’s a modern worship man
You’re a traditional hymnbook person: He’s a modern worship song person
You’re a liturgical prayer person: He’s a spontaneous prayer person
You’re a High Church person: He’s an evangelical
You’re a questioning, rationalistic person: He’s a believe-the-Bible-cover-to-cover person
You’re a shy, quiet person: He’s an extrovert, noisy person
You’re a witness-by-my-life person: He’s a talk-about-my-faith person
You’re a Tory; He’s a Socialist, etc., etc.
But we need one another. Alongside prayer and reading the Bible, the fellowship of the church is intended to encourage us to endure. Let’s not spoil it.
Paul finishes this passage with a great blessing (verse 13): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
That will be true if we turn to God daily in prayer, read the Bible every day and regularly seek the encouragement of the fellowship of the church.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction