Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Endurance

Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:


Richard Hollerman

We have all heard or read or seen runners in a race to win a prize.  Life is like this.  Paul urges us with these admonishments, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

The Hebrew writer adds this: “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. . . . For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3).  We are all runners in the race of life, and we are to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” for we follow Christ who endured the hostility of His opponents in life.  We urgently need endurance.

Several words are translated endure or endurance but the main one is hupomeno, meaning “to abide under, to bear up courageously.”[i][i] It denotes “remain . . . stand one’s ground, hold out, endure in trouble, affliction, persecution.”[ii][ii] God not only saves us from sin, but He calls on us to “endure” the trials, temptations, and sufferings that come on those who follow Jesus.  Sometimes the thought is conveyed with the term perseverance or steadfastness..

Paul says, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4; cf. James 1:3).  In the midst of tribulation, trials, and suffering, we must endure!  This endurance will help to mold our proven character and hope will see us through.  We will become more and more Christlike in character.  Paul was thankful that the believers had “perseverance and faith” in the midst of all their “persecutions and afflictions” (2 Thessalonians 1:4).  James says that the one who endures is blessed: “Blesses is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (1:12).  Jesus knew that this endurance was necessary.

In His parable of the soils, Jesus describes the second soil: “These are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:16-17).  Jesus speaks of those who receive the word of God with joy but they are only temporary.  Luke’s account says that they actually “believe for a while” (8:13).  What happened to these “believers”?  Afflictions and persecutions would come on them that they “fall away.”  We see the need for endurance or perseverance so that those who believe will continue in the faith.  We must endure if we wish to be finally saved.

Our Lord warned of coming persecutions—and the need to persevere through all of them: “You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Mark 13:13; cf. Matthew 10:22; 24:13).  Paul adds, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).  Let’s pray for the endurance we need to complete the race of life in victory and so receive the crown!

We practice endurance not just in major issues of life but in daily tasks.  When we begin a job, do we complete it?  When we have a difficult and unwanted work to do, do we put it off or accomplish it slowly and with regret.  Do you have a reputation for beginning a project but never persevere to its conclusion?  Endurance is continuing the job that we began and seeing it through to completion.  Paul wrote, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).


[i][i] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[ii][ii] Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.


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