I recently began teaching a class on Wednesday nights at Mobberly called “The Pastor’s class.” It’s purpose is to offer a weekly, exegetical study for whomever desires to dig a little deeper. I must admit that I love it and I struggle with it. First of all, topical messages and talks are much easier since you get to pick and choose relevant texts to fit your points. And if I were just looking for something to fill some time in my schedule, I would have chosen such a task. But as a pastor, I feel like a doctor who has taken the Hippocratic Oath when it comes to the surgery that the Sword of the Lord requires. I must be true to His full gospel…all the time. So while it may require greater study, I enjoy a book study because I enjoy digging. This current study is on 1 Thessalonians. I’m calling it “The Conduct of the Church in a Culture of Compromise.”
1 Thessalonians 1:3 says “We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I take this to mean that hope produces endurance, or that endurance is the fruit of hope. In other words: Faith produces work. And love produces labor. Similarly then, endurance comes from hope and hope produces endurance.
How do you keep on going in a ministry for Christ—how do you keep going month after month for years or even decades when there are emotional and relational and spiritual and financial obstacles, and when the normal human encouragements evaporate and you feel forgotten? Does He want your life to produce fruit, only when you are under the microscope? The answer is clearly, NO. What then is needed? The answer is: Endurance.
John Piper has said it well: “Absolutely indispensable in the ongoing life of every believer is the power to keep going in the path of obedience.” This is the same with your personal need for endurance. Without the endurance of hope, the work of faith and the labor of love will prove to be no real work of God but only the love of the limelight. We do not live in a generation that puts a high premium on endurance in relationships or jobs or in ministry. And we are very much children of our age. If we follow Scripture here, we will be swimming against the tide. So be it! This is a call for the endurance of the saints! (Rev. 13:10; 14:12.)
Endurance is a gift and guarantee of the new covenant sealed by the blood of Jesus for all who trust in Him. And so we take heart when we feel weak, and we look away from ourselves to God’s grace and power and rekindle our hope that we can and will endure in the path of obedience to which He has called us. Now the ironic question is: “Can I endure for 4 more weeks to complete this study?” Well, the issue of endurance and Hope is obviously one for us all!