He Who Endures

He Who Endures

William Barclay once said, “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

Of course, we’ve heard this most of our lives. We have to stick with it. We can’t give up. We give up just when the breakthrough is coming. And all the other inspirational quotes we can muster to teach each other to keep trying; don’t give up.

But sometimes, that misses what’s really being asked. Why endure? You see, some give up during hard times because their motivation wasn’t educated enough to understand WHY it will be worth it to keep going and not give up. Sometimes weak motivation creates a situation where endurance isn’t possible. So, sure, encourage others not to give up. BUT make sure they understand WHY not giving up is worth the effort!

And when it comes to doing the hard work of being faithful to God, knowing WHY it’s worth it has little to do with rewards and EVERYTHING to do with loving God more than anyone else!

Look at our lesson today in Matthew 10:16-22:

The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”

Here Jesus is talking to His disciples about their work in ministry with Him during His earthly ministry. These disciples are going to go to “the lost sheep of Israel,” the people who had waited for 6000 years for the Messiah and had now become so complacent in their devotion that they had reduced all the Faith to “going through the motions.” To be honest, I can relate to that in my own life. The disciples were meant to go out and tell these “lost sheep” that the Messiah had arrived and their salvation was at hand. They were to heal the sick and minister to the poor and declare the Good News of the Lord’s Day. AND Jesus told them they would be hated for it. Jesus said they were going out as “sheep among wolves.”

Ouch! That’s a letdown.

You see, the People who had received the revelation of the Law from God through Moses had forgotten the WHY behind their practice. They had reduced the Faith to an ethnic experience that belonged to them alone and they were convinced this way of living the Faith was all that was needed. They hadn’t endured, they had simply developed a religious habit.

And when the Lord’s disciples confronted the people with this, the people hated them. In fact, every disciple, with the exception of St. John, would die a martyr’s death.

But the disciples didn’t give up. And the reason why they didn’t is because they truly trusted the Lord’s promise that “he who endures to the end will be saved.” Notice Jesus doesn’t say “he who is successful” or “he who is popular” or “he who is well-liked” but “he who endures will be saved.

The power of seeing beyond the temporary moment of troubles or the hard work of the moment to stay faithful to the end goal of living your life faithfully comes from an internal strength that focuses on loving God above all others and allowing the Faith to be worth every challenge and temporary trouble. There is something strengthening in your own life when you realize it’s God Himself living within you and speaking through you that gives you the courage to keep going AND humility to know it’s your connection to Him that makes this possible.

St. Julian was only 18 years old when he was killed for being a Christian. He was born in Cilicia to a pagan father who was a Roman senator and a Christian mother. When his father died, his mother and Julian moved to Tarsus where Julian was baptized and catechized in the Christian  Faith. When Julian reached 18, the Empire was ruled by Diocletian. And Diocletian unleashed severe persecution against the Christians, attempting to stop the amazing growth of the Faith across the Empire. Diocletian demanded that all Roman citizens make a sacrifice to the pagan gods, and when the Christians refused, they were tortured and killed. St. Julian was arrested for being a Christian and brought before the eparch of the area whose name was Marcian. Try as they may, they could not get this strong and brave young man to abandon his Faith. He endured torture and ridicule and even offers of gifts and wealth. They put Lucian through this for a whole year! Finally, they threw him in prison, and after they saw they could do nothing to turn the young man from Christ, they put him in a sack of sand filled with serpents and threw him into the sea. He endured because he knew all the temporary troubles were nothing compared to the eternal glory of Christ!

Today, the Faith gives you all you need to endure. Sure there will be stumbles, and there will be times when it seems all is lost. But not giving up means =you get to be there when it all pays off in the end! That’s what a Normal Orthodox life is all about!

P.S. Your holy martyr Julian, O Lord, through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God. For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through his intercessions save our souls!

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