This is another lesson shared with inmates in San Carlos City Jail last 25 August 2010. The participants are from one jail cell at the upper floor. The set- up is a “two- way street” that means everyone can share about their personal readings and experiences on the topic. Obviously, the sharing was mostly in the vernacular so this is not exactly how the discussion went. This is my outline which I used to guide the discussion. I tried to add in some of the inputs of the inmates as much as possible. As I publish it here, some insignificant modifications were necessary to present the ideas in this way- an article.
As has been our practiced, an inmate participant opens the discussion with a prayer and then I usually lead us into a closing prayer.
What does endurance mean? When one is talking of marathon race, triathlon or other long distance and long duration races endurance usually comes to mind. It can be equated with “standing firm” or steadfastness. It is standing firm to your convictions no matter what the circumstances are being faced. It is opposite the character of giving up, turning back, shrinking back, or surrendering to the pressures from trials and “storms of life” as easily as they come.
What causes man to lose endurance? Or what causes man to give up? Obviously, we are not studying this, my brothers, to know how to lose it but to know how to avoid or resist them.
IGNORANCE OF THE LIFE FROM GOD. Ignorance does not simply consist of the lack of knowledge of Godly truths or the inability to understand and explain correctly the Scriptures. For who can explain or understand fully His Word? “We know in part and we prophesy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9) as evidently we operate only according to the “measure of faith” or the “measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7) in us or the revelation of the Holy Spirit that we have in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. But even though partial, it is more than enough for we were given “Spirit without measure” (John 3:34).
This ignorance is that which comes from our inability to live right or have a life in the Spirit. In fact, it is not only inability but refusal of a life in the Spirit. It arises from the hardness of heart. Let us find that out in what the Word says in Ephesians 4: 18- 24 herein quoted, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!- assuming that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”. Clearly, endurance can not be built on temporal things that we chose to pursue when we harden our hearts.
Thus, the hardness of heart can be taken to mean a refusal of the conviction, direction, correction or work of the Holy Spirit. In other words, it is a refusal of the gift of Christ through the Holy Spirit leading to our spiritual ignorance. Such hardness can be due to “pride” an inmate adds. At first, I thought that is offline remark. But on second thought, he is right on the money. When pride sets in, it is usually the time I am way above my means when actually both my skull and bank account are empty.
This part was ended with everyone reminded of the works of the Holy Spirit particularly those written in John 14: 26 and John 16: 8- 11.
UNUSED OR UNEXERCISED FAITH. A body without regular physical exercise cannot run and expect to finish the race, more so win it. It will certainly stop and turn back even sans external factors since the internal constraint of inability to continue suffices to disqualify itself and give up.
The musculophysiological doctrine of disuse atrophy governs faith as well. Muscles decrease in size and power when not use. Faith behaves in no different manner towards its unused. This is in the sense that faith that is not put to the test will fail to endure unavoidable trials that are to come. That is without saying that the Word from which faith comes atrophies. It is far from the truth. The Word remains and if heeded will work miracles.
During one of the Sheperd’s Classes I have attended in our local church, KKM-LSFI, I heard one minister saying, “Without faith, there is nothing to test”. Man by himself is nothing against the trials of this world. Man would either crumble against it or avoid it. But faith dares for victory and thus makes man an overcomer of this world. This is what is written in 1 John 5:4. It is not man who overcomes but by his faith.
It has to be made clear, however, that faith does not invite tests in the life of a man. Every man is subject to the need to travail against the storms of life. And the one who does it and endures with faith is the real victor.
Testing should then be embrace. The Word illustrates this in a much better way. In 1 Samuel 17:45- 48, we can see that the young David was not contented at drawing the lines of battle but breaks forth towards it with faith in the name of the Lord of Hosts (not with spear, sword, javelin) and decapitated the enemy. Every tests that comes man’s way should then be subjected to the test of faith.
Clearly, faith is the antidote of trials. Never will reason or whatsoever avail in the same way. Faith then must be at the forefront of our action to extinguish the “darts of the evil one” and move on to finish or overcome. Faith spells the difference between the one who progresses in his journey and the one who turns back to the starting line. Faith does not skirt the trial and thereby weakens but fights it, endures it, and wins! This is what is written in Romans 5: 3- 5.
During the discussion, when I asked the question this was the first response of one participant albeit it was lack of faith so we had to agree on unused or unexercised faith. Faith is never lacking in anyone who have heard. The size of faith depends on the measure Christ granted to one at any point of his life. Thus, it is more on whether such a measure of faith is use or not by the grantee.
FEAR AND DISMAY. This one acts against endurance in the same manner as unexercised faith… Moreover, fear blinds man of the power and might of his God. Also, fear brings out man’s real standing when it comes to trusting God. We have this tendency to compare. And when that time comes that the problem, enemy, test or trial is monstrous as compared to our ability to overcome, fear/ dismay creeps in. It then whispers to the will and spirit to give up crushing endurance.
Again, fear creeps in only because God is taken out of the equation. The Israelites have been corrected similarly often on their stand with the Lord. One example we can read in 2 Chronicles 20:17 states, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you”. Our stand in the Lord will do the action for us because the Lord is with us. He never leaves us nor forsake us He says, so we must not leave Him.
Thus, that tendency to compare (mostly with things we sensed, grasp, understand) is in truth a faithless exercise of reason and a blatant display of ingratitude to the Almighty in Heaven.
LACK OF PREPARATION. We were all led into this one when one participant answered the question by saying “absence of support or material”. It is true. Even the great Lance Armstrong will acknowledge the vital role of his team in his numerous conquest of Tour de France. And our favorite Michael Jeffrey Jordan had not started amassing NBA rings until such a time that he learned to involved his team mates while maintaining impeccable shooting skill. So we can also move to prepare ourselves and at the same time prepare our support base.
Preparation spells the difference between the ignorant and the wise or between a trained military unit and a riotous mob. Thus, we all know what happens when we disregard preparation.
But how should we prepare? Preparation in whatever discipline usually involves imitation of the real thing. Team Pacquiao does it by employing a sparring mate for Manny who is closed to the physical attributes (height, reach) and boxing skill of the real opponent. Climactic condition of the fight venue is even given consideration.
Preparation in the spiritual realm is no different. We can read in Revelations 4:8- 10 that heavenly beings never cease to worship the Lord day and night.
We can also read in Job 11: 13 that state, “If you prepare your heart you will stretch your hand towards him”. There have been too many revelations about stretching your hand to God. Stretch your hand this time is a command to worship the Lord.
Our whole life here on earth is but a preparation to the life that is to come. As we have read in the book of Revelations, the heavenly beings are there to worship God incessantly day and night. Thus, worshipping the Lord everyday of our life is then a preparation for us for that life to come. No inmate had raised a question at this point. I suppose the life of worship is no question (acceptable) to them. Personally, that is one joyful thing to realize.
FAILURE TO MATURE. You do not expect the immature to behave like a man who can hurdle the test or struggles of life. An immature cannot watch out for trouble ahead because all he cares about are the pleasures and necessities of life. Like a child; he cannot watch out for himself, therefore cannot endure. There is a need to act our age. This is what is written in 1 Corinthians 16: 13- 14 that states, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong”.
An immature also has no ability to stand up for Christ. He does not have the strength to use faith. And like a doubter, finds himself blown to and fro by the wind. This is what is written in Hebrew 5: 12- 14. “Milk” is not enough to sustain continues growth and development. We need to “cry” for more. We need to go the distance. We need to take that step to progress.