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Our study relates to the importance of enduring adversity in the Christian life. When Betty and I were married on December 19, 1952, I was in the U.S. Navy. After being released from active duty in August, 1953, I immediately enrolled in Pensacola Junior college. Eleven years later I was awarded the Doctor of Theology degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I was the proud owner of three degrees. By then Betty and I had four children. We learned how to struggle and make do with very little. But we also learned about endurance in another way, the work of the ministry. In pastorates which paid minimal salaries and expected maximum dedication, we paid the price. Yet, the work of the ministry is the greatest work in the world. The title of Baptist minister says enough. So, let’s look at some advice a senior pastor, Paul, shared with a young pastor, Timothy.
Endurance sometimes means taking the time to develop new leaders (vv. 1-2). Some pastors occasionally voice the complaint about the lack of mature leaders in the congregation. They interpret the command to “commit thou to faithful men” as advice to accept the call to a mature church where the pastor can put to use his knowledge gained from his theological training. On the contrary, the Bible was quite specific. Believers are to take new believers and develop them to provide a group of faithful followers. Taking Acts 6:1-7 as the guide, I felt that every deacon ought to be able to do more than general ministry. So, I gave the deacons a crash course on how to build up a sermon. Philip, one of the first six set aside by the church (Acts 6:6, 26) won the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ, baptized the new convert (6:38), and preached at all the towns (Acts 6:40).
Effective pastors must be prepared to make difficult choices (vv. 3-5). The Bible regularly compares the Christian life to two of our experiences which require physical activities, the life of the soldier and requirements for successful athletic endeavors. The military places intense physical demands on the participants. No graduate from basic training can forget the first military haircut as prized hair-dos fell unceremoniously to the floor. Life was about to get worse. Even after basic training, difficult decisions must be made. Can one live with enforced family separations, spouse in foreign countries, or on the seas? Even at home, career personnel face decisions about permanent versus temporary housing, and what the Bible calls being entangled with “the affairs of this life” (v. 4). Along those lines those choosing to excel in athletic endeavors face long, arduous hours of endless repetitions of exercise as well as rigid restrictions on diets. At the heart of professional athletic competition lies the emphatic edict that all striving must be guided lawfully. The recent example of athletics being stripped of their awards are vivid reminders of the penalties for breaking the rules.
Endurance takes on a different meaning when we remember how it relates to others (vv. 9-10). The most significant of the two is the example of Jesus. Whatever the heavy load we are destined to bear, we rejoice in what our Lord did to redeem us. His resurrection from the dead is our guarantee of life beyond the grave (v. 8). Consequently, our physical state, whether being bound in prison or called to serve in a small church, the Word of God is not bound. This brings us to the second group which we must remember, the “elect,” those who have been born again and now hold the rank of one of God’s special people, even in small groups.
Finally, we endure because of the beauty of the Gospel message (vv. 11-13). These words sound like the verses of a triumphant hymn of praise. Because we are dead with Him, we shall live with Him (v. 11). Conversely, if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him (v. 12). However, whoever denies Him before others, will experience His denial of them (Matt. 10:32). Even in the face of deliberate rejection of His amazing offer of grace, He yet abides faithful in making His offer of salvation a genuine invitation to be saved (v. 13).
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