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Enduring Well: Four Ways to Build ResilienceMalcolm Webber
…Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered… (Zech. 13:7)
The enemies of the Gospel target leaders because of the impact a leader’s breakdown will have on many people. Anticipating the significantly increased stresses of leadership, not a few people who have genuine callings to lead instead quietly embrace other life directions.
But suffering is not limited to leaders; we all are called by God to endure adversity. This is promised many times in the Bible:
…Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22)
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, (Phil. 1:29)
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim. 3:12)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Pet. 4:12)
Moreover, this suffering is not only persecution for the sake of the Gospel. We will experience many different kinds of suffering in this life. Peter wrote that we will experience a diversity of adversity:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Pet. 1:6)
“Trials” are tests of character – tests to see if we can stand up to the pressure and stress. In persecution, for example, the devil entices men to give up their faith for fear of suffering ridicule or physical harm. A temptation is a trial to see if you will choose holiness over sin. Suffering is a trial to see if you will serve God even when things go wrong (cf. Job). False doctrine is a test; it may offer us pride and elitism, or an easier way. Praise can even be a test of our humility (Prov. 27:21).
There are many kinds of trials. They can be related to physical health, marriage and family, relationships, finances, career, and more. Life is full of adversity!
But Peter goes on to say that these trials have a clear purpose:
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Pet. 1:7)
True faith is tested by trials just as gold (far inferior to faith) is proved by fire. Gold is a precious metal but it can be mixed with impurities that lower its value and spoil its beauty. So it needs to be refined. In the intense heat of fire in a crucible, the impurities rise to the surface of the melted gold and are skimmed off by the goldsmith. In the same way, the heavenly Goldsmith heats the gold (our lives), brings the impurities to the surface and takes them away; and He does this repeatedly – until when He looks into the gold He sees impurities no longer but only His own image.
If gold that perishes must be tried by fire, how much more does our faith, which is being proved for eternity, need to be tried and purified by fire (cf. Dan. 11:35; 12:10; Rev. 3:18)? God is preparing us for eternity.
Thus, our suffering is for a purpose: to transform our lives and to bring God glory.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Cor. 4:7)
But the transformation is not automatic. Sufferings do not automatically change us. It’s how we respond that counts. It is our response to adversity that determines whether it will help us or hurt us. Sadly, probably more often than not, sufferings destroy people because of their bad responses.
- Self-pity. “Poor me. Why does everything happen to me?”
- Anger, resentment or bitterness toward God and others. “I have a right to be angry because they did this to me!”
- Blaming others or our circumstances. “It’s their fault.”
- Condemning ourselves. “I’m useless. I always fail. It’s always my fault.”
- “God has abandoned me and no one understands or wants to help me.”
- “I give up. There is nothing I can do.”
To “endure well” means to respond well to suffering and actually to grow through the suffering – to find God in a deeper way; to be more conformed to the image of Christ.
- Identity in Christ
- True perspective
Identity in Christ
The lie says, “I have failed. I am a failure.” This condemnation is always echoed by the devil’s voice internally and sometimes by the voices of other people around us. The truth, however, says, “I have failed. But I am in Christ and, by His grace, I will overcome!”
Paul leads us through a beautiful and powerful understanding of our union with Christ in Romans 8. He begins the chapter with our complete forgiveness in Christ:
…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Rom. 8:1)
And he closes the chapter with our absolute victory in Christ:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)
Because of who we are in Christ, nothing can overcome us. If we inwardly look at God, we will not fail!
Peter, the apostle, failed miserably when he denied Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ betrayal. Can you imagine what he faced internally after that? But Peter didn’t wallow in self-condemnation. He repented, got back up on his feet, and headed back into the battle! Then, several months later, on the Day of Pentecost, 3000 were saved and the New Testament church that would change the world was birthed!
Identify other biblical characters who could have been tempted to give up because of their own failures, and yet they pushed through, looking at God with surrender and trust, and eventually saw great success. Specifically, what did they do to overcome self-condemnation? What were the results?
True identity in Christ does not deny our frequent failures but it deals with them differently. In ourselves, we will fail and deserve condemnation. But we are in Christ. The solution is not denying the fact that we have failed. Neither is it rallying more will-power so that, by our own strength, we won’t ever fail again. We must inwardly turn to God and the truth of His Word. Paul wrote:
I can do all this through Him [Christ] who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:13)
The biblical reality is that in Christ, “we are more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37)!
The power to change is not in us. The power is in Him, and He is in us. Look at Him and as you look at Him you will be changed by His Spirit from glory to glory.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)
Moreover, because we have been forgiven in Christ we can and must forgive those who have wronged us – including the very people who may have provided the suffering for us!
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”… (Luke 23:34)
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matt. 6:14-15)
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
… [Love] keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Cor. 13:5)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Col. 3:13)
We’re in Christ, so we’ve been forgiven for all wrongs against God and we forgive all others who have wronged us.
This is the path to healthy thinking and enduring well.
Boldly declare these statements from God’s Word:
You are God’s possession, you are His child, His workmanship. You are His friend, His temple, His vessel, a co-laborer, and His witness. You are a soldier, an ambassador and a building, a temple. You’re his husbandry. You’re a minister and an instrument. You’re His chosen, His beloved, His precious jewel, and His heritage. In Christ, you have been redeemed by blood, set free from sin, set free from Satan, set free from the kingdom of darkness – chosen before the foundation of the world, predestined to be like Jesus, forgiven of all your trespasses, washed in blood, given a sound mind, given the Holy Spirit, adopted into God’s family, justified freely by His grace, given all things pertaining to life, given great and precious promises, given the ministry of reconciliation, given authority over the enemy, given access to God, and given wisdom. In Christ, you are complete, totally in Him, free forever from sin’s power. You’re sanctified. You’re fit for the Master’s use. You’re loved eternally. You’re eternally kept in the palm of His hand. You’re kept from falling, kept by His very power, and not condemned. You’re one with the Lord. You’re on your way to Heaven, quickened by His mighty power, seated in the heavenly places. You’re the head and not the tail. You’re the light in darkness. You’re a candle in a dark place. You’re a city set on a hill. You’re the salt of the earth. You are His sheep. You are a citizen of Heaven. You’re hidden with Christ in God, protected from the evil one. You’re kept by the power of God. You’re secure in Christ. You’re set on a rock. You’re more than a conqueror. You’re born again. You’re a victor. You’re healed by His stripes, covered by His blood, sheltered by His wings, hidden in His secret place. In Him, you have access to the Father, have a home in Heaven waiting for you, have all things in Christ, have a living hope, and an anchor to your soul, a hope sure and steadfast, authority to tread on serpents, power to witness, the tongue of the learned, the mind of Christ, boldness and access, and peace with God. In Christ you can do all things, find mercy, come boldly to His throne, quench the fiery darts of the enemy, tread on him like a serpent, declare liberty to the captives, pray always, chase a thousand, defeat and overcome the enemy, and tread Satan under foot.
The truth is that God will soon bring these times of pain to an end:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet… (Rom. 16:20)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev. 21:4)
The truth is that even now we are in Christ seated in a position of victory!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6-7)
This is how to endure well. Even if we die through the suffering, we die in hope and trust! And we will receive the reward of our faith in eternity.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Heb. 11:39-40)
Truly, we cannot be overcome!
When we see things from an eternal perspective we will be able to respond with gratitude to God, no matter what He allows us to experience. There are many biblical passages that describe this response to suffering. As we experience adversity of various kinds, we are to look at God and look at eternity. Then, as we see things from His perspective, we will be able to actually rejoice and we will not be destroyed by the adversity.
…my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me. (Ps. 13:4-6)
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will You let Your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand. (Ps. 16:9-11)
I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. (Ps. 31:7)
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights. (Hab. 3:17-19)
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23)
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Phil. 2:17-18)
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church. (Phil. 1:24)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)
…This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Pet. 1:4-6)
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (1 Pet. 4:12-16)
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-17)
Paul did face some very awful adversity. Yet he describes it as “light and momentary.” This is the thinking of a man who endures well!
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were severely beaten and thrown into prison. Yet they continued to praise God:
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God… (Acts 16:25)
In all the adversity Paul faced he continually chose to look inwardly at God, fixing his eyes on eternity. As a result, he did not “lose heart.” He was not overcome by adversity, but, in fact, the suffering worked for him a greater eternal glory. Paul endured well.
For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. (Deut. 20:4)
…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)
Therefore, since we have a great High Priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)
…God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6)
for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Jesus showed us a very dramatic example of what it means to trust God. In the early chapters of John’s Gospel, we read about the severe enmity of the Jewish leaders against Him. Many times it is said that they wanted, and even tried, to kill Him!
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him. (John 5:16)
For this reason they tried all the more to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18)
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill Him. (John 7:1)
At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? (John 7:25)
At this they tried to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come. (John 7:30)
The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about Him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest Him. (John 7:32)
Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him. (John 7:44)
As it is, you are looking for a way to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God… (John 8:40)
At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:59)
Again His Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone Him, (John 10:31)
Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (John 10:39)
Jesus faced extreme opposition! He lived in the midst of continual adversity. If not for His deep trust in His Father to protect Him He would have been overcome with fear. Then in John 11, after hearing about Lazarus’ sickness, Jesus decided to go back to Judea, into the very middle of the persecution:
So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days, and then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (John 11:6-7)
His disciples were horrified:
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone You, and yet You are going back?” (John 11:8)
Look at Jesus’ response in verses 9-10:
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” (John 11:9-10)
Using an analogy of walking in the daylight and so not stumbling, Jesus said, “I’m walking in union with My Father, doing His will. The Father will protect Me. I won’t stumble. I won’t be destroyed.” This was His faith in God. He knew that as He was living in fellowship with the Father, He would be protected.
This is your same hope. Trust God! Walk with Him and believe that He will take you through every adversity. He will not let you stumble. He will not let you be destroyed.
One of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible is found in the Book of Daniel when Daniel’s three friends were given the choice of either worshipping the idol or being thrown into the fire. Their response demonstrated their great faith:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)
God will deliver you! But, even if nothing ever does change in this life, we will still walk into eternal glory and that truth will give us great courage! Truly, when you walk with God you cannot lose!
In response to a negative situation, the lie says, “I can’t do anything about this.” In contrast, the truth says, “I may not be able to change everything, but here’s what I can do about this.” Even if it’s only a small thing at the time, internally taking responsibility, rather than simply resigning in despair, is the path of healthy thinking.
Perhaps the very first thing you can do is to bless and do good to those who may be creating the stress for you.
… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
Don’t be passive. Don’t withdraw. Take responsibility. Act. Move ahead in some way.
Avoiding responsibility in the face of stress and difficult is unhealthy. People try to escape pressure in many ways through drugs, alcohol, immorality, entertainment, work, or even shopping. These are all ways of avoiding responsibility in the face of pressure. Instead of taking personal responsibility to do what we can, we escape into the fog of avoidance.
Don’t use the negative situation around you as an excuse for sin or spiritual laziness! Take responsibility. You may not be able to do much but what canyou do?
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Cor. 1:8-11)
Paul was under so much stress and faced so much imminent danger that, in his own strength, he was at the point of collapse.
But he didn’t collapse! Instead, inwardly, he looked at God and, by God’s grace, Paul found new strength and even deliverance from destruction.
Don’t be like the second kind of seed in the Parable of Sower (Matt. 13:1-23) that fell away because of trouble!
In Acts, the consistent habit of the early church was to respond to adversity with responsible action. They never backed down because of intimidation, fear or discouragement.
In Acts 4, they were commanded to stop preaching the Gospel, and yet they responded with even more boldness in prayer:
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of Your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)
In Acts 5, the leaders were arrested and threatened. In response, they replied, “We must obey God rather than men!” (v. 29). Even after they were flogged and threatened with execution, their response was this:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:41-42)
In Acts 6-7, Stephen was falsely accused and then stoned to death. In response, he committed himself to God and forgave his enemies. He couldn’t change his circumstances but he took responsibility to serve God in the midst of it.
In Acts 8, the church was severely persecuted. In response, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (v. 4).
The early church never backed down. Even when their strength was little, they kept moving ahead. They trusted God and did whatever they could do to serve Him.
So fight! Don’t give up. Even when it looks bad, God is still with you. Take responsibility. Move ahead! Even if you can’t move fast, just move! If you can run, then run. If you can only walk, then walk. If you can only crawl, then crawl. But move! Move ahead!
Those who grow in all four areas internally will be able to respond well to the adversity they experience.
In reality, everyone will experience many sufferings over their lifetime. The majority of people will be harmed by those sufferings. But, if you respond well, your adversity will work for you and not against you:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Cor. 4:17)
You may have failed in the past but today is a new day. You can do it differently going forward. You can grow. You can change. Start now!
These are the four critical areas of enduring well:
|The Lie||The Truth|
|Identity in Christ||I have failed. I am a failure.||I have failed. But I am in Christ and, by His grace, I will overcome!|
|True Perspective||What just happened is huge. It is the end of the world. Things are hopeless!||What just happened is bad but, in reality, it’s only a small thing. It’s not the end of the world. And, from the perspective of eternity, it’s nothing!|
|Faith||This bad thing will never change and will only get worse.||God can do all things. There is nothing too hard for Him!|
|Responsibility||I can’t do anything about this.||I may not be able to change everything, but here’s what I can do about this.|
If you do well in these four internal habits, you will do well in life!