|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES
|LACKING NOTHING: Endurance
Charles H. Dyer
I AM REVEALED
Feb 11 2013
Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger transferred into Notre Dame University and tried out as a walk-on player for the Notre Dame
football team. Since childhood, Rudy had dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame. Now he wanted to prove to
everyone that he was a doer, not just a dreamer.
Neither the coaches nor the players believed Rudy could succeed. At 5’6” and 165 pounds he was just too small, too
slow…too average to have any chance to make the team. But Rudy proved them all wrong. His grit, determination, and
heart more than made up for his size and limited athletic ability. Rudy made the scout team…the group of unknowns
with the thankless job of helping the main squad prepare for each week’s game. Glorified tackling dummies!
Rudy threw himself into the role. Though he only had a fraction of the athletic ability of the starting players, he exerted
twice the effort. His persistence and desire inspired other members of the team. For two years he served on the scout
team. Bruised, beaten up, battered…but never broken in spirit, Rudy lived out his dream.
In the final game of his senior year the starting players persuaded the coach to allow Rudy to “suit up” for the game. In
the closing seconds the coach sent him in from the sidelines, and Rudy made one spectacular play. As the game ended
the other players hoisted Rudy on their shoulders and carried him off the field. Rudy was a winner!
Rudy Ruettiger’s inspiring story touches a tender spot in all our hearts. We like stories that focus on individuals who
endure in spite of adversity…who persevere to overcome great obstacles. The true story of Rudy made a wonderful
motion picture. And as a speaker and corporate trainer he is still motivating people to strive to be their best.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
We love stories of individuals who overcome and persevere…but our perception is often distorted. We focus on the
“happy ending” and forget the pain and struggle it took to get there. We imagine ourselves being hoisted onto the
shoulders of the other Notre Dame players and forget the two years of physical punishment and pounding Rudy
Ruettiger endured to earn the right to sit on those shoulders.
A little bit of Walter Mitty lives in us all. Walter Mitty is James Thurber’s fictional character who spent most of his dreary
life daydreaming about great exploits…starring himself as the hero, of course! Walter Mitty dreamed great dreams, but
he never bridged the chasm between dreaming and doing. The world has a surplus of Walter Mitty’s…and a shortage of
What separates the dreamers from the doers? One big difference is endurance. All of us dream, but few are willing to
pay the price required to make those dreams reality. When the going gets tough, most stop going! Endurance is the
ability to stay the course…to pay the price…to keep going when everyone else says it’s time to quit.
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
The prophet Jeremiah served God at a time when God’s prophets were not popular. The people of Judah refused to
respond to Jeremiah’s call to repent. One time Jeremiah thought the people were about to respond. But God opened
his eyes to the harsh reality of human sinfulness. “I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize
that they had plotted against me” (Jeremiah 11:19).
Sweet Jeremiah suddenly saw behind the smiling faces and understood what the people actually thought of him, his
message, and his God. Jeremiah cried out in discouragement, and God reminded him of the need for endurance. “If
you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe
country, how will you mange in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
Sometimes it helps our own understanding of the Bible if we translate God’s thoughts into the language of today. God
threw a cold bucket of reality on Jeremiah and said, “Jeremiah, if you are struggling to make it through the Boston
Marathon, what will you do when I enter you in the Kentucky Derby? If you stumble on rock-covered roads, what will you
do when I hand you a machete and have you hack your way through impenetrable jungle? Prepare yourself, Jeremiah.
It will get harder before it gets easier!”
So how would you feel if you were Jeremiah? (Anyone who says “Great!” needs to go back and read the chapter on
honesty!) None of us likes pain, struggle, or hardship. But sometimes that is the only way God can accomplish His work
in us…and use us to make an impact on others.
IT IS WELL
Hanging in the lobby of Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel is a handwritten poem. Neither the penmanship nor the
paper give this poem its special place on the wall. Its author, Horatio Spafford, scratched out the words on a blank sheet
of hotel stationery. The poem is special because of the grandeur of its thoughts…and the circumstances that led to its
Philip Bliss later set the words to music, and the song “It Is Well with My Soul” remains a classic Christian song of hope.
Of all the Christian sons I know, this simple song by Spafford and Bliss touches my soul like no other. What prompted
Spafford to write the words of the song…and how those words ended up on the lobby wall of this venerable Jerusalem
hotel is an intriguing story.
Horatio Spafford lived in Chicago in the late 1800s. Friends would describe Spafford as a family man, a lawyer…and a
Christian. Yet within the space of two short years this Christian gentleman saw his world collapse. In October 1871, the
Great Chicago Fire wiped out Chicago’s central business district…including Spafford’s law offices. The fire also
devastated Chicago’s economy, threatening several real estate ventures in which Spafford had invested heavily. One
year later these ventures failed. Both the fire and the real estate failure hurt Horatio Spafford financially. But the worst
was yet to come.
Spafford sent his wife and four children on a trip to Europe while he tried to put his personal finances back in order. His
family set sail on the Ville du Harve, one of the premier passenger ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean. But on November
21, 1873, the Ville du Harve was struck by another vessel and sank in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Spafford’s
wife miraculously survived the shipwreck…but all four children were lost at sea. The cable Spafford received from his
wife described the magnitude of their loss in a few simple words: SAVED ALONE. WHAT SHALL I DO.
As soon as he received the cable, Spafford boarded a train for the East Coast to book passage on the next available
ship. He wanted…he needed…to be with his wife in this time of sorrow and tragedy. During the journey across the
Atlantic the captain summoned Spafford to his cabin as the ship reached the spot where the Ville du Harve had gone
Stop and put yourself in Horatio Spafford’s place. Grief stricken. Alone. Financially drained. Physically drained.
Emotionally drained. How would you fare under the hammer blows of trouble he had faced? When all life’s crutches and
supports are kicked away, how well would you be able to stand?
Horatio Spafford left us two written records that serve as windows into his soul during this dark, lonely period. The first is
a letter he wrote to a sister-in-law.
do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs, and there, before very long, shall we
be too. In the meantime, thanks to God, we have an opportunity to serve and praise Him for His love and mercy to
us and ours. “I will praise Him while I have my being.” May we each one arise, leave all, and follow Him.
Pause for just a second and read those words again…slowly. How could Horatio Spafford speak of “love,” “mercy,” and
“praise” in such a time of sorrow? What gave him the ability to thank God in the midst of personal pain? How could he
endure such heartache…and then turn tragedy into triumph?
Spafford shared his secret in his other writing…his poem that now hangs in the hotel lobby. In this poem Spafford
opened his heart as he put his thoughts to verse. Imagine for a moment you are Horatio Spafford, and read these words
as if you had just written them on a piece of hotel stationery with your fountain pen.
When sorrows like sea-billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin – O, the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll,
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!
How could Spafford respond with such assurance, joy, and peace? His was not a natural response. God had taught him
to say, “It is well with my soul.” He endured because he grasped God’s purpose, God’s protection, and God’s plan in the
events that seemed to swirl out of control all around him.
WELL DONE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
Several years ago I heard Spafford’s haunting words, and my eyes misted over as a lump formed in the back of my
throat. I had just delivered a eulogy for Bob Sturges, a dear friend who had died in an automobile accident, and the
soloist who followed me sang “It is Well with My Soul.” I sat on the platform looking out into the audience, but my eyes
kept drifting back to the closed coffin just below me. I stared at the wooden box that held the earthly remains of a
remarkable man. It seemed as if much of Odessa, Texas, agreed with me because the church was full of friends who
had come to say good-bye.
What was it about this man that allowed him to make such an impact on others? From my own experience I felt confident
it was Bob’s character and integrity. He was quiet…unassuming…humble…compassionate…
caring…thorough…committed to excellence. When I read through some of the cards and letters before the service, I
saw phrases like “an inspiration to teacher,” “a model for others,” “an influence to me,” and “an encourager.”
This dear saint, and his wonderful wife, made an impact on others because they consistently lived for Jesus Christ. In
good times…and bad. In easy times…and hard. In times of joy…and sorrow. In times of ease… and struggle. They
endured…and triumphed! Two days before the accident that ultimately took his life, Bob shared with a friend his
confidence that we live each day preparing ourselves for eternity…and he was prepared. Much like Enoch in the Old
Testament, he “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).
Bob’s life could be summarized in three words. He endured…persevered…and triumphed. From a human perspective
his life ended suddenly – abruptly. But God doesn’t make mistakes. This man of God lived every moment of his life as if
it might be his last, and he was ready when God called him to heaven. As I sat on the platform of the church, I wiped a
tear from my cheek and thought about the first words he may have heard when he opened his eyes in heaven. Perhaps
words like, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:…enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21 KJV).
THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH
James, the half brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, opened his book with startling words. Writing to those facing pain and
suffering, James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that
the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and
complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
The testing of faith produces perseverance, and perseverance produces maturity. James reminded his readers that the
proper response to problems will develop spiritual maturity. Perseverance is a process that produces depth of
character. But words alone can ring hollow. When individuals face life and death situations, they often need concrete
images to help them stay focused.
James understood his audience’s need to see God’s truth demonstrated in the lives of His followers. Later in his book
James pointed his readers to flesh-and-blood examples of patience and perseverance. “Brothers, as an example of
patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider
blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally
brought about” (James 5:10-11).
Many of us grew up hearing about the “patience of Job,” and reading about his “patience” in the King James Version of
my Bible. Then I studied Greek and learned that James actually spoke of the “perseverance of Job.” James used two
different words to describe “patience” and “perseverance.” The “prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” displayed
“patience,” and Job demonstrated “perseverance.” Let’s face it, Job didn’t always exhibit great patience! But he does
stand as a model of perseverance. Let’s wander down to the ash heap to spend some time with Job and his friends.
THE PERSEVERANCE OF JOB
Job lived most of his life in power and luxury. He served as the model for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” before
Time magazine ever existed. In a day when society measured wealth in livestock, Job dominated the “stock” market. He
owned 7,000 sheep (he covered the clothing market), 3,000 camels (he corralled the transportation industry), and 500
yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys (he cornered the farming sector). Simply put, “He was the greatest man among all the
people of the East” (Job 1:3).
But while many claw their way to the top by cutting corners or climbing over the backs of others, Job managed to reach
the pinnacle of success with his integrity intact. “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”
(Job 1:1). Honest businessman. Faithful husband. Good father. Job was almost too good to be true, as Satan tried to
Then one tragic day, the wheels came off. We learn in the first two chapters of the book that Job was a test case in the
cosmic struggle between God and Satan. Satan challenged Job’s motives…and God’s own worthiness to receive
worship. “Job is only in it for the blessings You bestow,” Satan charged. “Take away the blessings and see how much
he really cares for You.” Satan received God’s permission to test Job…and Job never knew what hit him!
In the space of a few hours Job went from prince to pauper. Before one messenger could finish telling Job about a
disaster, another messenger arrived with still more bad news. Foreign invaders stole all the oxen and donkeys. A freak
thunderstorm killed all the sheep. Foreign invaders stole all the camels. A freak storm blew over a house and killed all
his children. Bam! Four hammer blows of sorrow landed directly on Job.
But Satan was not through with Job. Having stripped him of his wealth, Satan set out to rob him of his health. Satan
“afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head” (Job 2:7). In misery and sorrow, Job “sat
among the ashes.” Then Satan used Job’s own wife to whisper the final words of temptation when Job was most
vulnerable. “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
Though spoken out of hurt, anger, and sorrow for her stricken husband and lost children, the words of Job’s wife still
asked a haunting question. How could Job possibly maintain his integrity after being abandoned by God? After all, in
two of the first four calamities God had not stepped in to protect Job from the attacks of others. And we call the other
two calamities “acts of God”…pointing to God Himself as the author of the evil now holding Job in its vise-like grip.
How did Job survive spiritually when the wheels came off? What gave him his stability and his ability to endure in such
trying circumstances? Job provided four answers in his extended debate with those who tried to comfort him.
Endurance Comes from Looking Inward
Job remained on course spiritually because he set his internal compass properly. When he lost everything, he reminded
himself that the Sovereign God who had granted him wealth also had the right to take it away. “Naked I came from my
mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be
praised” (Job 1:21).
Job had no idea why he was suffering. He knew nothing of the contest between God and Satan. From Job’s perspective
it seemed to be a case of mistaken identity. God had chosen to punish him though he was innocent. Job longed for an
opportunity to meet face-to-face with God so he could clear his name. But, from Job’s perspective, even if God wrongly
punished him, he refused to stop living in a way that pleased God. “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice,
the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul, as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak wickedness, and my tongue will utter no deceit” (Job 27:2-4).
Others can take your reputation, your riches, your health, and even your happiness. But no one can take away your
integrity…except you. Job’s world fell apart. Right seemed to become wrong. Up became down. Righteousness
brought pain instead of blessing. When life strips away all the external rewards and controls, how would you respond?
When you no longer must act a part or play a role expected by others, what would the “real” you say and do?
When Job reached the irreducible minimum, all he had left inside were his convictions and his integrity. Right was right,
wrong was wrong. And Job refused to compromise on his convictions, or his integrity. His final speech to his friends
ended with Job taking a series of oaths proclaiming his commitment to integrity. He began by attesting, “I made a
covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1). In the following verses Job affirmed his commitment to
sexual purity, honesty, justice, compassion, and faithfulness. In each case he stated on oath to God, “If I have secretly
sinned in this area, may I be judged for my actions!”
Have you made a commitment similar to the one made by Job? Have you committed in your heart that, come what may,
you will not depart from living a life of integrity? Whatever the temptation. Whatever the circumstances. Whatever the
cost to you personally or professionally. Looking inside and setting our internal moral compass is the first step in
Endurance Comes from Looking Upward
Job had his internal compass set. When trouble came, he could endure because he looked inward at that compass of
integrity. But he also needed a fixed point of reference to help him stay on course. Job’s fixed point of reference was
the character and nature of God. Job could endure because he looked to God, even if it appeared as though God had
When Job spoke with his three friends, their attempts to comfort provided no help at all. Job needed to speak to God.
As the incessant speeches of the three friends wore on, he turned from them to seek out God. In frustration he cried
out, “What you [three friends] know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. But I desire to speak to the Almighty and to
argue my case with God. You, however, smear me with lies; you are worthless physicians, all of you! If only you would
be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (Job 13:2-5).
Job wanted…needed…to speak with God. But from Job’s perspective, God was the Author of his misfortunes. Why,
then, seek out God? Ultimately it was a matter of trust. He didn’t understand why God permitted him to suffer, but Job
still trusted in God. “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will
turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!” (Job 13:15-16).
I find Job’s faith in God remarkable. He did not know of the cosmic struggle causing his pain. (We do!) He did not
possess any of God’s Word to give him comfort, perspective, or hope. (We do!) He did not know God had already
decreed he would not die. (We do!) He did not know God would reward his faithfulness and restore his life. (We do!)
Job knew far less about God than we do, but he trusted God completely.
At one point Job cried out, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as
my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” (Job 16:19-21).
Job believed someone in heaven heard his words and presented his case to God. And that individual, whoever he was,
had Job’s interests at heart.
What Job only knew intuitively, we know for certain. We have two advocates in heaven pleading for us: God the Holy
Spirit and God the Son. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul reminded his readers that “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in
accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). The writer of Hebrews described Jesus as the “great high priest who has
gone through the heavens” and who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Because of Jesus’
ministry for us the writer urged his readers to go confidently before God in prayer. “Let us then approach the throne of
grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Job endured because he knew God was still seated on His throne, in control of all people, events, and circumstances.
Job knew he could continue to trust God, and he knew God would hear, and eventually act on, his heartfelt cries. Job
had no idea when…or how…God would respond. But he endured because he knew God would respond…sometime.
He just had to hang on till then.
Endurance Comes from Looking Outward
Reading through the book of Job reminded me of the one and only time I drove a car in England. I vividly remember the
first “roundabout,” the circular intersection where roads and highways merge. I was seated on the “wrong” side of the
car, driving on the “wrong” side of the highway, merging the “wrong” way on this circular roundabout…all the while
watching for other cars and the proper exit! I concentrated so much on not hitting other drivers and on staying in the
proper lane that I missed the turnoff…twice!
Job’s three friends drove their dilapidated theological truck onto Job’s roundabout, and kept going round and round.
Same flawed arguments. Same incorrect conclusions. Same self-righteous sense of superiority. Job finally blurts out, “I
have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What
ails you that you keep on arguing?” (Job 16:2-3).
All right! Give it to them, Job! They deserve it! The last thing we need in our time of struggle is self-appointed sages
with simplistic solutions for our difficult problems. In our time of pain and hurt we are tempted to lash out at those around
us…and these three made tempting targets. In seeking to defend God’s justice they assumed Job had sinned – that
somehow he deserved the punishment he appeared to be receiving.
In the end God justified Job and condemned the three friends. “I am angry with you [Eliphaz, the ‘senior partner of these
three stooges’] and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:
God ordered the three friends to take “seven bulls and seven rams and…sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves” (Job
42:8a). Then God asked Job to pray for his friends. “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer” (Job
42:8b). I suspect Job’s head shot up and furrows lined his brow as he replayed in his mind what God had just said.
What! You want me to serve as the intercessor for my friends? These are the ones who have been harassing me!
Christ’s disciples must have been as surprised as Job when they heard Jesus tell them, “You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”
(Matthew 5:43-44). God commands us to endure the problems and pains of this life, but He does not want our reaction
to those problems and pain to hold us hostage. Harboring grudges, nursing bitterness, and holding on to hatred will
imprison an individual. Locked in a cell of anger, they will allow the past to control their future.
Sometimes when reading the Bible, we suddenly gain new insight on a passage we have read countless times before.
The truth was always there. We just didn’t notice it before. I made one such discovery in the last chapter of Job. God
asked Job to pray for his friends, and Job did. “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous
again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). The King James Version of the Bible says the same
thing, though slightly more poetically: “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.”
The key to the passage is the timing of God’s restoration of Job. I had always assumed God restored Job’s health and
wealth as soon as Job’s encounter with God ended. But Job 42:10 clearly says God restored Job after he prayed for his
friends. In looking outward to minister to others, Job experienced God’s blessing.
It’s all too easy to become self-absorbed when facing problems and troubles. God taught Job (and us) a valuable
lesson. One way to endure problems is to look beyond ourselves to others. In ministering to others we will find the
strength and endurance to handle our own struggles.
Endurance Comes from Looking Forward
Job looked inward for integrity, he looked upward for stability, and he looked outward for service. All three helped him
endure. But Job looked in one additional direction…and it provided hope. He looked forward to the time when God
would make all things right!
Job expected to die from the disease devastating his body. But Job could endure because he looked beyond this life to
a life that existed beyond the grave. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not
another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).
Job could endure because he somehow sensed life didn’t end at death. Remember, Job had none of the Bible. Based
on his age and other background details he must have lived in the patriarchal period – hundreds of years before Moses
penned the first books of the Bible. He did not know God’s plan for the ages. He didn’t comprehend the death…and
resurrection of God’s Son. And he had no detailed knowledge of God’s future resurrection or of the new heavens and
new earth where all God’s people will spend eternity.
Yet, Job instinctively knew there was more to life than just physical existence on this earth. And he knew God would one
day make everything right. He could confidently state, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will
come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). He could endure because he looked beyond his circumstances to the future.
RUN THE RACE
When I think of endurance, I think of marathon runners. Their grit, determination, and drive are worthy examples of the
endurance we ought to display in our lives. The writer of Hebrews compared our spiritual life to a “race marked out for
us” (Hebrews 12:1). He urged us to “run with perseverance.” We need to stay the course. But what are the items on
our mental checklist we must remember if we are to run with perseverance? The writer focused on the same four items
that helped Job endure.
“And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in
every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so
that you may have great endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:10-11)
CHARACTER COUNTS, by Charles H. Dyer, Copyright 2010, Moody Publishers.