I’ve been slowly (very slowly) going through God’s “Steps to Success” (found in 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8). After looking at faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control, the next attribute is “patient endurance.” The Greek word used here, ὑπομονή (hypomonē), is also sometimes translated as perseverance. Each definition has its own nuances. Let’s start with “patient endurance.”
I confess in particular that I’m not very good at the “patient” part of “patient endurance.” I endure, all right, but I do it with plenty of griping and self-pity.
Peter was writing to churches that were experiencing persecution. Had I lived then, patient endurance would have been the last thing on my to-do list, down at the bottom after “hide” and “run screaming.” Yet, many of the churches must have managed to endure, because Paul says he boasts about the Thessalonians’ perseverance, and the Spirit commends several church in Revelation 2 and 3. How did they accomplish this?
If we prefer to define ὑπομονή as perseverance, we still come up short.
I’m not surprised that Peter lists this after self-control. I’m good at self-control for a short period of time (such as right after making my New Year’s resolutions), but sticking with something over the long haul is much harder.
Considering the success of most diets, gym memberships, and other self-improvement schemes, I’m not the only one who struggles with perseverance. It’s hard. It involves delayed gratification, something we fail miserably at. In fact, it’s so hard that most of the time, we just can’t do it.
The more I look at Peter’s list, the more obvious it becomes that we can’t do any of these things, not for a prolonged period, not in our own strength. We might grit our teeth and get it right for a day or a week or so, but then we succumb. As Jesus observed, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) And Paul wrote, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
God is the one who has to teach us endurance. One of His methods involves suffering. How many sermons have you heard on the benefits of suffering? When Mom or Dad told us that hardships “produce character,” they were merely quoting Paul: “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)
Another is mentioned in James 1:3—“… because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Allowing God to teach me to endure will produce fruit. And since the power to persevere comes from the Holy Spirit, that fruit will last into eternity.
What fruit will I produce in return for my suffering and testing? James 1:4 points out, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Mature and complete. That sounds like success to me.
Title quoted from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act I, sc. 1