“By your endurance you will save your souls.”
So ends the Gospel lesson appointed for Proper 28, Year C. It is a curious turn of phrase from Jesus who just seconds earlier told his disciples not to worry about wars and rumors of wars; not to stress over what to say when they are put on trial for their faith; to trust in him for the words and, by inference, the strength, when the time comes. I’m puzzled that Jesus would then immediately turn around and say something that sounds so “self-helpy” – so 21st century American.
I went digging through BibleWorks on that word, “endurance.” It appears all throughout the New Testament, and is a key part of two rather famous passages.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
In all three instances, the act of enduring trials brings forth blessings. In Luke it is the salvation of one’s soul. In Romans it is the hope that does not disappoint us. In James it is wholeness. These are all things that humans have been seeking after since the beginning. And as I read through the passages, it became clear that endurance is not about something that I accomplish. I’m not the one who steels myself in times of trial, but rather it is my finding peace in God that allows me to endure. It is my faith that carries me through the tough times. It is my faith that keeps me from believing my own PR in the good times. It is faith, which is a gift of grace, that makes it possible for me to have endurance.
It is faith that makes me whole, gives me hope, and saves my soul.