In the first century B.C., the Roman poet Virgil wrote, “Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.”
But where does such endurance come from? Because it certainly doesn’t seem to come easy, does it!? Is it only through repeated exposure to adverse conditions that we can develop endurance? Or is there another — perhaps even better — way to build endurance?
The prophet Isaiah gives us his answer. Speaking around 700 years before Christ, he describes Jesus so clearly it’s astounding. In fact, in Luke chapter 4, Jesus himself told the people of his own home town that he was the fulfillment of words spoken by Isaiah, words that we find in Isaiah 61.
What a beautiful portrait Isaiah paints of Jesus! He is the Chosen One, sent to proclaim good news to the poor. He is the one sent to heal broken hearts, to release people from their captivity to sin, guilt and shame. He is on a mission to bring comfort to all who grieve and mourn. He restores hope and praise to the lips of those who are hopeless and in despair.
Then Isaiah gives us insight into his view of what creates endurance, toughness and resilience. And this is so important for us to hear. Because life can sometimes knock the stuffing right out of us. And getting back up afterwards, after a fall or a failure, is is never easy. But Isaiah tells us that it’s Jesus who helps us do that. Faith in Jesus will drastically increase our endurance capability.
Isaiah likes to put it in more picturesque terms. He says that Jesus turns us into “oak trees.” And that’s a good metaphor. Oak trees have a tap root that sinks deep into the soil. They also have an extensive root system that spreads horizontally underneath the soil in a network that goes as far as four to seven times the diameter of the tree’s crown.
This makes oak trees very durable and able to withstand strong storms. They are tough and resilient.
Even when an oak tree is cut down for lumber, the wood itself is extremely strong. The U.S.S. Constitution reportedly received its nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 because of its oak hull. The hull was so tough that the cannon balls of the British war ships literally bounced off it.
So, if you would like to be more tough and resilient, if you would like to build endurance for this very tough race we call life, going through adverse conditions can no doubt help. But true endurance builds when we, by faith, are in the hands of our everlasting (and everlastingly kind and powerful) Savior, Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:1-3, NIV).
Our Bible reading for Friday, September 25, is Isaiah 60:1 – 62:12, Ephesians 4:1-16 and Proverbs 23:19-28.
Lord Jesus, you are my everlasting Savior and my Lord. Send me your Holy Spirit to strengthen my heart and mind, and make me resilient, tough and enduring by faith in you.