When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad (Ps.126:1-3).
The perseverance of the saints is with two goals in mind: we are to be obedient to the Lord throughout the rough times, and we hope in God to come through the rough times into the smoother ones, before too long.
All the great men and women in scripture endured rough times. If we want to be like them, we should examine their lives. Isaac and Rebecca were harassed for years by the envious Philistines, who stopped up the wells that Abraham had dug. Later, when Isaac’s men twice successfully dug for water, the Philistines disputed the ownership of the wells, so the names that Isaac gave these wells (“Esek” and “Sitnah”) mean “Contention” and “Enmity” (Gen.26:19-21).
Joseph was sold by his brothers into Egypt, and then Potiphar’s wife slandered him. He had to patiently wait out his time in the prison, until he was called to stand before Pharoah, and his circumstances radically changed. The Bible explains that
Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him (Ps.105:19).
Moses was chased out of Egypt by Pharoah, then spent forty years in the wilderness, until God called him to return. Those forty years in the wilderness hadn’t been on his holiday wish list; but they were essential for him.
Jephthah, though he was a “…valiant warrior…” (Judges 11:1), was rejected and driven out by his brothers who wanted his inheritance. Not until Israel was in crisis due to the Ammonites, did the elders of Gilead seek his help to lead them.
Ruth saw her father in law, her brother in law, and her husband die. This was a challenging time for her and Naomi, but this too was part of God’s plan.
David, though he had served his father, his family and nation faithfully, had been called of God and anointed by the prophet Samuel, spent many years being hotly chased around the countryside by his murderous, demented father in law, king Saul.
What can we learn from all this?
God is more concerned for our character than our comfort, and testing is a part of His plan. God is at work in us and our children, preparing us for the future. We are all in a kind of apprenticeship, learning the Master’s way. And the goal of this?
Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:4).
We have to realise this fact: the Lord’s inheritance is not hastily distributed. In fact, the Bible warns us that:
An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning, will not be blessed at the end (Prov.20:21).
It also teaches us,
Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, then you will see it (Ps.37:34).
What kind of things can prevent us receiving the Lord’s inheritance?
Unbelief: “There’s no way we’ll be able to do this. Think of all the opposition? I want to give up!”
The patriarchs were never for giving up. They too, had lots of opposition, but they all had the promises of God, and they believed them.
Self-pity: “What’s happening to me just isn’t fair. It’s not right!” There were a lot of things that happened to Jesus that weren’t fair, but guess what? Now, the Bible describes Him the “…heir of all things…” (Heb.1:2).
Many things in life aren’t fair. Heirs have to learn to cope with the injustices of life, and sometimes there are a lot of them. Self-pity is what Naomi began to fall into. She complained to her daughters in law that
…it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the Lord has gone forth against me…do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, since the Lord has witnessed against me, and the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me (Ruth 1:13,20-21).
Little did Naomi know that God’s testing season for her was ending; Ruth was soon to meet Boaz, and the family’s fortunes would radically change- for the better.
Impatience: The Bible instructs us to
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way (Ps.37:7).
Caleb learned to wait, as did Joshua. They were the only two men of Israel out of the 603,000 who had come out of Egypt, spent 40 years in the wilderness, and then went into the promised land. They fought against the inhabitants, took their land and were buried there. They both knew where they were supposed to be, and that’s where they finished up.
But it hadn’t all been easy. When they came back from their spying trip with the other ten men and gave their positive, faith-filled report, “…all the congregation said to stone them with stones” (Num.14:10).
Is it any different today?
The Lord Jesus really does have great plans for His people in this life, and those plans include His people receiving their inheritance. But we can expect the world, the flesh and the devil to be actively contesting this, just as in the garden, and in the temptations of our Lord. The devil will try and thwart the plan of God, using such things as unbelief, self-pity, impatience and more.
And we then have to remind ourselves that we are to be “…imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb.6:12). And the scriptural promise is ever clear:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).