Although we know that our faith in Christ is an objective, not a subjective feeling, we often find ourselves (or at least I do) mistaking our feelings as an indication of having inferior faith. There’s this little voice inside that conveys a message to my brain (a false message, I might add!) that when I really get closer to Jesus I’ll enjoy temptation; I’ll enjoy bearing my cross; I’ll enjoy being ridiculed. After all, if I’m spiritual, what I feel or what I go through won’t bother me any more, right? WRONG. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many believers carry around a load of guilt because they’ve confused the word “enduring” with the word “enjoying”. I hope, by God’s Spirit, that I can help you rid yourself of this
First of all, don’t attempt to make Scripture say what it doesn’t say. To endure does not mean to enjoy, although the end result may be joy; and enjoy does not mean to endure. God desires that we enjoy His blessing through Christ. He also exhorts us to endure all things with agape. Believe me, there is a difference! I have no problem enjoying a baseball game, but I must endure a mundane job like wallpapering.
I sincerely believe that it’s been Satan’s attempt to confuse these two words that has contributed to the downfall of some misinformed saints. In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us that the stony ground hearer endures for a time. However, when opposition to the gospel arrives, he is offended and splits. I’m sure there are many fine and sound Scriptural reasons that scholars offer to explain this. But I wonder if this “unscholared” soul could offer another reason. Could it be that the person did not expect the opposition (plight of a watered-down gospel) as well as receiving that twisted notion, “This doesn’t feel enjoyable. In fact, I’m downright scared. I feel hurt, rejected … What’s wrong with me?” (result of a Satanic attack) Jesus does not expect us to enjoy affliction, persecution, and so forth. No! He warns us in advance that this is a part of the gospel package and says, if you keep your eyes on Me – He went through this too, and He is God – I’ll get you through this. It worked for Moses. It worked for Stephen. It worked for Paul. It worked for the Thessalonians; and it will work for you and me.
Hebrews tells us that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame”. The shame the cross brought to His humanity was insignificant because it was His joy to do the Father’s will. But, may I suggest to you that this same Jesus wept, was hungry, and thirsty, and even grew fatigued. And I am convinced that in His humanity, the emotional and physical aspects of the cross were not very enjoyable. In fact, His garden prayer was that if there be any other way to save mankind, let it be so.
Did Jesus endure the cross? Yes, praise His holy Name! Did Jesus enjoy the cross? I don’t think so. God has crucified believers on that cross too. However, though saved by grace, I still possess an old man that is called flesh, and I find a particular discomfort in that flesh as I subject its will to the will of God.
The joy that I receive comes after I’ve endured the temptation or trial, as well as at its initial arrival, anticipating what God is doing in my life or how He will bail me out. But, mark it well, it never is an enjoyable situation. In fact, none of God’s dealings in my life seem to be very joyous. But afterwards, as I patiently (and prayerfully) endure, it does produce God’s peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Ill treatment, affliction, and cross-bearing are a part of the Christian walk. What you and I need to possess is faith, patience, and prayer. Don’t feel guilty because you are being tempted or tested, and don’t be shocked because you are. We are sinners, and a believer’s flesh is no better than a non-believer’s flesh. Also, remember this helpful thought when the heat is on you: the exhortation is to endure, not enjoy.
You may find yourself weeping through a trial of loneliness, grudging through a trial of decreased physical health or financial straits, struggling over that unsaved mate, parent, or child. Those tears may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning.