Endurance, Encouragement, and Hope

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:1-7, ESV)

“Why should we bother reading or studying the Bible? After all, it’s about events that happened long ago, in a different land and culture. How can that help us now? How is it relevant to my life now?” We live in a time when many people are skeptical that the Bible has anything useful to say for life today. In their minds, the Bible is a collection of stories of the past – a past so different from today that it has become irrelevant, or a collection of nice thoughts, but with little power to impact their lives for good. With what seems little reason to read or study it, why bother?

In this passage, Paul highlights three valuable outcomes of reading and attending to God’s Word, offered as gracious gifts to sustain us in the challenges we face in our lives. Life can be hard, yet God cares for us in the midst of our hard times, and in His Word we can find what we need to survive. Paul says that whatever was written in former days (the Scriptures) was written to instruct and benefit us. He then focuses on three outcomes from being instructed by God’s Word: endurance, encouragement, and hope.

Endurance. The Old Testament offers many examples of people in difficult circumstances who learned to endure and wait for God’s help. Abraham and Sarah endured years of barrenness, hoping for a child; Joseph endured years in prison before being freed; Daniel and his companions endured years of service in Babylon and threats on their lives; Ruth endured poverty with her mother-in-law, Naomi. In the New Testament we see further examples: Jesus endured the cross for our sake; Paul was stoned and imprisoned multiple times during his ministry; and John was exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith. God gives us His Word, that we might read of others who followed after God and endured many challenges.

Encouragement. These stories from the past do something even more important than setting an example of endurance that we can imitate. They encourage us. We may be tempted to despair, to give up, but as we see God working in their situations to sustain and help them endure, it encourages us to trust God and to persevere in our own difficult situations. These stories encourage our hearts.

Hope. Ultimately, the examples from Scripture, and God’s promises to be with us in our struggles, give us hope. Hope grows in us as we read how God worked in the lives of others, and shows us that God is still present, still powerful, still able to sustain us, just as He sustained others in the past. This blossoming hope strengthens us to endure the hardships we face because we know they are not the end of the story. Our hope rests in God, both in this life and in the life to come.

As someone leading a Bible study, I encourage you to consider how your own reading and study of the Scriptures is impacting your heart. Is it encouraging you, sustaining you, giving you hope, helping you endure challenges and hard situations? If not, take time to pray before you read and study, asking God to help you see examples and truths that can encourage your heart. God wants to encourage you and give you hope. As you lead your study, do you try to help others see God’s gracious care in the Scriptures? Do you help them to be encouraged by what you have read together, and have hope in their own challenges? It may help to be intentional in your prayer time together, to focus on specific aspects you have studied that encourage and give you hope, and then praise and give thanks to God for them. Ultimately, that is where this passage ends – that together with one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Encouragement and hope of this kind leads us to worship God, trust Him with our present situations, and praise Him for His encouragement. I pray this will increasingly become the fruit of your study together.

Father, I am so grateful for Your Word, and the examples and teachings in it that encourage my heart and give me hope when I am in difficult circumstances. Thank You for the assurances that You are with me and able to sustain me as I trust and follow You. As I lead my Bible study, please help me share my own hope in You, and help others see in Your Word reasons for encouragement and hope that can help them endure whatever hard situations they may face. Together we will give You praise and thanks. May You be glorified in all we do and say! Amen.

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