Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Many years ago, the Lord said to me, “I want you to raise up a church based on apostolic foundations and principles.” Since then I have continued to search through the New Testament and church history in an effort to discover the kind of principles that characterise apostolic leaders and apostolic churches.
During my search I noticed a reoccurring word in the writings of the apostle Paul: hupomone, usually translated ‘patience’ or ‘perseverance’. For example, in Romans 5:3-4, Paul declares that “tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, in turn, produces godly character.” And in Romans 15:4-5, Paul states that the scriptures were written for our instruction, “that through perseverance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” He concludes by praying that “the God who gives perseverance and encouragement may grant you to be like-minded toward one another according to Christ Jesus.”
Hupomone literally means to remain under; it denotes constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, and patient endurance. It describes the capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat.
If anyone exemplified the spirit of patient endurance, it was the apostle Paul. Writing to his protégé, Timothy, as he neared the end of a long and arduous but very fruitful journey, he said, “You have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me … what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Tim. 3:10-11).
And then he admonished Timothy, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus … You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ … Be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry” 2 Tim. 2:1,3; 4:6).
Indeed, perseverance – the ability to hold on to the vision and word of the Lord and not to capitulate to pressure; to stand one’s ground against the powers of darkness and the schemes of satan; to stand firm in the face of persecution, whether from the world or from carnal, deluded Christians; to resist discouragement and the temptation to turn to the right of the left; to never say die and never give up; to push through to victory; and the ability to impart this spirit and philosophy to one’s followers – is one of the major signs of an apostle and one of the chief characteristics of apostolic ministry.
Paul’s letter to Timothy reads like a charge from an aged General to his young officers: “Stir up the gift … don’t be ashamed … share with me in the sufferings for the gospel … hold fast the pattern of sounds words … keep by the Holy Spirit that good thing which was committed to you … be diligent to present yourself approved to God … continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of … preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Jesus also used the verb hupomeno when discussing the end of the age and the signs of his return. “He who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:13-14).
The message is clear: in the midst of deception, wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, lawlessness, and hostility to the gospel, there will be a people, empowered with supernatural endurance, which proclaim the kingdom of God to the nations!
Interestingly, the word ‘endure’ means to hold one’s ground in conflict, bear up against adversity, hold out under stress, and persevere under pressure. It reminds us of the metaphor of the Christian soldier, clothed in the armour of God, standing firm in the time of adversity, and ultimately prevailing over his enemies (Eph. 6:10-18).
In his final message to his disciples before being arrested and crucified, Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to take his place and complete the work that he had begun. “I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).
Unfortunately, the King James Version translates the word parakletos as ‘comforter’, which conveys the impression of a friend putting his arm around one’s shoulder in a gesture of sympathy and consolation. However, parakletos literally means “one who is called to another’s side to render assistance” and was used in non-biblical literature to denote an attorney in a court of law who argued another’s case and championed another’s cause. Thus, the word signified not merely a comforter, but in a far broader sense, an intercessor, counsellor, and advocate.
Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus that they would be “strengthened with might through the Holy Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16), and for the believers in Colosse that they would be “strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Col. 1:11).
Again, the word is hupomone (patient endurance). The Holy Spirit, who is the might and power of God, comes alongside us in our weakness and strengthens us in the inner man in order that we may persevere until the victory is won!
When we are like reeds shaking in the wind, He puts iron in our soul (Psa. 105:18). When we are tossed about like the waves of the sea, He stabilises us with the anchor of hope (Heb. 6:19). When we are distracted by conflicting voices and vacillate between various opinions, He imbues us with a sure knowledge of God’s will (Col. 1:9).
The Holy Spirit is the zeal of the Lord that accomplishes His will on earth (Isa. 9:7). He is absolutely determined, totally resolute, and irrepressibly single-minded. And as the parakletos, He comes alongside us to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees that we may run with endurance that race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1,12-13).
When Ezekiel fell on his face, God said to him, “Stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” Then the Spirit entered him and set him on his feet, and God said, “Son of man, I am sending you …” (Ezek. 2:1-2). The Holy Spirit is more interested in causing us to stand up than fall down! He picks us up, dusts us off, and prepares us to get on with the job God has called us to do.
Likewise, when Elijah experienced a severe spiritual and psychological counter-attack by the powers of darkness and was engulfed by self-pity and despair, the Lord passed by him in the form of a mighty wind, a great earthquake, and a blazing fire, each of which symbolized the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Then he spoke to him in a still, small voice.
Significantly, God did not pander to Elijah’s self-centredness, but simply told him to get on with the job. “Go return … anoint Hazael as king over Syria … anoint Jehu as king over Israel … anoint Elisha as prophet in your place” (1 Kings 19:1-18).
Jesus said, “My food or sustenance is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Healing and deliverance and supernatural strength come as we get on with doing what God has called us to do. And like any great coach, the Holy Spirit delights to do just that: help us regain our focus, get back on track, and fulfil our calling.
What constitutes a mighty man or woman of God? According to 2 Samuel 23, the honour roll of David’s decorated warriors, mighty men and women of God are people who will, if necessary, resist the enemy single-handedly; people who will arise in boldness of faith and attack the enemy, when the odds are overwhelming and victory seems unattainable; people who will keep on fighting until they are weary and their hand sticks to the sword.
Through people such as these the Lord will bring about great victories in the earth. People like this form the vanguard of the army of the Lord, paving the way for others to follow. Mighty men and women of God are people who stand their ground and resist the devil … people who station themselves in the middle of the field (their inheritance in God, the place where God has called them to be) and defend it with their lives, and ultimately defeat the enemy. Through such persevering character, the Lord accomplishes great victories.
Truly, we overcome the devil because of the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony (because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross), and by not loving our lives even unto death - through selflessness, sacrifice, determination, and perseverance! (Rev. 12:10).