When you read large hunks of Scripture regularly, you see major themes that you might miss during five-minute devotionals. This last year I have been clinging to God’s word like a guy lost at sea. During this time, I keep encountering a set of words I really don’t like: endurance, perseverance, patience, and steadfastness. Jesus uses them a lot. Paul fills his epistles with them. Today’s verse was Hebrews 10:36 which declares, “For you have need of endurance.”
The Greek word for endurance, hupomone, in one form or another appears dozens of times in the New Testament. It is sometimes translated perseverance and steadfastness. The hupo prefix is a preposition that means under, beneath, or beside. The mone part means to stay. The word expresses endurance as staying faithful under persecution or under a burden.
I am a little embarrassed that in all my years of Bible study, I have never done a word study on this hupomone, a word used so many times. More alarming to me is how familiar I am with a word used only once, in Romans 8:37: hupernikomen. Here we have a huper (over) instead of a hupo (under). Paul gloriously declares that we overwhelmingly conquer everything that might separate us from the love of Christ. We are more than conquerors!
It is probably right that this word appears on T-shirts and that we can get Christian fitness clothes with it. I like the word too. However, again and again God’s word exhorts us to persevere, endure, patiently wait, and remain steadfast. There is a lot of hupomone. We get hammered with it, but it doesn’t get on T-shirts.
Let’s admit it. It is hard to get excited about perseverance. We Americans like winning and winning quickly. We prefer football to cross-country—my apologies to my son who ran cross-country. It is hard to whip a crowd into a frenzy of patient endurance. We want to win and win now.
In writing about the American West, William Styron said that in the west there are boomers and stickers. Boomers are those who move from town to town looking for better fishing, logging, and mining. The stickers grow roots and cultivate the land. Sometimes Christians can be more like boomers bouncing from church to church in search of “the anointing” or the church where they “can be fed.”
The older I get, the more I appreciate hupomone and the stickers. I have seen anointed charismatic leaders who had a lot of flash but weren’t stickers. I like the leaders who have never cheated on their wives or stolen from the offering plate. The pastors who never get fed up and get out.
And let’s admit it. We often want to get out from under stuff. We long to escape—to be free of the burden of people needing us. Lots of people will encourage you to care for yourself, avoid toxic people, push away the folks that betray you, and not let anyone use you. Then there is Jesus who with eyes wide open washed the feet of Judas and loved him to the end. Then there is Paul who poured himself out in ministry even to those who challenged his authority and questioned his love. There are mothers and fathers who love and serve their sons and daughters even when they plunge into sin. They stay under the burden of love day after day, praying with broken hearts and tear-streaked faces.
I believe we are called to be more than conquers, to be hupernikomen. We are called to be overcomers, but I believe the under comes before the over. We stay steadfast under injustice, disappointment, and the heavy burden of love. We stay where God calls us and we endure. We discover love never fails if we never fail to love. We stay under until seated with Christ over all things.