I found myself listening to a fascinating discussion about “resilience” the other day. It was based on the underlying assumption that people today, especially younger people, have a much harder time coping with the pressures of life compared to those of a previous generation.
I can understand this feeling. I had an infinitely easier life than my parents and my grandparents. My father, for example, was an enlisted soldier at the age of 14, and my two grandfathers were miners who worked in the most appalling conditions.
As the discussion continued, I found myself pondering the Greek word “hypomone”. This was not surprising, I guess, as I am currently preparing a series of Bible studies on the book of Revelation where this word is used in several key places.
Take this example from chapter one, where it is translated as “patient endurance”: “I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in the Kingdom of God and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the Isle of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony of Jesus. “
The apostle John certainly knew the meaning of pressure. When he wrote the book in the last decade of the first century, he was living in exile on the barren, rocky island known as Patmos. Emperor Domitian was on the throne in Rome and Christians were a minority despised, hated and treated like criminals.
The ban would have involved forced labor in the quarries and according to an authority, he would have been flogged and placed in a dark prison where he would have had to sleep on the floor, constantly threatened by the whipping of his military supervisors.
The churches he wrote to also knew all about the pressure. A church, for example, in the beautiful and bustling city of Smyrna (now Izmir) has been continually slandered and persecuted. On top of that, the church members were desperately poor.
And yet, despite all of this pressure, these early Christians were “hypomonic.” I like this word because it has no negative association. Biblical scholar William Barclay puts it this way: “’hypomone’ does not describe the patience that sits with folded hands and bowed head and simply submits to the course of events; “Hypomone” describes the spirit of courage and conquest which breeds gallantry and even transmutes suffering into glory. “
So what was their secret? The answer is quite simple. They really believed that God is still in control, even when things seem to be going pear shaped. More than that, they looked to Him for strength, too. But above all, they were convinced that the day would dawn when the people of God would no longer need to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. And it would be worth it.
It is no different today. I never cease to be amazed at the resilience or – better yet – the “hypomone” that Christians demonstrate in times of suffering. Many Iranian Christians, for example, attending “persecution preparation meetings” share their knowledge and learn about practical and psychological ways that would help them cope with regular raids on their home churches. And I’m still in awe of a good friend who responded to a diagnosis of MS with, “Glory to the Lord. I now have a new field of mission: the local MS society.
The last year in particular has been a trying time for all of us and as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost again, let us not forget that God wants to pour out his Spirit so that we can stand out as a remarkable people. resistant.
Rob James is a Baptist pastor, writer, and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance of Wales. He is the author of Little thoughts on a great god.