Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord…
Most natural words for an apostle to use. He lived in the days of persecution. He was the head of that Church in which his namesake James was slain, Peter imprisoned, and Stephen stoned. But when persecution ceases, when times of rest and quiet come, have the words still a meaning to us? Yes; they are as true as ever now. He alone who has endured is truly happy. An easy life brings not out the powers of the soul. It only tries the surface; it does not search what is deeper. This kind of life, doubtless, is good for some. God knows what is best for each. He has given to some few opportunities, slight abilities, regular duties. He has taken the stones of stumbling and the rocks of offence out of their way. Quietly and gently, yet surely, as we hope, do they travel forward to a truer and more perfect rest. This, then, is happiness. And yet not happiness in itself of the highest kind. They that endure are the truly happy. For —
1. Consider we are all sinners. Surely we should be thankful for that which makes us know ourselves; which gives us self-knowledge; which forces us to search ourselves, probe our hearts, and test our conduct; which awakes us from sleep; which calls forth dormant powers, and raises us into activity. Trials are as prophets of old; they are clothed in a sad dress, but they warn us. They tell us what is true happiness — not to enjoy, not to be careless, not to laugh; but to work hard, to labour steadily, to endure what has to be endured.
2. This was the life of Christ. Would you prefer to it the life of any prince, noble, prosperous merchant, merry-hearted youth? Doubtless they are happy in their way. But as gold is better than silver, so is the happiness of Christ a far higher happiness than theirs. And why do we count Christ's life blessed? Because He endured.
3. This is that which does most good, and that which does most good is the happiest. He who attacks sin and ignorance, he who seeks out misery to relieve it, does the most direct good. Now, attack evil, ignorance, misery, we cannot, except with a contest. They are deeply seated. Then comes the struggle. With the struggle comes the endurance, the labour, the toil, the disappointment, the renewed struggle, more endurance.
4. Surely the right thing is work now, rest hereafter. Things show best by contrast. 'Tis the shadow that shows us what light is. It is ungenerous to wish to win heaven lightly. Should we expect, or even desire, ever to sail over an unruffled sea? Should the sea be as calm as the harbour? Should we be satisfied with the merits of Christ? Is there not something to be filled up? "What is all that that is said about a great struggle, a race, a wrestling, a combat? Do we need no inward strivings, no hidden battle, no earnest prayers, no sorrowing for sin? We count the dead blessed who have endured; not simply as if so much affliction and sorrow and pain were so much expiation and satisfaction; but we count, as Christians, him happy who has endured after the pattern and model of Christ's endurance. Nothing else can give us confidence or inspire us with a well-grounded hope. He who is dead may have had less or more to endure; still, something, be he who he may, he must have had to endure. This is the question: Has he endured it with a Christian patience? That which we would think of others, let us each think of ourselves. Endurance should form and fashion our character, try our powers, call out our activity, test our disposition, regulate our temper, teach us confidence in God, wean our souls from the world, join us nearer to the Divine life through Christ; at the same time make us more human, enable us to feel for others' trials; on every side should it strengthen and improve us, so that in all sincerity we may bless God our Father, for that He has not left us without trouble, for that He has not sent us pain, for that He has made us to have not an over-easy life.
(James Lonsdale, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.