May 30, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NRSV)
We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Centuries ago, some Christians in the Greek city of Thessalonica had hope in Jesus Christ and his future kingdom. This hope enabled them to hang in there even in difficult times. We too can have patient endurance if we have confidence in God’s future. Such hope doesn’t take us out of this world. It gives us new energy to live fully and faithfully in and for the sake of this world.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began examining the phrase “steadfastness of hope.” It appears in the third verse of the letter of Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Thessalonians, where the authors thank God for the recipients’ “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Yesterday, I talked about how the hope of the Thessalonian Christians wasn’t generic optimism or wishful thinking. Rather, it was hope “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” It was hope focused on the future when Christ will come, bringing the fulness of salvation, and establishing God’s kingdom of peace and justice for all eternity.
Today, I want to talk with you about “steadfastness of hope.” In order to do so responsibly, I’ll need to comment on the Greek that lies behind the English phrase “steadfastness of hope.”
The Greek word translated as “steadfastness” in verse 3 is hupomone (pronounced HOO-poe-MOAN-eh). If you look hupomone up in the standard Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament, you’ll find: “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance.” According to Paul and his colleagues, the Thessalonian Christians had been demonstrating hupomone in the face of difficulties. Their hupomone was closely a result of their hope in the Lord Jesus.
When I saw the Greek word hupomone, I just had to smile. Admittedly, that’s a rather odd thing for a biblical scholar to do when looking up a word in the lexicon. But I have a good reason for doing so. You see, one of my dearest friends in the world, a mentor from whom I learned so much, loved the word hupomone. Yes, I mean that literally. And anyone who knew Howard E. Butt, Jr. would agree. Howard loved the word hupomone. He loved how it sounded and what it meant. He talked about it often. He even had a cap with hupomone embroidered on the front!
Now, you may be wondering why Howard loved this word so much. In part, he recognized how central it was to faithful Christian discipleship. Howard knew that if we were going to live as disciples of Jesus in this broken, crazy world, we’re going to need lots of hupomone. We must learn to be patient, to endure, to have the fortitude, to be steadfast, and to persevere.
Howard also loved hupomone because this word and what it conveys meant so much to him personally. Though he was an amazingly gifted and blessed man, he also struggled mightily with depression. He did so before the kinds of treatments that can help with this dreadful disease were available. Plus, Howard suffered from depression at a time when “good Christians” weren’t supposed to have this problem. So, Howard wrestled not only with his personal pain, but also with criticism from brothers and sisters in Christ. This criticism came, by the way, because of Howard’s courageous willingness to share his struggles with others so they might find community, hope, and encouragement. When he founded Laity Lodge, he established it as a place that affirmed the truth of God’s love and grace while inviting people to be who they really were, without pretending or pretense. To this day, that’s part of the genius of Laity Lodge, where I worked for several years. (Photo: Laity Lodge alongside the Frio River in the Texas Hill Country.)
Howard went to be with the Lord over five years ago, after a long life of hupomone. If he were here today, he’d get excited over the fact that I’m talking about this beloved word. Moreover, he’d want us to be clear that true hupomone, true perseverance, is indeed “in our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the clear teaching of Scripture and it’s something Howard experienced profoundly. His hope in the Lord and the Lord’s future kept Howard going in spite of powerful obstacles. Though he was grateful for the help of medical science, he didn’t put his hope in doctors. And though he was a faithful steward of his family’s financial resources, he didn’t put his hope in money. And though he was a lover of people like few I have ever known, he didn’t put his hope in human beings, either. No, for Howard, his hope was in Christ; and it was this hope that enabled him to endure, to be steadfast, to persevere, to practice hupomone.
Can you have hope that endures in the midst of hardship? Can you hang in there when life is unbearably difficult? If you know Jesus Christ, if you have confidence that he will one day redeem and restore all things, then you can hold onto hope. You can continue to be faithful no matter the challenges you face – you can have genuine hupomone – because of the confident hope you have in Jesus Christ.
When you hear the words “steadfastness” or “endurance” or “perseverance,” do you think of people you have known? If so, what enabled them to have such hupomone?Have you ever experienced the way hope in God’s future can help us to persevere today? If so, what was that like for you?
In what parts of your life do you need more steadfastness? Are you willing to talk with the Lord about this?
Give yourself a gift and listen to a one-minute devotional thought from Howard Butt Jr., focusing on patient endurance in the life of Joseph.
Gracious God, thank you for the encouragement we receive from the example of the Thessalonians. Thank you, in particular, for their steadfastness of hope. Thank you for the way their hope in Jesus and his future enabled them to endure patiently, even in the midst of affliction.
Help me, I pray, to have such hope in Jesus that I am able to endure the difficulties of my life. Help me to preserve in faithful discipleship, even when I feel discouraged or beaten down. Give me the gift of hupomone, I pray, so that I might serve you in every part of life. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Your Faithful Work Matters to God
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.