To endure is more than just continuing to exist; it is continuing to exist in the same manner as before the suffering began. If Paul had lived through his sufferings but at some point, had thrown up his hands in defeat, stopped being obedient to God, or no longer worked for the cause of Christ, he would not have “endured.” If he had responded to his sufferings with an attitude of bitterness, anger, or retaliation, then Paul could not have said that he “endured.”
Paul’s response to suffering was not to buckle under the weight of circumstance but to realize Christ has called His church to endure hardship (John 16:33; Luke 14:27). Paul said that he rejoiced because in his flesh he was filling up what was lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24). Every time Paul was beaten, chained, or hungry, he identified more with Christ in his flesh. Paul could rejoice because suffering in his flesh for the sake of the church is a privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10).
Hardships come in a variety of ways. Temptations, illnesses, lost jobs, broken relationships, and persecution for one’s faith are all forms of hardship. Christians should not be taken by surprise when hardships come: Jesus warned us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The good news is that Jesus followed up His warning with this word of encouragement: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We can endure by His grace.