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The term, teacher, best describes the life style Bill Young trained for in college. He began his teaching career in public education at the high school level. For the last 52 years he served full and part-time teaching ministries with churches in California, Colorado, and Texas. He coordinated lecture seminars on the campus of Abilene Christian University during the 1990s. In semi-retirement, he continues to accept guest-teaching invitations and is a contributing writer and speaker for KNLS programs. Bill and his wife, Ann, are the parents of two children and four grandchildren. The couple resides in Abilene, Texas.
Nearly everyone admires a person who endures, hangs on, or refuses to quit when facing difficult circumstances. We applaud these people and call them “champions” because they don’t give up. The Bible encourages Christians to endure challenges to their faith. The writer of a New Testament piece called Hebrews offered words to followers of Christ that are timely words for us today: “We have around us many people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back” [Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 1].
Biblical history reveals special heroes who endured persecution because they believed in God, and believed in Jesus whom God sent to be the Savior of the world. But why did these men and women endure and stay the course when threatened and persecuted? The 11th chapter of Hebrews tells about the faith of Old Testament figures like Noah who built an ark and saved his family from a devastating flood; like Abraham who left the security and prosperity of his homeland to wander like an immigrant; about Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Samuel – people who resisted temptations to quit in the face of tragedy, abuse, isolation, imprisonment, and death. The writer describes them as “people known for their faith” [Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 30].
Living by faith has always called for endurance. Opposition against Christians is still being practiced in our modern times. Some oppose Christianity by prohibiting all efforts to recruit converts to faith in Christ. Some oppose Christianity by using coarse humor to play down the importance of family values, sexual virtue, or faithfulness in marriage. Some oppose Christianity by objecting to public school teachers being asked to encourage basic morality in students by modeling ethical values while at the same time developing scholarly achievement in the classroom instruction.
The writer of Hebrews was also thinking of the challenges to faith in his own era. Believers were often banned from business opportunities—indicted and jailed, even executed . . . and all because they persisted in following Jesus. How did they stand up under such pressures and opposition? More importantly, how can our faith in Jesus endure in these times?
Endurance starts with what God has done in Christ. The Hebrews writer wrote, “We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back” [chapter 12, verse 1]. What gets in our way? What sin might easily hold us back from living faithfully? Could it be that we have a tendency to focus more on our grievance with those who oppress us, rather than on the grace that God continually provides as we grown in faith?
In this same chapter of Hebrews, we read the source for enduring all opposition to our faith: “Let us look only to Jesus, the one who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him” [chapter 12, verse 2]. The Christian’s ability to endure difficulties in this life rests on the enduring faith that Christ demonstrated and the joy with which he moved toward the future. He is our model for our own developing faith and heavenly expectations.
The difficulties that followers of Christ face changes from generation to generation, but God’s promises of mercy and love are unchanging. The promises are based on the resurrection of Jesus from death, and the power of Christ’s life in believers who endure because they know the best is yet to come. Here is the promise: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer . . . be faithful, even if you have to die, and I will give you the crown of life” [Revelation, chapter 2, verse 10].