Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 4, 2013


An explosive idea: that we can endure hardship with joy


            I enjoy dissecting a passage of scripture. One way to do that is to study several different translations. Often a beautiful new insight will jump out at me as modern words shed new light on old truths.

            My copy of The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips is a bit tattered now. It was a gift from a dear friend and fellow pastor, Jim Connor. He wrote in the flyleaf kind words and thanked me “for being my Christian friend and companion in ‘The Way’ of Christ.”  The date was June 2, 1967.

            Jim ran on ahead of us to the Father’s House a few years ago. I hated to see him go but I know where he is and I plan to see him before long. I want to tell him again how much I have treasured his gift.

            J. B. Phillips was an excellent preacher but his greatest gift to the world was his translation of the New Testament. He started translating the Old Testament but the Lord called him home before he could complete it. If he had finished translating the whole Bible I imagine it would have been called the “Phillips 66 Translation.” (That’s only funny if you remember how many books are in the Bible!)

            Recently I had fun digging in the truth of Colossians 1:11-14. In any translation that is a powerful passage. I began my study by reflecting on the New International Version and found it a little cumbersome.  See if you agree:

            “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  

            I underlined the striking words “endurance,” “patience,” “joyfully,” “rescued,” and “forgiveness.” With these significant words Paul is showing us how to pray for one another.

            Then I turned to J. B. Phillips and my heart began to sing as I read his version:

            “As you live this new life, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through an experience and endure it with joy. You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light. For we must never forget that he rescued us from the power of darkness, and reestablished us in the kingdom of his beloved Son. For it is by his Son alone that we have been redeemed and have had our sins forgiven.”

            My eyes fastened on the words “pass through an experience and endure it with joy.”  I got excited. The concept of “passing through” a hardship is good theology. When times are tough we want grace to get “through the night” rather than get stranded in the pain. In the 23rd Psalm David speaks of walking “through” the valley of the shadow of death. My heart says Yes! This tells me that God wants to help us “pass through” a hardship and get victory over it.

            But the best phrase of all is the next one. Phillips has Paul praying that we will not only pass through a hardship but “endure it with joy.” I underlined those words twice! This is a new way to suffer misfortune – to do so with joy! The word “endure” had always conjured up the idea of tolerating a problem, suffering through it, and gritting your teeth to the bitter end. But Phillips injects “joy” into the ordeal!

            That marvelous idea was suddenly lit up on the billboard of my soul – God can help me endure difficulty with joy! I want that kind of faith. I have some of it. I want more!  I need more!         

            Well, that is one example of what can happen when, with an open mind, you begin searching for truth in the Holy Scriptures! + + +