The Call To Persevere

Sometimes we give up too soon, or too easily. It is tragic when we give up, only to discover we were within inches of our goal. Giving up may mean that we quit making the effort to do something. Or it may mean that we quit believing something. When we doubt that we can fit into God's plan, we let go of our faith. We abandon God's commands and our duty to other Christians. And we abandon our hope for an eternity with Jesus. More simply put, we ignore our responsibilities as children of God. And we forfeit our rewards.

To persevere means to keep at something, even when we don't feel like it or can't explain why we must go on. Perseverance requires patience, hard work, trust in God, and dependence on other Christians. Perseverance requires effort and sacrifice. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing". (1 Thes 5:11)

We must encourage others to "keep at it" during all stages of their Christian walk. A fruitful life requires diligence. "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15) Even mature Christians cannot ease up on their dedication. Leaders, "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Tim 4:16)

Continuing when the going gets rough requires us to really stick to it. "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12) "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11)

We must encourage others to hang in there. "It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Cor 13:7) How can anyone trust someone else, if he is not first convinced that the other person's motives are to protect, rather than to harm? How can anyone persevere without hope? Only when we trust God (and our dear friends) to protect us, can we find the hope we need to persevere.

The wording in the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible flows like we are used to speaking. But the King James Version (KJV) seems much more eloquent and expressive to me. For example, the apostles refer to each other as "Dear Friends" in the NIV. But they refer to each other as "Beloved" in the KJV. I would prefer to be thought of as beloved, rather than simply as a dear friend.

The apostles were very close to each other. They spent all their time together in training to spread the gospel. They did everything together. They took care of each others' spiritual, physical, and emotional needs. It is easy to see why they called each other Beloved. The apostles were drawn together. They did cling to each other in their longing to serve our Lord Jesus Christ and each other.

When we think of someone clinging to someone else, we get the impression that, once "attached", he cannot let go. But that is not how Christian love works. Christians are drawn together to strengthen each other, so they can stand alone. In other words, when we draw strength from our Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we can find the courage and the perseverance to go out and spread the gospel. Just like the apostles did.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mt 11:28-30) Some people have no loving church family that is gentle and humble in heart. They long for an environment where they can learn and can be nurtured in their attempts at expressing Christ's love. Although Christianity should give them rest, some churches actually become a burden to people who think that they cannot receive the spiritual support and guidance that they need.

Our town is full of people longing for a loving church family that can give them spiritual support and guidance. Our church could be that loving church family. We could meet the people of our town halfway, if we, like the apostles, can find the confidence and the perseverance to go out and spread the gospel. But only if we, like the apostles, learn to cling to each other, so that we may learn to stand alone.

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, 'He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved." (Heb 10:35-39)

"By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible." (Heb 11:27) Moses was not afraid of what the world could do to him; he had faith in God. But some Israelites did not have their eyes fixed on God. Their eyes were focused on where they had been, not where they were going. They were more concerned with retaining their safe, comfortable existence in Egypt than they were with achieving passage to the Promised Land. What were the results when the Israelites resisted change? Some of them were killed. (Num 11-16) And the rest of them spent forty years wandering aimlessly in the wilderness.

Does that sound like many churches today? By resisting change, congregations wander aimlessly in this wilderness called life, when they could be achieving passage to their "Promised Land" as healthy, growing, vital parts of the body of Christ. They say it is too hard to persevere. But they need not fear a world that cannot harm them. It is time they learned to keep their eyes fixed on an invisible God. It is time they learned to have faith in God, instead of relying on what is seen. It is time to push on to the Promised Land.

Do not view our hostile, dying world with wary eyes, looking for excuses to avoid contact with it. View our world with eyes of love and compassion, eyes that look to revive that dying world by drawing it into our fellowship. When doing this requires change, our faith in God, undergirded by prayer and scriptures, will help us meet the challenge. "... since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith ..." (Heb 12:1-2)

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