We find one of the traditional “Steps of Salvation” that people often overlook in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” This is a much more important message than the often quoted first step of “Hear”. Why tell someone who’s already listening to you that they need to “hear”? On the other hand, we must encourage new Christians to understand that they’re making a long-term commitment.
One of my favourite statements about evangelism is “The success of the church is best measured in tombstones, not baptisms.” I’m not denigrating baptism in any way, but if we lose our faith before our death the baptism counts for naught. The Bible writers encourage the virtue of perseverance or endurance on several occasions:
- Romans 5:3 “we glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character;…“
- 1 Corinthians 13:7 “Love always perseveres.“
- Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.“
- James 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- 2 Peter 1:6 “add to self-control, perseverance;…“
- Revelation 2:4 “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.“
I hope I don’t have to persuade anyone of the importance of enduring faith. I also don’t want to give the impression that our endurance, perseverance, stubbornness, dedication, or commitment can become an effort for which we take personal credit. I’m certainly not promoting a form of salvation by works. Instead, the endurance we need to maintain our faith for the long haul comes from our relationship with God. Here are a few of the support systems he gives us:
- Love – 1 Cor. 13:7 says “Love always perseveres.” Love will help us endure where obedience would just give up. Love is the stronger motivation. When our relationship with God is based on love, we’re more likely to survive the difficult times.
- Prayer – Calling on God in times of trouble invites God to actively help us through those times. In 2 Cor 12:9 Paul quotes God saying “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The times we’re most aware of our shortcomings are the times we create the most space in our lives for God to demonstrate his power. We depend on him, rather than ourselves.
- Scripture – The psalmist described God’s words as “a lamp to my feet and a lamp to my path“. God’s word guides us through life with its teaching, advice and examples. The Bible also motivates and inspires us by reminding us of our goal: our God.
- The Church – The New Testament letters contain numerous instructions about how Christians are to treat each other. One of the most persistent messages is that we’re to encourage each other. Just as the roar of the crowd can motivate a runner at the end of a marathon to continue and even pick up speed, the church urges each other to take the next step for Christ. One of my favourite verses along these lines is 1 Corinthians 12:26, after describing the church as a body, Paul writes, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.“
- The Holy Spirit – Most importantly, when we immerse ourselves into Christ, we “enter God” and simultaneously “God enters us.” According to Acts 2:38 We receive the “Gift of the Holy Spirit”. It’s this very same Spirit that Jesus describes as a Comforter, or Encourager, or Counselor in John 14:16. It’s the Holy Spirit’s role to comfort, encourage, and counsel when our faith is on the rocks. When life is tough God will still be with us, helping us to endure. We don’t have to endure alone.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
- Why do you think this “Step” seldom makes the list?
- How do you cultivate your faith to give it endurance?
- I’m guessing we’ve all seen people turn their backs on Christ, “What do you think are the greatest challenges to enduring faith?”