"Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (2 Timothy 2:3) These are the words of the Apostle Paul as he teaches his (spiritual) son, Timothy. "Enduring hardness," "suffering hardship," "enduring suffering," "abiding," "continuing," or "overcoming" are all scriptural commands with the same base meaning...persevere. Why would Paul instruct Timothy to persevere? Why are we instructed to persevere? Because the Lord knows we have to be settled in our faith in order to withstand the storms of life.
As we begin this lesson, we must first understand one basic principle of being a child of God: the storms of life will come...be ready and prepared. While mainstream Christianity floats the idea that coming to Christ brings a "bed of roses" scenario and outright prosperity, this philosophy is not supported by scripture. Matter of fact, Jesus said, "...for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5:45b) Therefore, we must...must be settled in the Lord.
Consider the following scriptures:
- "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Ephesians 6:18)
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." (John 15:4-9)
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22)
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32)
"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;" (Hebrews 3:14)
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world." (1 Peter 5:8-9)
"Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Peter 3:17)
What do all of these scriptures have in common? The understanding that it takes 'persistence' to please the Lord. Many years ago, there was a major league baseball player who had become one of the best hitters of all-time. However, he went into a hitting slump and couldn't hit a watermelon being thrown at him. In an interview, a reporter asked him, "How are you going to get through this?" His response was, "I'm going to keep swinging." In the midst of his 'hitting" issue, his way of addressing the problem was to keep on hitting. As a child of God, we need the same persistence. In times of trials and tribulations, and even when everything and everyone around is saying to give up on God, we must remain persistent in our faith, our hope, and our trust in God.
Consider the following facts:
- Stedfast, meaning being firm in purpose, resolution, and faith, is mentioned 23 times.
- Abide, meaning to remain, continue, stay, is mentioned over 100 times.
- Endureth, meaning to hold out against, is mentioned 59 times.
Each of these words, along with others, indicate the necessity to persevere through life. Perseverance reveals the grace imparted to a believer to live in obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in spite of any opposition or hardship that may challenge their Christian faith. Perseverance is not self-resolve! Perseverance is God's grace being imparted to us. Therefore, we don't make a resolution to ourselves to persevere, rather, we seek the grace of God to impart to us the strength and stamina necessary. However, we should think of perseverance as an action of the believer in response to the command of Christ and not as an act of God.
So what challenges, trials, or tribulations are in your path? What obstacle is attempting to prevent you from serving the Lord with all your heart? Some common examples may include:
- Desire to live worldly
- Unsaved loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, etc
- Past mistakes
- Love of money
- Death of a loved one
- Lack of spiritual discipline (Bible, prayer, church attendance, etc)
This list could go on and on, as almost anything and anyone can become an obstacle in our path. Yet, through all of this, we must persevere in order to make Heaven our home.
Consider these final two questions concerning perseverance... (1) What is God's role? (2) What is man's role? In considering perseverance, two questions immediately present themselves: 1) what is God’s role? 2) what is man’s role? Philippians 2:13 says that God works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. But how is this work accomplished in us? It is by His grace. Paul shows that it is by grace that our walk with Him begins (Ephesians 2:8-9), and in another place that this same grace teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” and to “look for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). Further, God’s grace is able to keep us faultless with joy (Jude 24). It is important to understand, however, that man must respond in faith and accept the grace He has provided for him (Romans 10:9-10). It is at the crisis moment of transforming faith that man begins his walk with God; but just as man turns to God for saving grace, he must also seek Him for sustaining grace (Matthew 7:7-11, 21-27; Luke 8:15; 11:28; John 14:15, 23; Jude 24). Man’s perseverance depends on his continued desire to walk with the Lord (John 8:31; Colossians 1:23; Jude 21). This is shown further by the original New Testament word, sozo, that signifies “to save.” This word is expressed in three tenses: “I am saved,” “I am being saved,” “I shall be saved.” Thus, man must be willing to continue to “press” into the kingdom of God, and to persevere at all costs in order to be finally saved (Luke 9:23; 16:16).
The commandment to persevere — endure, abide — in Christ carries eternal consequences. The inheritance of eternal life hinges on the Christian’s decision to continue to seek the grace of God and walk in obedience to His Word. We must be “willing and obedient” (Isaiah 1:19) and “willing to live honestly” (Hebrews 13:18). According to the apostle John, if an individual does not remain in the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God, and he that does not have the Son of God does not have life (2 John 9, 1 John 5:12); therefore the judgment for those who do not persevere is eternal damnation and separation from God (Matthew 25:41-46; Hebrews 10:26-27).