Monday, August 06, 2007

Persistence

by Steven Harper
www.cvillechurch.com


Onetime Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said, "Persistence is the hard work you do after you're tired of all the hard work you've already done." Well said. Persistence means, simply, refusing to give up - but especially when faced with difficulty or opposition. Persistence, for the Christian, is what determines faithfulness before God.
With that in mind, we need to consider the great need for persistence in the life of a child of God, and the consequences of our failure to persist. It is worthy of our consideration, for many do not comprehend the great need for persistence, and many more have not been properly taught how to persist in the times when it is needed most. In the plainest terms possible, when persistence is lacking, failure is the result. Surely that is not what we desire! But how do we succeed? How can the child of God stand fast in the faith and refuse to give up when faced with difficulty or opposition? And, further, when are those times when we most need persistence?

Let's begin by considering some times when the child of God needs persistence.

In Temptations. When an individual turns away from the world of sin and ungodliness and commits his life to serving the Lord, he or she should not think that it is all a life of ease afterwards. Sad to say, many religious leaders teach that it doesn't matter what one may do after becoming a child of God because it will not affect his or her soul in the least. Others falsely teach that a child of God cannot sin at all! Both are not only wrong, but the consequences of their doctrines deceive many into thinking that they do not have to be concerned with temptations. Friends, when people teach this and when people believe this, the devil has already won the battle for your soul!

The apostle Peter did not think it unimportant to be concerned with temptations, for he wrote to the Christians in the first century and said, "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Pet. 2:11, 12) Peter, an apostle and inspired writer of the word of God, commanded Christians (not unbelievers) to abstain from fleshly lusts. Why? They were commanded to abstain so others would glorify God for their behavior, and because if they did not, it could cost them their souls!

Peter would later write a warning to those same Christians (and to us), "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Pet. 5:8) Remember, this was written to those who were already children of God! If anything, this is when Christians must persevere. Do not deceive yourselves and think "just once" will not hurt. One sin separated man from God (Gen. 3). Add to this Paul's reminder to the Corinthian brethren that for every temptation there was a way of escape provided for us by God Himself (1 Cor. 10:13). We must not give in to those temptations, but persevere and answer every temptation in the same way our Lord did: with the Scriptures. When we fail to answer the temptation, sin is conceived and eventually brings forth death (Jas. 1:14, 15).

In Trials. People most often give up when times are difficult. Ask anyone who has trained for some athletic event and they will tell you that they were most tempted to give up when the training seemed impossible to accomplish. A runner who trains for a marathon does not give up in the first 100 yards, but the thought keeps creeping into his mind about every mile or so after the first 10 miles. But the successful runner erases those thoughts when he forgets about the distance yet to be traveled and focuses on the finish line instead. Only when he sees the end of the efforts will he be mentally able to endure - persevere - until the end. And when he has the mental ability conquered, it is quite amazing what the body will allow him to do!

The apostle Paul, of all men, is an example of how the mind can rule over the body. Here was a man who endured many hardships for the sake of Christ, naming whippings, beatings, stonings, shipwreck, perilous journeys taking him through dangerous rivers, facing robbers, and having to suffer perils from his own Jewish brethren, Gentiles, and false teachers. He lost much sleep, suffered hunger and thirst, and even exposure - all for the sake of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23-28). And why? Well, hear what he said: "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake" (2 Cor. 12:10). For Christ's sake he did this. For Christ's sake he persevered!

When False Teachers Gain Acceptance. I should say right alongside this is the decline of acceptance of the truth, for the two almost always go hand-in-hand. It is in these times, when more and more brethren seem to want to heap up for themselves teachers who will scratch their "itching ears" and who turn away from speaking the truth, that those who love the truth must endure - they must persevere. Instead of giving in and surrendering to the enemy, it is then that we must stand firm in the faith, having put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11). It does not matter that we will be outnumbered, for we must remember that when God is on our side (and we are on the side of God), no man will win (Rom. 8:31).

Considering the situation among those brethren who surrendered years ago and where they are now, it is easy to see that giving up just one step at a time will not save you any more than just throwing in the towel and just declaring you have changed loyalties. It may have taken a little longer, but those brethren who surrendered the truth for the lie are now walking arm-in-arm with those whom they opposed just a generation ago. Those who once proclaimed their loyalties were with the Lord are now actually defending the doctrines of men and pleading for "tolerance" and denouncing any who would dare demand authority for everything that is taught and practiced within the church.

I listened to a man just about a month ago who preaches in the institutional "church of Christ" as he answered someone's question about the situation of the churches within the cities and larger metropolitan areas. His opinion was that those churches are "lost." [His exact word.] LOST! Someone who has abandoned the pattern has now stated clearly what many men told him and others years ago would happen if they took one small step away from the Scriptures! No, of course they didn't believe it would ever happen way back then, but it did happen. And now these same brethren are lamenting the state of the church today because some have "gone too far."

This happened when a few dishonest men forced their false doctrines upon others and too many people were afraid to take a stand against it lest they appear "too narrow-minded." Instead of persevering, they gave up and gave in. And now they are wondering what went wrong.
If I may quote Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never quit."
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