Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Perseverance and Persecution

What does it mean to persevere? The word itself means to “continue in a course of action in spite of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.” Perseverance is an action word that describes the way a person lives. It is the action of the one who has the qualities of endurance and patience. It communicates to us that the one who perseveres has endured a task or trial for a period of time with some measure of difficulty or distress. We have many examples of perseverance given to us in the Scriptures or illustrated for us in society. It could be the marathon runner, the gladiator fighting to the death, or the soldier in battle. It also could be the mother raising her children, the father working hard to provide for his family, the pastor shepherding his church, the firefighter extinguishing the flames of a house fire, or the politician taking a stand for morality in a Godless culture. In the passage below, we have the idea of perseverance illustrated.

“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” –Matthew 24:9-14

What you've just read is a small portion of the Lord Jesus instruction to his followers on the idea of persecution. Persecution means that Christians will suffer at the hand of unbelievers because of their faith. Jesus promised this to all those who would follow him. Paul echoes the same thing to Timothy by saying that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Here Jesus says that there is coming a time when the unbelieving world will be angry with Christians, they will hate them, and the world will will afflict them physically, and they will even kill Christians for their faith. There is coming a time when Christians won’t even trust each other. Instead professing Christians will betray and hate other Christians. There will be deception by false teachers, and Christian love will grow cold. There is suffering in store for Christians in the world. Jesus says here that the one that endures to the end will be saved. Jesus is not advocating that in order to be saved eternally you must endure to the end. This would be a works-based salvation. Rather, he is describing a future time of persecution called the great tribulation. During this time persecution will become so intense that there will be many professors of Christianity that will apostatize and leave the faith. What Jesus means here is that those who endure—those that persevere through this time of intense tribulation—shall be saved at the second advent of Jesus Christ. Jesus will return to the earth and put an end to all the fighting and persecution that will occur.

While this passage describes for us a yet future time of suffering for Christians, we can be encouraged right now to learn to persevere. Perseverance is connected with the Christian life. After all, once a person trusts in Christ for salvation, they begin a journey that will last the rest of life. Perseverance means that you will continue in your Christian faith until your dying breath. It means that you will remain faithful to the Lord your whole life. Perseverance is the idea of continuance. It is the idea of moving forward, running the spiritual race, walking with the Lord with patience and endurance. In the Scriptures God clearly communicates that He wants Christians to persevere. Peter tells us to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told Timothy to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews urges us to go on to perfection, to keep moving forward and not to draw back. James tells us to let the trials of life perfect us by giving us endurance.

Think of the coming tribulation and of those who will suffer to the point of death for the Lord Jesus. Christians we need to pray that we will gain that sort of perseverance in our faith. Are you persevering? Are you gaining the qualities of endurance and patience in your life? Let the trials of your life and the suffering at the hands of unbelievers encourage you to keep moving forward and not to draw back. Don’t be discouraged. Be a good soldier. Endure hardship for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

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