Summary: It's not just how you start. You have to finish!
Perseverance: Finishing What We Start
- Interviews -
Anybody here serve in the military? Did you want to quit after the first week of basic training?
At what time in your life were you most tempted to call it quits?
As a Pastor, one cause of sadness is the failure rate among those who began with Christ and quit somewhere along the way. From time to time, I take a look at lists of persons I’ve baptized, or outdated church directories. Some names bring on a flood of positive emotion as I remember the person that way and the person that has emerged with a maturing love of Christ and His work. Other names bring tears to my eyes as I remember the once fervent love for Jesus that has faded, the once vibrant testimony before friends and family that has grown still. In almost every circumstance, those who have fallen away did not abruptly denounce their faith or reject Christ.... they just drifted .... slowly, slowly away from God.
Our text today once again is 2 Peter 1:1-11. In your Pew Bible it can be found on page 1893.
This morning we are looking at PERSEVERANCE. Other translations use the words - patience, endurance, and steadfastness. In the first language of the New Testament, Greek, the word is - hupomone, a compound word that literally means “to stand under.” It calls to mind a person with a heavy load on his back refusing to crumble, but rather staying on his feet!
Every one of us in this room probably can point to some time in life when we nearly caved in, when the weight of sorrow, the burden of responsibility, or the sense of futility feels like it is unbearable. We groan - “I cannot do this another day!” Peter says that the complete Christian has a resource in Christ that allows him to push past such moments, drawing on the strength God provides to keep standing!
Remember, I spoke of those who gave up, who turned away from Christ?
Perhaps they did not understand that mature disciples cannot reach that place without sustained effort and disciplined pursuit of Christ! When we commit ourselves to Christ and His cause of love and justice for all, we set ourselves against the natural way. Jesus said that His way is narrow, not broad. He said that we would carry a Cross before we wore a Crown!
Borrowing the image of the Olympic athlete, Paul says:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27 NIV)
How do we develop perseverance? What choices can we make so that we will stay steadfastly on course with Christ?
1. Keep passion alive. Don’t let go of that first love.
Faith usually dies so gradually that the process is all but imperceptible. There is no crisis decision to abandon God. There is no moment of moral collapse resulting in scandalous behavior. Instead, there is a gradual shift of affection, more and more engagement with things once rejected because of love for Christ. As love for the present world - it’s money, it’s rewards, it’s entertainment, its values increases, love for godly things fades.
Ill- I love Bev and I work diligently at keeping our love as intense as it was 36 years ago when we first met!
I still say tender things to her. I still enjoy holding her hand. I still buy her flowers. I guard my eyes and my heart, instantly rejecting temptation when it comes knocking!
I believe that the Christian must be vigilant in much the same way about their love of Christ. There are practical choices to be made.
∙ Those who made worship a first priority every Lord's Day decide to take the day for golf, or for family visits, or for puttering around the house. Not bad things, not evil things these distractions aren’t seen as any danger. But they erode commitment to a critical part of spiritual health.
∙ Those who once were vigilant in practice of daily spiritual disciplines put them off to every other day, then to a couple of times per week, and then to whenever they remember. One day they realize that they have not opened their Bible, meditated, or even meaningfully prayed for months.