by Michael Smith
Chapter Twenty Eight
ENDURANCE: KEEP ON GOING REGARDLESS
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12)
|When people become lawless, they also become loveless.
Sometimes we think of love as 'free', requiring no laws or
discipline; but in fact, love and discipline go hand-in-hand, and
when law and discipline break down, then love grows cold. In
the passage above, Jesus is not talking about the love of
unbelievers growing cold, but the love of Christians for Him and for
one another, which is a serious situation.
The Lord then adds in verse 13, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved". This verse is quite clear that in order to be saved we must go all the way to the end, and that requires endurance on our part. In Mark's gospel, Jesus goes further, and we read there a sombre picture of treachery and disloyalty within Christian families, and believers being hated by all men . So, said the Lord, we must endure.
In Romans 5:1-4 Paul says that "tribulations worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope", i.e. we can rejoice in testing times (tribulations) because they produce endurance (patience) which in turn produces experience, or "proof of genuineness" .
James goes further: "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (James 1:3-4). If we go through tribulations and hold on, it will shape every area of our character and personality and make us fully rounded Christians.
One of the proving grounds is in our own homes; another is the fellowship of believers with whom we meet for worship. In sharing our lives in these close and committed settings it can become clear there are some areas of our character that are still 'rough around the edges' and need to be dealt with by the Lord. Fellowship with family or church is a 'roof off, walls down' situation in which we are vulnerable because others see us as we really are.
What are some of the tests we may have to go through? In Matthew 13 we read the parable of the sower who sowed seed in a variety of different soils. Each of these soils represents the different kinds of people who hear the gospel (the seed) and their response to it. The seed that falls onto the pathway never gains entrance into the person's life at all, but just lies on the surface where it remains until it dries up. Jesus goes on to describe two types of people who do receive the seed and begin to bear fruit, but in both instances the fruit comes to nothing because they fail the tests that come along. There are two types of test described here: the first is when life gets too hard, and the other is when life is too easy. One is persecution and the other is prosperity. Some folk cannot stand the adversity or hatred they receive as a believer and so buckle and give up their faith, while others may allow their hearts to grow cold if riches increase, getting more wrapped up in the things of this world than of the Kingdom of God. The truth is the Christian will have to endure both tests. We will be tested by tribulation and also by success, and God expects us to hold on and persevere through both.
How can we do this? The first thing to do is to make a wholehearted commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ when we first come to Him. If you haven't yet done this it is never too late in this life. Do it now, and ask Jesus to fill your whole heart and life with His Holy Spirit. In Acts 11:23 we read that Barnabas encouraged a group of new believers in Antioch to continue "with purpose of heart ... [to] cleave unto the Lord". "Purpose of heart" indicates that we are to make up our minds to stick with the Lord no matter what comes our way; whether wealth or poverty, good health or ill, popularity or rejection. Both kinds of soil are possible testing grounds for the Christian though it is more often through tribulation than ease that the vast majority of believers come into the Kingdom. The fact is, new Christians will have problems they never knew existed before they were saved!
The essence of endurance is seeing Him Who is invisible. Faith is the faculty that enables us to see beyond our present circumstances into God's heavenly Kingdom. If we are to hold on to our faith under pressure, then the unseen world must become more real to us than the seen world. Otherwise we will follow the world's system and the ways of the non-believer, and soon find ourselves turning our backs on the realities of God's Kingdom. There was once an advert which asked "What's in your wallet?". For the Christian the question is, "What's in your heart?"
It is important to realise that affliction only works out God's purpose for us while we keep our eyes on the unseen, because the unseen is eternal and does not change. Scripture tells us to keep "looking unto Jesus" and we won't go astray . The way to do this is to read and know our Bibles and spend time in daily prayer with our Heavenly Father. As soon as we take our eyes off Jesus we will find ourselves sinking just as Peter did when he stepped out of the boat but looked down at the waves rather than up at His Lord .
If sometimes we fail, don't give up! Remember that if we fall we won't be cast out because the Lord has our hand and will pick us up again . Three times under pressure Peter denied knowing Jesus, but the Lord knew what was in Peter's heart and restored him back into a close relationship with Himself. Likewise, if we let Jesus down, we must stretch out our hands to Him by faith and let Him bring us back to Himself. Never give up; the Lord has not given up on you.
Finally, keep your eyes on the future. Not all the issues of life are settled here. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." If we are going to keep the faith, we must fight the fight, because we cannot escape the fight and keep the faith. We have to fight the fight and finish the race. Paul fought the fight, finished the race, and kept the faith; then looked forward to the prize-giving. At the time Paul wrote the scripture above, he was awaiting trial and probable execution, but he looked beyond that to another Judgement Day with another Judge; One Who will be absolutely just. Paul lived his life here so as to get the 'gold medal' and sought nothing less.
The gold medal is the crown of righteousness the Lord will give to all those who have served Him faithfully and steadfastly. If we stand the tests of this life we will come forth as gold, refined by fire , and all the praise and glory goes to God Who loves us and keeps us every moment of every day of our lives. We have a wonderful God Who only wants the very best for each of us if we will but follow and obey Him.
 Mark 13:12-13.  Zodhiates Lexical Aids.  Hebrews 12:1-3.  Matthew 14:28-31.  Psalm 37:23-24.  2 Timothy 4:7-8.  1 Peter 1:6-9.
© Michael Smith 2013