Thursday, August 6, 2020

Enduring to the End

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

In this verse, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be faithful to him to the end, enduring any hatred or reproach which should come their way on his account. There are many ways in which the fallen world, the evil one, and our own sinful desires tempt us to forsake Christ. But we are called to persevere in the faith. Perseverance is a gift of God given to his elect - all who are chosen by God and who come to true faith in Christ will endure to the end (Rom. 8:28-30, Phil. 1:6, John 10:28-29). Nevertheless, it is also something which we do, using the means he has given. One mark of true faith is that it is a faith that endures. 

We are called to press onward to the finish line. We run to obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24, Phil. 3:12-14). A runner doesn’t get credit for running the race unless he crosses the finish line. As Hebrews 12:1-3 says, we must run the race with endurance, laying aside the sin which weighs us down, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who also endured and was exalted. 

Do not think you have sacrificed enough, as if you are owed a reprieve. Do not think weariness will excuse compromise or apostasy.  Endure to the end, unto death, so that your profession and suffering is not in vain. Those who confess Christ will be acknowledge by Christ, but those who deny Christ will be denied by him (Matt. 10:32-33). Perseverance in the faith is a condition of salvation (Col. 1:21-23). “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). 

I hope you see that perseverance is important. How then do we persevere? We persevere by God's grace, but here are means that God uses:
  • We persevere by faith in Christ, trusting him more than anything else, drawing strength from our union with him (Col. 1:23, 2:7, 19). 
  • We grow in this union and strengthen our faith by participation in the visible church and a diligent use of God's ordinances, especially the word of God, the sacraments, and prayer (Acts 2:42, Heb. 10:23-25). 
  • We strengthen this faith by exercising this faith, like one exercises his muscles, by putting it into practice, especially in trials. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). Smaller trials prepare you for larger ones. 
  • We strengthen this faith by growing in spiritual maturity, for like a plant we either grow or die. This involves a life of repentance where we continue to turn from our sins and to develop godly virtues. “For if these qualities [faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, love, etc.] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ … Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” (2 Peter 1:8–10)
  • We also strengthen this faith by looking to the end: the one who endures to the end will be saved. There is an end. Trials and suffering will not last forever, and the result is glorious and eternal. Full deliverance from sin, suffering, and danger will be granted to those who endure. They will not be harmed by the second death. They will inherit honor and reward and blessing and unbroken fellowship with God. Why did Moses consider "the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt"? Because "he was looking to the reward" (Heb. 11:24-26). 

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