Thursday, January 11, 2024


In this study of virtue, we come next to steadfastness. I am thinking of a collection of related virtue words like fortitude, courage, boldness, steadfastness, endurance, perseverance, patience, and diligence. Think of the daring by which you do something difficult or dangerous, as well as the perseverance you show in continuing to do something hard without giving up. The word I am going to generally use is steadfastness, but I will use some of those other words as well. 

The Call for Steadfastness

Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” This is the way in which we are to walk: the commandments of God and faith in Jesus Christ. It takes endurance and courage to hold fast to that course, to not be led astray, to not be pushed out of that way, but to endure to the end. So there is a call for the endurance of the saints. 

It is not merely a New Testament call. We can think of many examples in the Old Testament that called for courage and endurance. In Deuteronomy and Joshua and 1 Chronicles you can find an exhortation given in almost identical words each time. It goes something like this: "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you" (Deut. 31:6). This exhortation is given from Moses to Israel, from Moses to Joshua, from God to Joshua, and from David to Solomon. Israel and Joshua were exhorted as they were about to begin the conquest of the land (Deut. 31, Josh 1). Solomon was exhorted as David was about to die and Solomon was about to build the temple (1 Chron. 22:13, 28:20). 

Some of these lines are picked up in the New Testament. Hebrews 13:5 picks them up in an exhortation to believers in the new covenant era. In both testaments we are exhorted to a courage that is anchored on God's promise and abiding presence. 

Christ has given the church a more intimidating task than was given Joshua or Solomon. What is the task that Christ gave the church? It is to go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples of all the nations. The Great Commission is a large task and will take multi-generational endurance. This is a difficult task and one that has to deal with persecution and opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil. How does Jesus encourage his disciples when he gives them this commission? "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." 

Eleven times in the book of Acts, "boldness" or "boldly" is used to describe those who spoke the word of God. In Acts 4 the saints prayed for boldness, and then as they were filled with the Spirit they spoke the word with boldness. This trait marked the apostles and preachers in Acts. It took boldness to speak the word forthrightly, plainly, and publicly. Courage is required for preachers, and it is also required for the whole church as it pursues this mission. At the end of 1 Corinthians 16, not only does the Apostle Paul say, "let all you do be done in love," a virtue we looked at earlier, but he also says, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13). And so, the church is not called to be weak. The church is called to be strong. The church is told to stand firm in the faith. 

This courage and strength should be thought of both in terms of not running away from a position as well as in not turning aside from your course - continuing the work despite challenges. In other words, it is both defensive and offensive: do not abandon the Lord and go forward with your duty.

The Need for Steadfastness

The fact is we face challenges and temptations that make this virtue necessary. It is not enough to know and understand the faith. A person who knows the truth but is not steadfast might be swept away by the crowd. A person who knows the truth but is without self-discipline or patience can be distracted and led astray by the next flashy thing. A person who knows the truth but does not have strength of character may cave in against his better judgment. As Theodore Beza said, “In the midst of assailing adversity, steadfastness is among the greatest of the moral virtues.” 

There is a threefold enemy that seeks your destruction - the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul, the devil that seeks to devour you, and the world that seeks to push you by carrot and stick out of the way. Without steadfastness, we are unstable and therefore easily deceived or cowardly. The unstable man will be driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:6, Eph. 4:14), deceived or deceiving himself (Col. 2:7, 2 Pet. 3:16-17). The man who is cowardly and faithless is in danger of eternal judgement (Rev. 21:8). 

Some people go astray. Not every gospel seed perseveres. Think of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). Not all of them had steadfastness or endurance. The seeds were all tested. The sun came out, some of them shriveled up and some of them did not. 

Furthermore, some Christians endure in the faith and yet cause great harm by their lack of steadfastness. They might be saved and have true faith, but because they swerved and made bad decisions, they sinned and hurt others and caused damage to the church of Christ. 

Additionally, I think our culture in particular is prone to flux. It does not encourage stability. It is good at providing many different choices and new things to replace the old. It is a mobile culture with a tendency to scorn old things.

The Doctrine of Perseverance 

But not only are there pressures and challenges, but there is also God's grace. We know the doctrine of perseverance, that all who are chosen by God and come to true faith in Christ will endure to the end. Those who depart, who fall away from us, John says, were not of us (1 John 2:19). They were not good soil to begin with. Those who are elect and do exercise true saving faith in Christ will endure to the end. John 6:37-40 teaches that all who are given by the Father to the Son (the elect) will come to the Son and will be kept by the Son and will be raised up to a glorious resurrection on the last day. Jesus will not loose any of them. Paul is able to say with confidence, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). 

Perseverance is a gift. Nevertheless, it is also something that we do using the means that God gave us. He works within us, so that we do his good pleasure. One mark of true faith is that it is a faith that endures. So keep in mind both preservation by God as a grace to give thanks for, and also the perseverance of the saints. Persevere in reliance upon the grace of God, praying for his strength, and giving him the praise for this work in your life.

Steadfastness Described

The Bible speaks of steadfastness, perseverance, and endurance as virtues which Christians ought to develop and practice. In fact, all three of these words are translations of the same Greek word, ὑπομονή (hupomoné), “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance” (BDAG). As a verb it is “to maintain a belief or course of action in the face of opposition, stand one’s ground, hold out, endure” (BDAG). Aristotle contrasted the man of endurance (ὑπομονή) with the soft and effeminate man who is easily overcome by pain and difficulty (Ethics, 7.7).

Peter tells you to make every effort to supplement your faith with virtues, including steadfastness (2 Peter 1:6). Paul told Timothy to pursue steadfastness along with other virtues (1 Tim. 6:11) and Paul later commended Timothy for following his steadfastness (2 Tim. 3:10). In Titus 2:2 Paul taught that older men in particular are to be “sound…in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2). A mature man will be sober, sound, and steadfast. Steadfastness is important for every Christian and it is all the more important when others are looking up to you. It is especially important for leaders and others who carry weight in a community to be steadfast and dependable, to be a ballast to those around them.

Negatively, steadfastness is to not depart from the way of duty because of difficulty or temptation; to be stable, immovable. Joseph demonstrated steadfastness when he rejected the enticements of Potiphar’s wife, even though she persisted day after day (Gen. 39). Paul exhorted the saints to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting form the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23, see also 1 Cor. 15:58). 

Positively, steadfastness is to continue in the way of duty and faith in Christ, despite the natural tendency to grow weary and the hostile pressures to abandon course (Rev. 14:12, Gal. 6:9). It is to run the race to the end. Go forward with your calling and mission. Let us follow Christ and press on to the goal and the glory that awaits. 

Why is steadfastness a virtue? On the one hand, it is only a virtue when we are steadfast in the right course and the true faith. Courage and endurance, if directed by folly or evil, can do much harm. It is not good to be steadfast in your sin. You need the right goal. You need the right path. Yet this is a perversion of this virtue. 

On the other hand, it has long been noted that it is a vital support to all virtues. The others are not worth much if they fade away or disappear in a trial. Steadfastness turns other good traits into habits and makes them a part of your character. As Romans 5:4 says, “…endurance produces character…” Or as James 1:4 says, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Do you want to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing? Then value steadfastness.

Perseverance is also a requirement. Twice Jesus said, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22, 24:13). Endure, rather than fall away or be led astray. Do not deny Christ. Endurance is an essential part of the Christian life. Continuing in the faith necessary to receive the reward (Col. 1:23, Rev. 2:1).

Hebrews 10:36 says that "you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." In fact, the Epistle to the Hebrews as a whole, and Hebrews 10-12 in particular, is an extended exhortation to endurance. "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls" (Heb. 10:39). Hebrews 11 recounts those who persevered and endured by faith. Their faith supported their endurance. Because they had faith, therefore they endured. We look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who endured the cross (Heb. 12:1-2). Therefore let us run the race with endurance, looking to him. We have need of endurance, so let us have faith and therefore run with endurance, looking especially to Jesus, both the object of our faith and the example of endurance. 

James holds up another example. In his epistle, he mentions a person from the Old Testament. Job was an example of endurance. “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” (James 5:11). Job suffered much. Everything was taken away from him and he endured pain, yet he did not turn from God. He certainly poured out his agony and struggled, but yet he ran the race with endurance despite all the afflictions that came even from his friends.  In the end, Job was restored. God did not abandon him.  "... and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful" (5:11).

Helps to Steadfastness 

We do have helps to perseverance. God has provided outward means to nourish this virtue. 

God has given us his word. When Joshua was encouraged to be strong and of good courage, he was also told to think upon the law of God day and night (Josh 1:8-9). God's word contains promises for us. As we receive them by faith, we have hope. This eager expectation leads to patience and steadfastness. Paul's discussion of the gospel and our future resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 ends with an exhortation to steadfastness. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3, he speaks of "your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." 

We are also told to assemble with the church. As Hebrews 10 calls us to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering" it goes on in this next verse to exhort us to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." We have been given the instruction, worship, discipline, and fellowship of the church for our good (Eph. 4:11-16, Acts 2:41-42). 

A right use of trials also produces steadfastness. Like other virtues, steadfastness is built up by consistently practicing it. Steadfastness is like a muscle that grows with use. Overcoming smaller trials builds up steadfastness. There are several passages in Scripture that encourage people in trials with this benefit - not that hardship in itself is a good thing, but that God uses hardship for the good of believers. We can rejoice at this benefit. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds." Why? Why should we rejoice? "...for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." In Romans chapter 5:3, we read "not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings." Why? "...knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character..." 

We also have prayer. Jesus told the disciples, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). We are given prayer as a means of grace through which, and in response to which, God strengthens us against temptation. 

There is a need for steadfastness. The Christian life can be difficult. Perseverance is a gift of God. It is also a virtue which we ought to practice, supported by these means that God has given. At its end is glory. Its end is that gift of grace that we see by faith, the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord will not forsake us. So let us be steadfast and of good courage.

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