Thursday, March 14, 2019

Perseverance, Part 1.

From the time I was a boy, and all the way up through my early teen years, my dad and I loved to go fishing together. We have a lot of great memories that weave through the south Louisiana waterways: Belle River and Lake Verret and Bayou Sorrel. One such trip was very "special," in the sense that we had a few boat problems, got turned around in the spillway, hadn’t caught anything, and endured miserable weather. It was hot and humid, but threatening clouds kept us worried that the outing was about to end without a single fish in the boat. We decided to try one final spot. As soon as we got there, the sky opened up and the rain came down. I was crushed. It would be weeks before dad could take off work again. With school starting soon, this was probably the last fishing of the summer. 

But then something incredible happened. As soon as it started raining, the big bass started biting. They bit like I had never seen before, nor seen since! The rain came hard and then soft, but for hours the beautiful, silver-green fish kept striking anything that hit the water. And now, looking back, I wouldn’t trade anything for that memory: Father and son, soaked to the bone, reeling in fish as fast as we could -and wondering if we would live to see anything like that feeding frenzy ever again.

The funny thing about that day is that we could have given up. Perhaps half a dozen times we thought of packing it all up. But we didn’t -we waited it out and hoped for the best- wanting to see what would happen.

In some ways, the believer’s perseverance is like this. We face difficulties and uncertainties and unanswered questions, and we battle the temptation to give up.

But in other ways -most important ways- my story is not like perseverance in the Christian life. Waiting it out through the rain isn't all that courageous, and we certainly weren’t very hopeful through it all. We didn't spur each other on with encouraging words that the weather would surely clear and the fish would start biting soon, because we didn’t know any of that for certain! In the Christian life, we face all kinds of difficulties and uncertainties, but we are taught to persevere because of the sureties of Christ. We know He will have victory. We know things will indeed be better. We know those things despite however bleak the circumstances may seem. In other words, the uncertainties of this present world do not have the power to overcome the certainties that are promised in God’s Word.

Over the next few weeks, I want to survey three passages that speak to perseverance in the Christian life.

First- The work begun in us is completed by God Himself.
Philippians 1:6 says, “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.

Two words from that verse stand out to me: Paul says, "I am sure..." I like the NASB interpretation a little better: "I am confident of this..." The word means “persuaded.” Paul has been completely persuaded or convinced. Of what? That God will complete the work He is doing in us. The Greek word for complete is epiteleo: meaning, "to perfect, complete, or bring to an end." In this case, then, it means that God is not going to leave us unfinished.

So the first moment of our conversion is like a spark being ignited in a cold, dark room. In the light of that spark, everything that was dark before is revealed in an instant. The effect on the darkness can be seen immediately. And in conversion, there is an immediate and radical changing of allegiance that affects everything else. Hope and purpose and joy explode onto the scene. But our salvation isn’t comprised of that single moment of conversion, alone. There is also an ongoing process. So we could compare other parts of our salvation to a fire being lit in a cold, dark room. All of the cold will eventually be overcome. It will take the fire some period of time to affect everything in the room, but affect it, it will. Philippians 1:6 tells us that the same God who conceived our salvation, chose us for salvation, and initiated our salvation, will continue and ensure our salvation's completion. We are still being saved and kept today, and we will be saved and kept tomorrow: by the same strong transforming power that began working in us at the instant of our conversion. 

What a comfort to know that our completion is not dependent on us, but on our faithful, consistent, unchanging God! That is exactly what we will be thinking about next time: that the work that is being done in us in inseparably tied to God’s character. Until then, let's press on through the difficulties and uncertainties of life in this fallen world, because He has made us totally confident in Him.

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