Those who endure…The true test of you

Endurance…not a popular topic these days.  We want a quick fix…an easy answer…a breathtaking miracle.  Microwave meals, google answers, fad diets, instant transformations…that’s what we see and expect.  When it doesn’t happen this way, we get exasperated and want to give up.

Endurance (noun) is the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions; stamina; to have a lasting quality.

Endure–(verb) To continue to exist; last.  To support adverse force or influence of any kind; suffer without yielding; suffer patiently.  To bear without resistance or with patience; to hold out against.

If I say I am a runner, you would possibly believe me.  If I ran in one race, you might see that as some proof.  However, to gain the title of a runner, one would want to see that characterization over time.  Do I run in one race a year or do I participate and train for a variety of races?  Do I run everyday?  Do I train?  Have I endured many marathons?  Do I push myself consistently?  Does my body bear the marks of running (ie have I ever had shin splints)?  Do I have good shoes–and invest in many pairs a year?  Do I have friends that are runners who partake with me?  Do people describe me in this way?   Am I bothered when something or someone keeps me from running?   Get the drift?

We describe ourselves in a lot of ways, but what characterizes us?  Many people might use the adjective or noun of Christian, but the true test of the moniker is seen over time.  There are as many “flavors of Christians” as there are churches on the corner in a small southern town.  Jesus spoke about a lot of things when on this earth, and he was pretty explicit in saying there will be people who look and sound like believers but are not.  Ever hear of the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds)? (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)  Also the parable of the Sower– (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23)–where there are four different soils that are given the word and only one who hears the word and understands it, bears fruit and yields much much growth.  Of the other two soils that spring up with “belief,” one endures for awhile but when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, they immediately fall away and the other hears the word and the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, they are both proven unfruitful.  So, bending under persecution and being enamored with problems in the the world and riches are the things that prove people are not true followers of Christ.  They are the tests of the true moniker of Christian–the true character is brought out by these things when it gets hard.

In Matthew 24:9-13, Jesus also speaks about the hardship and persecution which believers will experience–“they will deliver you up to tribulation and put to death and hated by all nations for my name’s sake…then many will fall away and betray and hate one another…and because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold..BUT THE ONE WHO ENDURES TO THE END WILL BE SAVED.”

Endurance…Enduring to the end…sounds like this is the proving ground.  Christianity isn’t as simple as praying a prayer for forgiveness and then living in whatever way we want–it is not an easy life.  Jesus described it as a narrow way…he said true followers of His would be hated…his disciples were delivered up to death.  He described the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of great price, a treasure…something worth losing everything for–He did.  He lost His reputation, His comfort, the support of His followers, His fellowship with the Father (when crucified and dead), His life.  He did it on our behalf that we might know the riches of knowing Him–His Father and the Spirit.  All for love’s sake, He became poor.  Paul speaks that these light and momentary troubles are not worth speaking of in comparison to the treasure that awaits us for the eternity of knowing Him now and beyond this life.  Jesus says if the world hated Him, it is going to hate us, too.

For those of us who are adults in America, we have not gone through a lot of persecution.  Our faith may have “cost” us from time to time–a job or a relationship or reputation.  Most of us (not all) have not experienced losing much more than a little comfort because of who we are in Christ.  There are people around the world losing their life and watching their children get murdered because they are enduring with the Name and for the Glory of Christ.  These are different types of people from us–tested, tried, true (1 Peter 1, 2)…that would probably mock the things we fear because they know what real loss is.

Friends, times are changing, the cost of being His disciple in America is changing.  Your endurance will be tested in your lifetime and certainly the lifetime of your children.  This will lead to a purer church–people are not going to clamor to be called little Christs unless they truly know and believe Him as their only hope.  It used to be a culturally acceptable and celebrated title–not so now.  As persecution and cost increase, our endurance will be tested–is He really worth this? Is He my only true hope? Is honoring Him more important than people respecting me?  What if my children are affected and hurt and threatened because of my following Christ–will I continue to trust?  What if this affects me financially, will I still remain faithful?

Prosperity preachers talk about how God will make your life better, but this sounds opposite.    Jesus paid the ultimate price to bring you into relationship with Him but it is not without cost–He said to count the cost, to consider the cost before following Him.  In fact, Paul encourages the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”  This is not the popular message given today–many want to make people feel comfortable in their faith instead of encouraging growth and purity and a life displayed to ultimately give glory to the One who deserves all glory.  When we are tested and tried for this little while (in the scheme of eternity), the genuineness of our faith is tested so that it may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Peter encourages us to “prepare our minds for action and being sober minded, set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)

So, are you a true believer?  Are you testing your heart?  What happens when the bad comes or when the cares of this world enter in or when faced with the pleasures of this world verses choosing Christ?  How are you standing under the test?  Are you ready for the days ahead?  Who is your hope?  Will the moniker Christian be yours in the end?  Let us not give up encouraging one another and loving one another and sharpening one another with truth.  He IS WORTH IT…there is a greater glory to be revealed in us because of Him–the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing (this coming from a man who was beaten, imprisoned and lost all things and was ultimately killed for the sake of the gospel). (Romans 8:18)

As disciples of Christ and those who are making disciples of Christ, if we leave out this message, we are leaving out a huge piece.  We are not equipping believers for reality, and we are keeping the truth that Christ spoke from them.  We need one another to encourage one another in the faith–the true faith.

If you need some encouragement, study Romans 8, 1 and 2 Peter.  And, take some time to evaluate the fruit of your faith–what springs forth in times that do not go your way?  Are you becoming more like Him and investing time in His word?  Start with the gospel.

Jesus told us to ABIDE in him (john 15), and that apart from Him, we can do nothing.  This is not a renegade journey–it’s one dependent upon the Father, His truth, and the Body of believers that He puts around us.

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