“Absolutely and Emphatically”

One of Strong’s definitions for the Greek word for persevere found in the Bible says this: “absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”   In the light of the headlines these days it is perhaps more important than ever that those that profess faith in Christ persevere;  that we “absolutely and emphatically” hold fast to our faith in Christ.

Not to bum you out or anything…but here are some recent news headlines:

  • “Gunman kills 3 then self at UPS facility in San Francisco” (www.cnn.com) 

  • “Moderate earthquake, 5.1 mag was detected near Champerico in Guatemala” (earthquakenewstoday.com)

  • “Leading GOP Congressman and Aides Shot in Alexandria, VA” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “Christian Pastor Tortured in Vietnam for Evangelizing” (www.christianheadlines.com)
  • “ISIS Kills Two Chinese Missionaries Who Were Evangelizing in Pakistan”  (www.christianheadlines.com)

Those headlines might draw your attention to Matthew 24:3-14 which records Jesus’ conversation with the disciples regarding the signs that would precede the end of the current church age.  The disciples ask a pointed question of Jesus saying “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”  Jesus’ responded very specifically and told them about an array of signs that ranged from world events such as earthquakes and famines to people issues such wars, false prophets, persecution, hatred, and betrayal.  But that was not the thrust of what Jesus wanted to convey to them.  In the light of those things Jesus gives them real life exhortation that would ultimately change their worldview.  Jesus turns the conversation back to one of major themes of His life…enduring love.

In verse 12 Jesus responds to their question saying “…because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”   But he doesn’t stop there…and here is where the life application kicks in. He goes on to say “…but the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  That word for endure is the same word for persevere described above.  If there was ever a time in our lives to endure, to persevere in our faith in Christ, it is now.

With each passing day the number of opportunities in our lives to share the truth about the love of Jesus decreases.  Time is not on our side and Jesus knew it when he commanded the disciples and His command still holds the same message and urgency for us today.  The question is…what are we to be enduring at doing?  It is the entirety of the Christian life…it is our faith in Christ, and in the context of this text it is our love for the Lord.  “The love of many will grow cold” Jesus said.  But for the enduring, persevering Christian it cannot…it must not.

Remember the definition provided earlier… persevering, enduring, is a command for us to “…absolutely and emphatically, under misfortunes and trials to hold fast to one’s faith in Christ.”  Christ promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us.  His love for his children is enduring, it perseveres.  Despite misfortunes and trials, the reviling words of man and the brutality of the cross did not keep him from persevering in His steadfast enduring love.

The Holy Spirit worked through the author of Psalm 136 to give us an image of the enduring, persevering love of Christ in words that are truly remarkable.   I share them here in closing since they are such a vivid reminder and encouragement that will prompt us to live a life for Christ, with an enduring love for Christ that lasts forever:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever.
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

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Pages Left Over

More than 30 years ago my wife worked in her college print shop.  As a gift to me she made a custom pad of paper that I could use for when I did some side jobs in tree work.  It was awesome to have something with my name and “company” information on it that I could give to people.  It was a way for me to communicate with customers with something far better than chicken scratch on a napkin.  Once we were married and I had taken a city job, the days of weekend tree work dwindled and so did the use of that special pad of paper.

The other day, when going through some old boxes of stuff, the last remaining remnants of that special pad of paper resurfaced.  My wife showed it to me and once again, so many tktree paper imagememories of jobs that I had done during those years came rushing back.  I remember the long days spent dragging sticky pine branches with my wife, hauling logs to the dump, splitting hardwood for firewood, and smelling like a combination of pine tree, wood chips, and gasoline.  I remember just how utterly exhausted I would be but also how satisfying it was to put my hands to a task with passion, determination, and great care.  Those memories are powerful, fresh in my mind, and lasting.

But there are pages of the pad left over…pages that have not yet been used.

For some reason that fact bothered me for a time and it made me wonder if there were more jobs that I could have done, jobs that I missed or turned down, that would have used up all the pages of my special pad.  I know that at this point in my life I am not going to be climbing up any 100′ trees or splitting a cord of wood any day soon.  So I am left with the memories and a longing.

As I thought about that I started to reflect on the work that I have done for God.  I remember days of hard labor for Him.  I remember nights in long meetings working with determination and care on the things that have eternal meaning.  I have memories of preparing to teach a class, preach a sermon, or build the stage for a VBS program.  I remember having sore “spiritual muscles” for days or weeks all from working hard for Him to teach and to learn from His word.  It is good to be doing that kind of work…it is the best kind of work.

gloves and stuff.jpgBut just like that special pad of paper for my tree business, there are still pages left on the spiritual pad of paper of my life.  God put my name in His book, on His special pad, and he wrote Jesus’ name on my life.  Every day He wants me to reflect Him to others.  He wants me to be getting dirty doing the work He has called me to.  That is something to be excited about.  That is the kind of work to put my heart, mind, and soul into.

There are still pages on the pad of my life to be lived for Jesus and for the glory of God and until His pen stops writing it is my job to keep my life’s pad out of storage and ready to be written on!

How about your life pad…is God busy writing all over it or is it packed away in a box somewhere?