Christian, persecution and hard times are coming! Well, they’ve really never gone away. American Christians have been sheltered from the severe stuff – but many Christians are beginning to wonder if difficulties like we have never known are on the horizon? It doesn’t take a Theology PHD to look at the news and compare it with what Jesus says is
coming as the end approaches. Matthew 24 tells us that ultimately these things are ahead: Tribulation, you will be hated, you will be betrayed by those who you thought were brother / sisters, lawlessness will continue to increase, and oh yea – you (Christians) will be killed. I’ve been speculating for some time that we may be seeing a sea change here in the USA. I’ve noticed a hostility to certain Christian tenets becoming mainstream. But it really struck me in this election season we are in – when one of the presidential candidates in a crowded field proclaimed that churches refusing to perform homosexual weddings will lose their tax exempt status. It appears churches and individuals will soon be forced to declare a position, and the consequences for choosing God’s Kingdom could be rather harsh. Are you ready? Will you persevere?
What is Perseverance?
In 2 Peter 1:5-7 Christians are given a spiritual road we are expected to travel. On this road there are characteristics for us to add to ourselves as we go (or should I say – as we “grow?”). It starts with faith, and to our faith we add moral excellence and to our moral excellence we add knowledge, then add self-control, then add PERSEVERANCE, godliness, brotherly kindness, and finally our ultimate purpose which is love. Perseverance is beyond the half-way point on this spiritual road we are to travel. It is a quality that mature Christians will possess. But what does it mean to persevere? Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives the following definition – steadfastness, constancy, endurance. Allow me to also give you the DDDD (Danny Dumbed Down Definition) for what it means to persevere. Perseverance is Continuing in the Lord even when life is hard. To persevere is to not be swerved by life’s difficulties or circumstances. To choose God – even at a cost. To continue with the Lord, to remain aligned with Heaven, regardless of what you face in the physical realm.
How Does One Persevere?
Well, as we say in Greenville, TX “it ain’t easy.” There is more to it than “believe in Jesus and then it happens.” There’s more to it than, “gird up your loins and set your mind to it.” The truth of the matter is – under severe persecution, mature Christians will persevere. Let’s do a deeper dive into 2 Peter 1 where we find this road we are to travel.
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we get to the nougat in the middle, let’s nibble at the scrumptious chocolate on the outside of this delicious passage. Notice in verse 3, you (Christian) are equipped to make your way up this road, seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. So, if you don’t travel this road….. say it Greenville – “it ain’t God’s fault.” But it does require effort on your part! Just before the road begins, verse 5 says Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence… This is significant. The Greek words translated “applying all diligence” literally mean to “strive forward.” In other words, we are encouraged to put effort into making our way through this road, we are to work for each new quality. And when we do walk this path, we are guaranteed to be a Christian who is productive in expanding God’s Kingdom. As it says in verse 8: For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is a brilliant order in the progression of this road – each quality relies on its predecessor as a sort of platform to sit on. So you see, you can’t just decide “I’m going to persevere when times get tough,” because perseverance relies on its predecessors. See the road that leads to perseverance:
- Faith – Faith is believing and trusting. It is the entryway into the Kingdom of God – and it is the fuel that moves you from one quality to the next. Not only is a person not a Christian if they don’t believe the gospel account and trust in what Jesus did alone for salvation – but why would anyone accept His standard of moral excellence if they don’t believe and trust what He says is what is best for them?
- Moral excellence – Isn’t this a natural next step to trusting Jesus with your salvation and your life? If Jesus is your Lord, you have already in essence agreed to submit to His moral code.
- Knowledge – This comes by our effort spending time in the written account called the Bible. As our knowledge of the Lord grows, our moral excellence that we have committed ourselves to grows as well. Knowledge of God is also necessary for self-control.
- Self-Control – Self-control is…. (wait for it)…. controlling self. We are a trinity: body, soul, and spirit. Out body is our sinful nature, which only wants to please itself and survive. The soul is the invisible you – your thoughts, will, and emotions. It is the decision making apparatus of you. The soul receives information from the body and the spirit, or from the physical and the spiritual. Finally, your spirit is your connection to the spiritual realm. It is your connection to God. God’s Spirit communicates to us via our spirit. With this being said, self-control occurs when our souls choose the Spirit over the body.
- Perseverance – Perseverance is continuing in the Lord even when life is hard. This naturally occurs in people who live lives of self-control. When we train ourselves to hear from God and choose God (Spirit) over the flesh (body), we begin to prefer the Spirit over the things in the physical realm. Eventually, we come to a point where will not give up spiritual blessings for things of this world – we WILL persevere no matter what comes our way! You see, perseverance is self-control matured. Mature Christians will persevere!
Mature Christians Persevere
So if you want to pass the test, if you want to be a person of perseverance, get on the road beginning in 2 Peter 1:5. There are no shortcuts. Build up your faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, and you will persevere. Perseverance is something strived for – then…. it just happens.