Spare Change - September 2019
Perseverance is a Spiritual Discipline
I’ve been thinking a lot about recent high-profile believers (or as some would say Christian celebrities) recanting their faith. I have concluded that perseverance in the faith is a spiritual discipline that must be practiced daily. To stay faithful to Christ, through all the ups and downs of life, is no small feat. It requires daily submission to Christ and a faith that grows as life experiences pile up. The real problem with all this revolves around the validity of God’s Word. It goes after the very essence of what is true.
As orthodox believers, we have always claimed that God’s Word is the foundation of our faith. We believe it is truly the perfect and inerrant Word of God. That it is more than just words on a page, but when studied with the intent of learning and growing, that God actually speaks to our heart through it. We are taught to take our experiences and look at them through the lens of scripture. As we struggle against trials and temptations, we know our God keeps His promises. We believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28).
However, these apostates, now denying Christ, claim to come to these realizations after considering their life experience (as if life experience negates truth) and now they do not believe in the validity of God’s Word. Because of cultural pressure, their own feelings, and their own struggles, they stop believing the Word of God is true. At some point they listened to a teacher or preacher and had an experience. Only God can say if it was a genuine experience, but by their own testimony it probably wasn’t. This experience carried them for a long time as they learned and grew but, at some point, what they were seeing in life did not match up to their beliefs and they had to choose. Do they truly believe the gospel of Jesus Christ or do they believe the version of truth that the world is selling?
While this seems new and is undoubtedly new to these Christ deniers, it is not new. These people do not have the market on troubling experiences or on doubts about God’s Word. This experiencing life through your own truth is a form of religious liberalism. The doctrines about scripture are denied, as are the doctrines about Christ and many other things. The problem is they want to keep their fame, their influence and even their spirituality but without Christ. We must ask, without Christ, does any of that really matter?
Paul would argue from 1 Corinthians 15 that without the gospel of Jesus Christ our faith is in vain. In fact, if the gospel of Christ is not real then we should all live by whatever truth we deem acceptable. But, if the gospel of Christ IS TRUE then we must stay true to that belief no matter what happens in life.
That means we must look at life through the lens of the gospel. When hard times come, we know God is in control. When we face an illness, we know we are in God’s hands. Whatever comes our way we know that Jesus is right there in the middle of it with us. This is called perseverance. We must see the ability to persevere through all life’s storms as a spiritual discipline that we grow in. We must daily submit our doubts, fears, and notions from culture to Christ. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any of these, it just means we work them out in a way that corresponds with our faith. We also realize that sometimes we have to seek to overcome them because they are temptations to sin.
Faith in Jesus was never meant to be easy, but we stand on the shoulders of many believers that have come before and have faced similar obstacles to their faith. They have persevered just as we must persevere. The words of Paul in Philippians 2:12-13 have always given me great comfort when dealing with perseverance, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”