The Decision to Persevere
Philippians 3.10–16 MSG
“I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
We’re coming to the end of our series “Six Decisions That Will Change Your Life” with this fifth installment, The Decision to Persevere. We have looked at the decision to follow, for a new life, to mature, to respond and now to persevere.
To get right to it, there is nothing that breaks my heart more in ministry than someone who never truly tapped into life–giving faith in Jesus Christ. As a pastor, I see so many people who come and go, either through the doors of the church or into faith and then out again. They try this or try that but never give themselves to the experience or the tools. I find myself saying, “If its only about ‘you’ then all you’ll get is ‘you’. We want people to make it about God so that they get God out of this experience of faith.
People often times are looking for a quick fix. I can’t really blame them though because it’s something the world is offering them everyday. There is nothing truly painstaking in our world because everything is either done for us or short-cutted for convenience. Our marriages hit a rough patch and we think it’s over; our job isn’t going well and so we think we need a new one; our kids are giving us a hard time and we think we’ve lost them. We leave restaurants because we haven’t been waited on quick enough. We get upset with the cable guy and his dreaded “window of service,” when in reality there are 100s of people who need help and service each day. We have no patience; we do not want to wait; we want convenience and we want it now.
But there was nothing convenient for Jesus, as He bore the sins of the world and marched on to the cross on our behalf. Christ Himself in the garden wanted there to be an easier way, as we witness the moment of His agony before He was arrested and tortured.
And we miss it—I don’t know how, but we miss it. We miss that there is a promise, a goal, that comes from the push, from the impossible walk. Through the great suffering, Christ forged a path that would forgive the world of its sin, would win victory over death, and would promise resurrection. Through every agonizing, painful, seemingly eternal, torturous step, Jesus won the fight over death. He persevered, though there was every reason in our minds to stop. But there was no victory to win, no foe to defeat if He did not persevere.
In this day and age, in a world filled with cancer and disease, there is nothing anyone of us wouldn’t give to see death beaten and bruised, with no power over us or our loved ones. And yet, this is both the promise and the reality that comes from Jesus’ work on the cross and our following Jesus on the road to resurrection–life.
Paul wanted to experience this life, this Jesus–victorious–over–death Life. And Paul knew through the invitation to follow Christ that if we followed Christ now in life, that we would attain everlasting life. And so we associate ourselves with His life, associate ourselves with His death, and associate ourselves with His resurrection, because it is in Jesus that we have victory over death. For Paul, there was nothing in this world more important than that knowledge and way of living, because that knowledge and way of life is salvation.
Catholic author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult ; and left untried” (G.K. Chesterton, “What’s Wrong With The World”). Chesterton is right, in that if we do not persevere in the things that God has commanded us in, then we will fall short due only to difficulty, not commitment. Because if we were committed to Christ, having full faith in Him, then we would move through the difficult and reap the blessings that come through walking daily with Jesus Christ.
All that God has promised and all that Scripture reveals is true and possible. What is lacking is perseverance and a committed life. Just as Paul says in our text, “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
This is the reason for the Church, for the fellowship that God has created for His saints; that we would be united in our efforts, committed together in a fellowship of people who will walk the way of Christ—the way of suffering—and persevere with Him to the hill of Calvary where life awaits through a holy and redeeming death.
And now, will you make the decision persevere? Will you say, “It’s too hard. I don’t have time. It’s not possible. It takes too long.” Or, will you band together, put forth the effort, give it time, roll with the punches, and walk the walk to receive the blessing? I say, make the decision to persevere. Amen.