PERSEVERANCE

America is being led where it has never been before—a world of moral insanity, ethical madness and flagrant hostility to God and His people—at a rate never seen in my lifetime, perhaps not in our history. There are intimations of the Biblical judgment of God (Romans 1) and of Revelation end times in current events. Even one who is near and dear to me, a liberal Christian who was overjoyed at the results of the last election, recently confessed a sense of gloom and doom. A popular newscaster declared the situation “dangerously flaky.” Perhaps it’s time for true Christians to consider that New Testament master of perseverance—the Apostle Paul. 

Paul suffered mightily in his ministry. Five times he received 40 lashes less one. Thirty-nine lashes (13 strokes with a three-strand whip) because 40 was considered enough to kill a man. In other words he was whipped 5 times within an inch of his life. Three times he was beaten with rods and once he was stoned—a death sentence that failed. (2 Corinthians 11:24).  He suffered shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, despair, imprisonment 6 years and died by the executioner’s axe.  As R. C. Sproul said, “A man who kept the faith in spite of every single terrifying thing the world could throw at him.” And yet he told the Corinthians, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:18). And he told the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain… I desire to depart and be with Christ…But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (vs 21, 23, 24). 

How could he say that? After all that he suffered how could he continue, not only unbroken but with such ebullient optimism and good cheer?

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 has the answer. The Apostle told the Corinthians of visions and revelations of the Lord that he once had. Telling the story in the 3rd person he said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things which cannot be told, which man may not utter.” [“unlawful”–KJV]

God revealed things about his future destination to Paul that he was not free to divulge to other mortals, things inexpressible—too wonderful for words. John Calvin explains this passage beautifully for us: “Paul was given a glimpse of the glorious, to give him grace to persevere through tribulation that would have broken a thousand hearts.”

That is the “glorious” that awaits a child of God—too wonderful for words. That is why the first century persecuted Christians were so willing to face even martyrdom—they were absolutely convinced, with Paul, of the resurrection of Christ, and that death was not the final dimension but a transition to a glorious greater reality.

Is not such a glorious reality worth light momentary affliction? Do not cave and do not even try to accommodate the insatiable spirit of the antichrist (1 John 2:18) permeating our culture, even infiltrating some churches, on so important an issue as your eternal soul. Take heart, Christian. God is not sleeping. He has not abdicated nor lost control. He is working His sovereign will, and that includes our “…inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Eph. 1:1).

The Apostle John’s comforting words to first century Christians suffering widespread persecution and martyrdom equally apply through the ages:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [the godless], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

See you in church.

One Response to “PERSEVERANCE”

  1. Paul Says:

    Terrific and timely post this morning, JD. Thank you so much. Very Best Wishes, PO

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like

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