Wednesday, November 3, 2010

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Endure To The End

What does it mean to endure to the end? I often think that we are setting up newly born again Christians for failure in their walk with Christ. We hear the phrase, “Give your life to the Lord, and He will change your life.” Given the overall view, that is a true statement. However, if it is not balanced with more complete wisdom from the Lord, it is the perfect set up that Satan will take full advantage of to cause the believer, even some of the more mature Christians, to fall away from the faith.

To begin with, it can give the false impression that following Jesus means that your life is going to be changed so that miraculously from then on your life is going to be nothing but rainbows and completely devoid of any struggles or effects of those struggles. Do you see the utter danger and fallacy of such a viewpoint? For me, Romans 4, 5 and James 1, 2 contain a great big nugget of gold that, if taken in and thoroughly digested, can give such strength to guard against a falling away from the faith. I insert portions of those scriptures, along with my own thoughts, to share with you. May His Holy Spirit use this to enlighten our understanding that we may be built up in our faith to withstand the fiery darts of the enemy.

Romans 5: 1-5
Therefore being justified (just if I had never sinned) by faith,We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom we also have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; Knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience (steadfastness), experience; And experience, hope; And hope maketh not ashamed; because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts By the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

James 1: 2, 3, 12
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations (various trials)
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh (develops) patience. But let patience have her perfect (complete) work (in you) That you may be perfect (mature) and entire (finished), wanting (lacking) nothing. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: For when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, Which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.

Count it all joy when troubles come into your life? As a natural man, without the Holy Spirit to teach me God’s ways, that sounds absolutely ridiculous. Can the natural man really have peace and contentment even when things seem to be falling apart in his life? Can we really glory In tribulations ? We can, only if the “love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Without the love of God in the heart of the believer, trials can have just the opposite effect causing him to become bitter and critical and lose the “crown of life.” Time and time again, we may go through periods where it seems that if one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong. At times, I have felt like my life was some kind of horrible destructive soap opera. You know how soap operas are with everyone cheating on each other, and one disaster is followed by another. Well, my husband and I never cheated on each other, but troubles often seemed to come in an avalanche form. And I’m supposed to Count it all joy?

Yes, that is exactly right. The worse thing I could do is to walk in the attitude of blaming God, and asking Him, “Why me Lord? Why are you letting this happen to me?” That is the destructive path to take that only leads to pity parties and depression. It is looking at my life through my own limited view rather than the over all view that God has. Remember, He knows the beginning from the end, while we may be in the middle of a tunnel and can’t see the light at either end. What He has been teaching me is that the important thing is not what is happening to me, but what is He doing in me. Instead of focusing on “Why me?” He’s teaching me, “Okay Lord, what is it that you want me to learn?” Troubles can be a part of His precious refiner’s fire through which He takes us
to melt and mold us more into His image. He knows what is further down the road, and He is making our faith stronger to face the coming steps.

My nephew, Eddie, was diagnosed with stage four cancer. For three years he battled against it with a courage that could only be given by God. He was given the unconditional love of his family to help encourage him and see him through this- to endure to the end. No, he didn’t just exist. He lived life with a purpose for three years, continuing life in such a way that would touch and change forever lives of others. With each step in his fight, he would face it with “Okay, this is the next step.” He lived each day with a purpose of accomplishing all that he could in the allotted time given to him. He could have chosen to just quit, but he didn’t. He endured to the end with a
purpose filled life. For me, he exemplified God’s work of “patience.” Then when his work on earth was done, God took him home where that work in him is now completed and that crown of life is received.

Unwavering faith is not something that happens just by chance. Growing in faith is a process that takes time. It is a journey in which God works in gradual steps to perfect us and make us fit for that journey. The purpose of the journey is to teach us to turn to Him so that He can remake us more into His image. Now, who wouldn’t want to be more like Jesus? I feel like I was blessed very early in life. I don’t mean that my family was always totally God centered. However, I was brought up in such a way that the seeds of the knowledge of God were planted in my heart as a very young child. Jesus had always been a reality in my life as far back as I could remember. Later as an adult, I realized that I wanted and needed a deeper walk with the Lord. I knelt in prayer and asked Jesus to come into my heart to be my “personal” Lord and Savior. In other words, I wanted Him to be Lord of my life as well as my Savior. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to happen, but because the earth didn’t shake and there was no sound of trumpets to announce my entrance into His Kingdom, I felt unsure if anything was really made different in my life. I didn’t realize that really walking with the Lord was a life long process and not just one single moment or event in ones life. Nor did I realize that the cares and storms of life, not just the powers and principalities of Satan and his demons, could or would be elements that would continually try to beset me to try to weaken, or even destroy, my decision to stay true to my commitment of faith in the Lord.

Maturing in Christ is truly a process that is joyful and glorious, but it also means that for growth to truly occur, we are going to experience pain and even great heartache along the way. Does that mean then that when those hard times come into our life that the Lord has failed us? Far be it! Look at the greatest example of what it means to truly “endure to the end” as given by Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. First of all, He didn’t consider it to great a price to leave His heavenly kingdom to come to Earth to be tested and tried in all ways that we are tried. He, the Creator in whom and by whom all things were made, didn’t think it was too great a price to be crucified that you and I might be redeemed through faith in Him. During His life on Earth, He suffered everything and far more than any of us could ever imagine. When people spat on Him, mocked and ridiculed Him, He had the power to destroy them, but daily He chose to do His Father’s will and walked in love and forgiveness even toward His enemies. Did He lose faith, give up, or quit because things got rough? No! He chose to endure to the end. When He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He could have said, “No, this is far too much to ask.” Yet He said, “Thy Will Be Done.” He chose to endure to the end. When He hung on the cross, those passing by hurled insults at Him saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’.”(Matt. 27: 40 – 43) Yet Jesus, all man, all God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, still did not shrink from His commitment. He chose to endure to the end. They did not take His life. He, who knew no sin, did not quit. He suffered separation from His Heavenly Father, suffered the agony of our sins laid upon Him, and ascended into the depths of Hell in order to become the resurrected Christ who paid the full price for our redemption. He didn’t quit. He endured to the end as He said, “it is finished” and commended His Spirit to His Father in Heaven. He demonstrated the importance of the journey on earth without ever asking “Why is this happening to me?” By this, He also showed us the importance of true trust and faith in the Lord that will see us through all the trials and tribulations of this life.

I’m now 68 years old. I’ve been through a lot and hopefully learned a lot. At the same time, I know He is not finished with me yet and will “continue to perfect that which concerns me” until I see Him face to face. I am still learning what it means to “count it all joy” when trials and tribulations come into my life. Hopefully, I am learning to respond to troubles by turning to Him with the questions of “Okay Lord, what is it that you want me to learn this time? What work are you doing in me this time?” I don’t glory or boast in my suffering, but I do want to give Him all the glory and honor for He alone is worthy of praise. At times, I have known Him to miraculously take me out of the pain of the trial, but more often I have learned to praise Him for being with me and in me as He takes me through to the other side.

At one moment in my life years ago, I stood at the door of my house and heard His voice speaking to me. He said, “If you loose this house and everything in it, God is still God.” At the time, I didn’t understand the full significance of what He was telling me. I just accepted it and said, “Okay God.” Every person on earth, Christian or not, can not get through life without experiencing trials, tribulations, pain, tears, bad times, as well as good times. It is not going to be the good times that are most instrumental in drawing us closer to God. However, the bad times can have one of two effects in shaping the direction that our lives will take. We can choose to say, “Forget you God. If you don’t do what I want and expect you to do, I reject you and refuse to have anything to do with you.” He has given us the liberty to choose. It’s called free will. When troubles come into our lives, we could ask Him, “Why is this happening to me?” and choose to wallow in a real pity party. Or the better way would be to say, “Lord, no matter what happens to me, I choose to have faith in you, to trust in you, and believe that whatever does happen to me, you will use it to perform your good work in me. I ask you to give me wisdom, which is to see life from your viewpoint. Help me to know what is right, and have the courage to do that which is right in your sight. May I always choose to praise you in and for all things.” In the bad times especially, we learn that we can’t buy, work, or think our way out of them; we can draw near to Him and trust that He will carry us through them and accomplish the strengthening of our trust and faith in Him. In doing so, He makes our faith deeper and stronger, enabling us to continue on the road of life with real purpose. Eventually, when we see him face to face, we will truly glory in the blessings He has stored up in heaven for those who do endure to the end. Because of that, we will have eternal life with Him where we can not begin to imagine the total blessings that He has in store for us. For the present, we have the joy of His presence with and in us by the power of His Holy Spirit who comforts us and gives us the kind of peace that passes all understanding. Therefore count it all joy when you fall into divers tribulations, “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

II Corinthians 4: 8, 9, 16
“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; We are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; Cast down, but not destroyed;
…but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.”

Trust in the Lord always, and endure to the end.

Ginger Rahn


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