Tag Archives: Perseverance

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Revelation 2:10 – “The Duration of Warfare”)

“The Duration of Warfare”

Revelation 2:10, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

This morning, life seems to follow a pattern of one of the famous literary lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” To the disciple of Christ trying to adhere faithfully to His injunctions, it seems so dark and distressing at what the world is propagating these days. To that same individual, today is the closest we have ever been to the 2nd coming of our Lord. Truly, this day – with all of its sorrowful circumstances – is still the best in the regard of being nearest to the blessed end. Till that blessed day arrives, much needs to be done in combating the problems that cross our path as diligent and faithful soldiers of the cross. While we will always have problems as long as we dwell in a sin-cursed plane, that does not necessitate our falling prey to them. So, the question that any soldier must ask is, “How long must this fight endure?”

As we launch into this mode of thought, please note dear reader that the only portion of our study verse that we will consider is the expression “be thou faithful unto death.” There are many more good things in this verse and the immediate context regarding the address to the church at Smyrna. However, our scope is more broad than the focus on one church as this lesson is primarily directed. Since the answer to the soldier’s question is readily apparent from the expression itself. Consider this quote from a famous American general as we go into this, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” — General Douglas MacArthur

The injunction on warfare’s duration is simple and straightforward. As long as we have breath, we should stand and war a good warfare faithfully. In the workforce, people look forward to one thing seemingly more than any other: retirement. I must confess that at my relatively young age, I think about it. Most of my thoughts revolve around how I much I could do that I want to do if retired. However, it should not be so for the disciple’s life of service. Our “want to” should align with our “ought to.” We may have times and seasons where we want to quit the fight or take a sabbatical. But, faithfulness should know no season and cessation of conflict with the world should never occur, as this world is not our friend.

In recent days, I have seen the rise of the retirement mentality in some Christian circles regarding their service and faithfulness to God’s kingdom. In the denominational world, preachers are retiring (mind boggling thought!), and even in our own churches, people are semi-to-fully retired in their efforts worshipping the Lord. While I am all for encouraging younger, fresher people in churches to take responsibilities as they grow and develop, there is no discharge in this war and service of ours. Prayers should stay most fervent. Worship should remain passionate and heart-felt. Daily life should still look as bright and refulgent as a shining light in a cold dark world. Years ago, a much older minister confessed to me that he had not really read or studied his Bible in years. His preaching was basically a re-presentation of things preached in years past. He said with shame that he had been brought to his knees by the Almighty to pick his sword back up and war again.

Let us transition this thought to our highest Example. Jesus Christ the Lord was faithful unto death. While this question does not apply to us with the same weight it does to Him, what are the ramifications of not being so? Had Jesus Christ not been faithful all the way to death, we would be yet in our sins and of all men most miserable. Thank God and bless His name that our faithfulness unto death does not carry such eternal ramifications! However, consider how our faithfulness in this regard does affect us, and more pertinently those around us. Most people are going to remember what portion of someone’s life? More than likely, the thing that will stand out the most is how they finished their course.

When runners run in a race, a fast starter that fades down the stretch will be a mere footnote as a participant in the race. Though he may have led the first half of it, his effort will not endure. There have been ministers I have known in the past that were great blessings for many years to God’s people. Their preaching was mighty and powerful, but down the stretch they either faded to a moral problem or theological error. All most people remember about them is not the years of faithful service but the reprobate or heretical behavior that came forth at the end. The greatest legacy we can leave for our children and those following after us is not money, land, possessions, or even seasons of faithful examples. Rather the greatest legacy we can leave those we love is the example of finishing our course with joy, rejoicing in hope even until the end, and steadfastly holding on to those things that bring lasting peace and joy to the soul.

Getting back to the quote from the beginning, every one of us should have the prayer of peace first and foremost in our hearts. Not peace with the world but peace from out of his world. We will be at peace one day with a full cessation of hostilities for evermore. That discharge will come from either death or Christ’s coming. Until one of those two events transpire, faithfulness should be our primary course: in all seasons, in all situations, and no matter the price that it costs. Faithfulness to His Divine will occurred for our Lord all the time, no matter what He was faced with, and even at the cost of His life for us. May our course follow the same direction and path. May our best days of faithful service be those before us. As the world grows darker, may we grow brighter. As death nears, may we rejoice in hope with all faith even more. As another memorable character said during a great time of conflict, “This was their finest hour.” May people remember the end of warfare as being our finest hour of service, thanksgiving, and praise knowing that our arms would be laid down forever to rest in peace and at home.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Terminology-Perseverance)

This morning, our mind turns to the subject and usage of the term perseverance.  While this term has – in recent years – actually gone up in usage frequency in popular culture, it remains a somewhat challenged piece of theological ground for many groups.  The term basically means that steady, persistent behaviour keeps someone in a certain way.  The persistence or continuation in that state generally yields results that are desirable to the person, thereby rewarding them for that action or determination.  For example, the most popular usage today revolves around athletic and sporting competitions.  If an individual or team perseveres in their athletic endeavour, they are said to persistently continue on and fight during the conflict to overcome any and all obstacles to achieve the desired result of winning the sporting event.

What makes this topic – and even the term itself – such a hot topic in theological circles is the fact that the term is Biblical but the general usage of it does not align with the Biblical usage.  Quite often, the term perseverance is utlized alongside other terms to create phrases such as "perseverance in grace," "perseverance in faith," "perseverance in faith and holiness," "perseverance in righteousness and true holiness," or perhaps some other combination of these or other terms.  While we will not try to investigate each used phrase in turn to prove its merit or demerit, we will seek to examine how the Bible outlines the term, and thereby we hope to show forth the proper usage of it.

The term perseverance is found one time in Scripture (Ephesians 6:18), and no other form of the word is located within the pages of Holy Writ.  Therefore, the Bibilical, outlined usage of it is restricted to one particular context and its associated subject matter.  Ephesians 6 lines out for us the armour of God, what each piece does, and how the Christian soldier should utilize it.  Perseverance is found to help cover the legs as they remain bent in prayer and watching with all continuance and persistance (perseverance) in that activity.  Simply put, this is the only context that the Bible defines for the word.

Quite often, people will interpose the term perseverance for preservation or vice versa.  Instead of describing the preservation of the saints, people talk about the perseverance of the saints, meaning it in that way.  While I understand what they mean (and try to exercise charity for the usage), we always play a dangerous game when taking a Biblical term and utilizing it in a different fashion from the Bible's presentation of it.  For example, if I were to teach the word in a preaching way and always teach it as an alternate expression for preservation, what might happen to the hearers as their reading takes them through Ephesians 6?  They might read through Ephesians 6 and think, "Well if I am not constantly praying and watching this way, I may not be preserved in God's hand." 

On a related note, sometimes the expressions used above such as "perseverance in faith and holiness" are relayed with the very thought that people who are not doing such are not part of God's redeemed band.  Perhaps the preacher might say, "If you do not persevere in faith and holiness, then you are not really a child of God."  On a few occasions, I have had the experience to cross paths with ministers of this philosophy, and those conversations yielded some interesting conversation threads.  Whether they preached perseverance in faith, holiness, righteousness, etc., their main points were the same: 1. these were necessary requirements to show forth a regenerated state, 2. those who were saved did these things, 3. those who did not were either unsaved or not yet regenerated.

While these dogmas are not new, there has been an increased rise in their belief across some broad spectrums of Christianity and different denominational groups.  Yet, whether they are "trendy" ideals of the day among Christians or not, the fact remains that Scripture neither teaches those concepts nor should God's children be found engaged in such ill-adivsed observation trying to determine the "who ares" and "who ain'ts" in God's family. (II Timothy 2:19) Whenever I have engaged in conversation with ministers who believed and preached this dogma, one thing that I have always asked and not yet received clear answer about are a series of logical questions about the concept.

The first logical question is what happens if someone waffles back and forth between righteousness and unrighteousness, faith and apostasy, or holiness and filthiness?  To persevere in something means to steadfastly, persistently continue in a certain thing.  To return to something does not qualify as perseverance, as its meaning regulates the activity to staying in something rather than returning to it.  For example, many teach that dogma using Job 17:9 as a prooftext for it.  Yet, a further, closer reading of Job's thought does not say that the righteous will return to his way, but rather that the righteous shall hold on his way.  Therefore, if that verse teaches that one must persevere to be a righteous man, any one of us who has ever departed – even for a season – from the right way would thereby fail the perseverance and righteousness test.  Should that thought be true, not a one of us would pass the test, and heaven would be echoing in silence from the absence of redeemed people being there.

The second logical question is that if one must persevere in that way, how do we define and measure it?  Are we simply talking about a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) test?  If so, are we talking about one of the fruit, all nine, etc.?  The term "perseverance in _____" is often used but never fully defined and scoped.  Therefore, I try to get the defintion and scope of what they mean by the term.  To date, none have ever given me a measurable definition that the Bible supports.  Some attest to positive response to the gospel as the test, even though the Bible shows God's people at times did not respond positively to the gospel. (Galatians 1:6-9) Since Paul references "another gospel" as being "not another" but rather an "accursed thing," we cannot hope to define someone's righteousness and steadfast character on a response to something "accursed."  Sometimes, they talk about the test being "measurable observance of fruit."  When pressed on the measure (how much of it), I have yet to get a defined answer.  They simply say that it is measureable but do not offer the benchmark.

Normally, the second question is about where the conversation falls apart, but the dangerous usage of the word as it departs from the Biblical outlined usage of it shows an even bigger and more dangerous hole that many have fallen into.  When it comes to someone's home in heaven, only One persevered to accomplish it – Jesus Christ.  As Paul so beautifully put it, if Christ died for us, then our condition in life gets trumped by His work. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10) What if someone is having a bad season showing forth filth and in a hole of unrighteousness?  What if someone has departed from the faith and gone after the ways of the world?  Truly, these are lamentable circumstances that we have all seen and all of us – self included – have been in at different times.  Yet, Paul so wonderfully comforts us by saying that Christ's death trumps our behaviour.  Waking or sleeping, well or not well, persevering or wallowing in misery, Christ's death assures that we shall live together with Him.

The proper mindset of the subject of perseverance is – as Paul describes it – the aim of the Christian soldier.  With all the armour pieces rightly fitted around his person, the soldier adds the last element by consistent, fervent watching and praying to the Captain of the entire army.  The Captain is the one that saved us after all. (Hebrews 2:10) Therefore, our watching and praying should be so consistent and persistent that our prayers really are "without ceasing." (I Thessalonians 5:17) By earnestly and continually fulfilling that task, we can say that we persevere in that activity.  That is the goal.  That is the aim.  Yet, may we never ascribe that as the benchmark by which we describe God's family.  To describe God's family as we should, we say that God's family is washed in His blood and preserved in His hand. (Jude 1, Revelation 1:6) To describe the goal of God's family while we are here, we should say that we try to walk in newness of life, showing forth His praises, persevering as we go.

In Hope,

Bro Philip