We live in between the times; the time when the Messiah first appeared, and the advent of His return. And so we wait (see here). This is not a mindless or purposeless waiting. In the waiting our faith is made manifest, that others would see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Paul calls this “faith working through love.” Jesus said it so simply–yet we miss the simplicity when our own pride gets the better of us. Jesus said He obeyed His Father because He loves His Father; likewise if we love God we will obey. Not perfectly, but as a little child who comes to the Father willingly, cheerful, jumping into His arms, “Hey Dad! What are we doing today? Will you give me everything I need for it?”
Selah: Take a moment to read John 15
Where does our obedience come from? When we are rooted in grounded in His love, drinking deeply from the Vine, gazing upon our Beloved Saviour, we are strengthened for obedience. He works in us, and His work is displayed in our actions.
True obedience comes from Spirit at work in us. This call to obey is not merely a call to try harder, but a reminder that we are His, a reminder to follow Him rather than trying to live on our own.
Spirit Led Obedience
This means primarily that as we turn to the Word, and He teaches us, growing us in spiritual wisdom and understanding, that we will “walk in a manner worthy of the LORD, to please Him in all respects.” (see Colossians 1). We will also, like Paul, have this as the prayer of our hearts for ourselves, our church, and all our fellow Christians.
The Spirit works in our hearts to desire what He desires, to love what He loves, to approve of what He calls ‘good.’ But also to hate what He hates, and to use His vocabulary–if God uses words, we approve of those words. If people have misused these words, we do not throw them out, we focus on His meaning, and seek to delight in His Words.
Obedience and Perseverance
As we walk in the Spirit (see Galatians 5), He will lead us in perseverance, patience, and all the fruit that all go together to make us more like Christ. This also entails becoming less infatuated with ourselves and who we thought we were. Looking back on the dreams I had when I was in college, or Graduate School; remembering fondly the various ministries I was involved in; it would be all too easy to grow frustrated that I am not still “that same person.” Some in my similar life stage fight this hard, thinking that being a mother and homemaker is inferior…so we look for ways to find others willing to take up these roles for us, so we can get to “be me” and pursue callings that we want to continue in without the interruption of years at home. But is that true gospel perseverance?
We find our life hidden in Christ, and are filled with joy–rather than dismay–at realizing He has a different vision for your life than you did. We press on, filled with His strength and power to do so. We persevere in the faith, not in dreams and visions we had for our own lives. Perseverance grasps the paradox that we must lose our lives to find them.
A most beautiful doctrine, one often misunderstood, and sometimes hated. Hated? Yes, by those who see this as a heavy burden put upon their shoulders rather than what it is–a promise from Your King that you will be kept by His power.
Romans 8 declares it this way: nothing can separate you from His love, not even the most severe trials and temptations. No enemy. Nor even your own lack of strength. And in Romans 15 he continues:
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus…”
Remember last week’s discussion of hope? Hope and perseverance go together. And God’s Word does not return to Him void, His Word is powerful. Whatever was written, His Spirit will use, to produce perseverance in us. We are kept by His power, kept in His hand. And He will bring us at last “into His heavenly Kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18).
A whole book could be written on this topic, a task I’m not undertaking here. Rather I want to leave you with a challenge.
Take the time to read, write, pray through, and meditate on these passages, asking the Spirit to teach you about His work of perseverance in us. (What is it to meditate on Scripture? See here.)
John 10, especially verses 27-28
Romans 5:6-11; 6:20-23; 15:4-13
2 Corinthians 4:16 (especially in light of the whole chapter)
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Hebrews 10:32-39; 12:25-29
1 Peter 1:3-13
1 John 4:13-19
Here in 1 Timothy 6:
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (NIV)
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (ESV)
But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. (NASB)
This word which is understood as perseverance, steadfastness, and endurance is the fruit of the Spirit, it is the Christlikeness which He works in us. It goes with gentleness and faith and love, etc.
Yet, as we seek after Him, as we seek first the Kingdom of God, so we also pursue the Spirit’s work in us. True discipleship teaches us to pursue these things; and as we pursue this perseverance, we find that He is renewing in us the true image of God, drawing us into the love of God and steadfastness of Christ (Colossians 2:6-7 and 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:5).
How will you pursue these things this week? This month? This year?
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash