Chapter 7: Life Lessons on Perseverance
1. The soul will starve without feasting on the daily bread of God’s Word and the food of doing His will.
Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” The fact is simply that without taking in God’s Word and meditating on it, we will get weakened and famished spiritually. Bread feeds the stomach and brings energy and strength to the body, but it is the Bible that energizes the soul, that teaches us which way to go, and that equips us with strength for whatever the journey ahead of us entails. If we lose our attentiveness to the Word of God, we will soon lose our way and start wandering and wasting our lives instead of being wise stewards of our time and energy (Ephesians 5:15-16). The Bible allows us to be able to look around us and see everything through the grid of truth and according to the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). It allows us to make sense of our existence and to explain things and actually know how to help people and fix things. It gives us a right perspective, valuing eternal things so highly that it impacts our daily decision-making on earth. There is no wisdom in the world, no matter how many degrees one has and how many papers one has written. The Bible gives wisdom, for in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). As we approach the world with Christ in our hearts and with the Bible as our guide, others will think we are stupid and foolish for the decisions that we make and the paths that we take. But we will have the assurance that what we are doing is right, true, and God-honoring, even if the world fails to recognize it.
John 4:34 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.’” The body gets hungry and tired after doing hard work, but spiritually we actually get fed and strengthened as we do God’s will and work. We should be hungry and thirsty for righteousness and for the great commission (Matthew 5:6). As we see God use us and open doors for us, it encourages us and motivates us toward further good works. Being around other true, Bible-believing Christians is a stimulant for kingdom service (Hebrews 10:24-25). If we cut ourselves off from doing what we know God wants us to do and from hearing from Him by reading what He has said to us in His Word, we will be famished of heart and soul. God has created us and designed us with good works to do from even before we were conceived. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” As we fulfill God’s design for our lives and continue in His Word, we will be filled to the point of satisfaction in our inner man.
2. In study and in life, God wants us to be honest and persistent inquirers, diligently searching out the truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” It is one thing to be familiar with the Bible or to have a lot of Bible knowledge, and it is another thing to be able to accurately teach and dissect the contents of Scripture. It is one thing to be a theological scholar, and it is another thing to be able to wisely interpret and apply the Word of God. It is one thing to be a master of Bible trivia, and it is another to recognize the value of even the most unfamiliar passages. False teaching or teaching that is incomplete and therefore misleading is something that we should be ashamed of because it is not evidence of rightly handling the truth. We must properly and rightly open up the Bible and interpret and apply it to our lives accurately. Many people use a verse taken from here or there to fit a position that they had already established as “fact.” The humble Bible student will make the Bible itself his starting point and axiom, and every conclusion will be deduced from there. The more times we read through the Bible, the easier it will be to see when people take things out of context or misapply certain passages by neglecting other relevant passages. The great commission involves teaching everything that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:19-20), and we are told to be mature in Christ as we journey through the full counsel of God (Ephesians 4:14-15). This takes hard work and labor, but there is nothing more valuable and more worthwhile in terms of time spent than reading through the Bible. It is good to take a little bit here and a little bit there, but there is also a time to be a workman and take the whole thing in one big bite. This is really important for being able to see the big picture, and it is much easier to go from the big picture to the small and difficult pieces of the puzzle than from the inside of the puzzle out.
Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” In sanctification, as in salvation, we are to seek out the truth concerning Christ. Our lives in Christ on this earth will involve continued growth and learning until the day we die. We will be prone to forget, to relapse, and to lose track of the main things unless we are in the Word and seeking and hoping to learn more. We should beware when we get to a point where we think we have it all figured out, and we should beware when we sit under teaching that makes us feel complacent rather than that which motivates us to keep digging. The Bible has something to say concerning all aspects of life if we are willing to search it out. There is no field where God’s wisdom doesn’t influence behavior, strategy, and ethical guidelines. In fact, the challenges we encounter should make us want to go back to the Bible with an eye for something that we might not have been looking for before. God’s Word will never run out of thrills to give us as God teaches us new and wonderful things which we hadn’t yet known.
Acts 17:11 says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” The Bible is the final authority, and God is the only One Who has never made a mistake. Thus, we must always eagerly take in truth given to us, but, at the same time, we must always filter out any impurities, fallacies, or incompleteness by way of searching out the Scriptures. The Bible is how we know the real from the fake, the valuable from the worthless, the wise from the fool, right from wrong, and truth from error. Life is much easier when there is a roadmap (Psalm 119:105), and we would be wise to become well-acquainted with it.
3. Eyes must be kept on the prize of heaven as we run to win by winning as many as we can to Christ.
Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew that he wasn’t perfect, but by faith he wanted to keep working out his salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that God would have no problem molding a humble, pliable vessel into His image over time (Philippians 2:12-13). He valued eternity, the weight of the coming glory (2 Corinthians 4:17), and the importance of heaven and eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). There were many things on earth clamoring for his attention to distract, delay, or discourage him, but he purposed to keep his eye on the prize so that he could run to win. 1 Corinthians 9:22-24 says, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” It makes no sense to be in a race and then not run toward the finish line or to be a boxer and throw punches at the air. To hit the ball out of the park takes practice, discipline, and focus, keeping one’s eye on the ball. Christians must remember the main things in order to run the race to win. Getting to heaven is a guarantee with Christ in our hearts, and one day meeting Him in the air is a blessed hope. But we should also want to bring a return on His investment, for we should have fruit to show for our labors. This will happen if we regularly assess the state of our hearts, if we forgive when others sin against us, if we ask for forgiveness when we sin against others, and if we don’t cower away in fear. Bold witnesses for Christ usually will be viewed as radical, but that is a compliment for the true Christian. Jesus’ words got Him killed, so we should expect resistance and persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). But this cannot stop us from testifying to what we know is true and to what we know others need to hear. They can either pay for their sins themselves in hell, or they can let Jesus pay for their sins for them. The good news of the gospel is just as relevant and needed today as it was in the past, and it is just as applicable and necessary as it will be until Jesus returns. The gospel is the main message, our main purpose, our main hope, and our main vision. The prize of heaven awaits every believer, but running to win means trying to get as many as possible to join us there.