Our son Jake has a few shirts. The majority of them have long sleeves. The majority of these shirts are blue. Each were chosen because of their comfort-to-the touch feel. And all of them will be worn until they can be worn no more. The shirts in Jake’s closet were purchased in 2015.
Traditionally, we buy our clothes in the States when we are on home assignment. For our family, this strategy has worked for us. We don’t need to concern ourselves with a clothing budget or set of clothing expenses when we are on the field. More of our income can be directed to ministry or family expenses generated in South Africa. Yes, I know, that’s a unique thought. However, that’s what we do – we attempt to manage our ministry resources in a way that makes them extend as long as possible.
But, I digress.
Let’s get back to Jake!
Jake rotates the wear of his blue shirts. He actually has a shirt-wearing schedule. He understands that to wear one shirt all the time would shorten its lifespan. However, there is one of Jake’s long-sleeve blue shirt that is showing significantly more wear. Truth be known, he dons this shirt twice a week. It’s just a matter of time before the shirt disintegrates. Jake gets every bit of life out of his shirts for as long as he can. Since I am buying him XX-Large men’s sized shirts now, he’s not necessarily growing out of them – like he once did. Therefore, we will soon reach a time of reckoning. Jake and I will negotiate the shirt’s final end. You see, he’ll fight for the life of his shirts like he’d fight for a family member or close friend. Jake is just like that. He’s loyal, faithful and true. He’ll continue forward, firmly settled upon and unwavering about wearing his trusted blue shirts (and one black one) forever. He won’t quit.
Today, I made a connection with Jake and his shirt loyalty as I read these words in Scripture:
But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.
New International Version, Colossians 1: 22-23
Just as Jake stays with, perseveres, remains loyal, true, and steadfast to his blue shirts, we are exhorted to do the same with Jesus Christ. Perseverance is a critical, intrinsic attitude in the heart and life of the Believer. Perseverance is a demonstrable act. You cannot fake perseverance, because perseverance requires resilience, patience, and determination to keep moving forward despite the difficulties we encounter in life. The Colossian Church was experiencing the challenges of an untested and untried faith. Without perseverance, they were vulnerable. Although Paul commended the Colossian Church’s confession and declaration of faith in his letter, it was just the beginning of their faith journey. Paul realized that this blossoming house church was being besieged by false teachers with words of syncretism and self-actualization. Would they discard the Hope of the Gospel and deny its promises in favor of humanistic, self-centered persuasions?
That was their ‘BIG IF.’
It can be our BIG IF as well.
Regardless of how new we are in the faith, all Believers are vulnerable to various ideas, thoughts and persuasions that tempt us to look away from Christ and possibly cast Him aside like an old shirt.
What causes our faith to waver?
What causes us to move away from Jesus Christ? Even, just a little bit?
Is it fear?
Is it distrust?
Is it discouragement?
Is it pain and hardship?
Is it disenchantment?
Is it failure?
Is it anger?
Is it discontentment?
Is it sorrow?
Is it indifference?
Yes, that’s the question, isn’t it?
Often our greatest hindrance to embracing the hope of the Gospel is becoming indifferent and lukewarm after we have experienced some kind of challenge or setback in life. We doubt the love and care of our God and in so doing numb ourselves to His call and His loving advances.
Yet, the Lord never quits on us nor does He move from us. He remains steadfast. He continues to invite us into a bold, invigorative life in Him.
Paul invites us to the same dynamic, life-giving opportunity in Christ. In so doing, he challenges us to be grounded, settled and unmovable in our faith. He calls us to persevere. For in Christ, we have a firm foundation as we build our lives upon His solid Rock. Even as life’s challenges crash against us and perhaps even leave a mark, we remain steady and firm as we draw upon the strength of Christ. Second, in Christ, we are able to exercise and strengthen our faith. How? By continuing forward in resolute trust that Jesus Christ is with us and that He is guiding us. We live in and abide with the grace that is offered to us. As we continue, we see Him at work – molding and shaping us in the process. Third, we abound in the activity and work He gives us. Motivated by our love for Christ and for our fellow man, we appreciate the life we have! In so doing, we contribute our gifts and abilities to those in our sphere of influence. Finally, we hold fast to the Hope of the Gospel which anchors our soul. Do you remember the cord of hope from the Old Testament? In Christ, we are confidently held and riveted to the care and purposes of God. He has an amazing plan for our lives and is orchestrating it for not only us, but for His Kingdom to come! Thus, He won’t let go. Not now. Not ever.
We need to believe that!
Too many become disheartened in their faith and walk away. There is also a tendency to deny Christ because of humanistic teaching – it’s just as prevalent today as it was in the time of the Colossians. It’s very tempting to be self-reliant – it’s just plain easier to trust oneself than anyone else – even the Savior of the World.
Yet, if we call ourselves Christ-followers, we are asked to remain true to Christ and stay away from the “BIG IF” temptations.
How do we persevere and endure in Christ in the face of discouragement or despair?
We pray. We pray. We pray.
We seek our Lord for our needs and for the needs of others as part of our daily practice.
We spend time in His Word.
God’s Word is an invaluable resource of wisdom, guidance, and truth. His word offers encouragement and inspiration; especially on the most difficult days when perseverance is tough. We seek His Word daily.
We abound in the activities, work, and aspirations that we are engaged each day.
We remember that everything we do brings honor to Christ.
We trust in Christ and His guidance.
He shows us the way forward.
We live for Christ and do not quit.
We are watchful, prayerful, and ready for Christ to act in and through our lives.
Friends, the above list may sound a bit trite. We have heard it all before, right? And certainly to tell someone who has either walked away from their faith – even if it’s you – to pray, read God’s word, trust Christ, and live for Him – what does that really, really mean? Does it work?
It’s a fair question.
Many people say they follow Christ and call themselves Christians. Yet, for the Christ-following life, it is so much more than a faith declaration. It is a life that not only looks different – but looks extraordinarily different. Honestly, it looks a little like Jake holding fast, faithful, and true to his blue shirt. Jake doesn’t fake that loyalty – it’s part of him. Jake counts on his shirts day after day – knowing that these shirts are there for him – that’s a confident, expectant hope.
However, unlike Jake’s shirts that will one day wear out and need to be replaced, not so, with Christ. This is what the world wants to see in a Believer’s life. They desire to witness that Jesus Christ makes a remarkable difference in our lives. Is He is worth the love and perseverance necessary? Likewise, they want to know that Jesus is holding fast to us as well. No one wants to be abandoned. Paul exhorted us to a life of perpetual faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope we have in the Gospel.
The only way this truth may be observed is in us is as we pray, as we live, as we love.
Does following Christ make a difference?
A Believer should be confident enough to say: “Watch me! Observe me in my day to day, down in the mire and muck of daily life. Am I praying? Am I living any differently than you? Am I persevering when life reaches a breaking point? Am I loving others – even those that are not so easy to love? Am I living for Christ – or myself? Watch me and decide.”
Friends, there is no time like the present to offer yourselves to this world as exhibit A for Christ. Does your life lead others towards Christ or are you living a “BIG IF” life – indifferent to His love and His call?
We can’t fake it.
Everyone can tell.