ABBA, FATHER

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 20, 2022

We are currently in a devotional study of learning how to trust God’s character when we face bad circumstances.

Unfortunately in our modern culture there are far too many people who do not have the privilege of knowing their father. Even when the father is present, so many have a poor understanding of what a real father is like because of the model he presents. But if we can look beyond the human limitations and failures of earthly fathers and open our hearts to the incredible wonder of a perfect Father in heaven, we will be empowered to endure hardship because we know His heart and His purpose is always good.

Romans 8:14-16 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

Romans 8 tells us about all of the things that are at work in our lives to help us handle tough times, and one of the most significant for me is this one – I have been made a permanently loved child of God with all rights of sonship. Here are three benefits of believing this truth.

  1. We have a life free from fear because of the power of the Father. When I was young I had a vivid and recurring dream. I was a toddler and was in a fenced area containing a large bull with huge horns that swept down in a curve in front of his head much like tusks on an elephant. The bull charged me, knocked me down, then scooped me up with his horns and began tossing me in the air. With each toss I became more filled with terror as the bull would catch me and then throw me higher. At the top of one toss I noticed my father coming to my rescue. He jumped high into the air using the back of the bull as a springboard and snatched me away from danger, setting me down carefully as he landed on the ground. He turned and grabbed the bull by the horns and began spinning him around like an Olympic hammer-thrower. At just the right moment he released the bull and flung him into a far pasture. I awakened from the dream feeling at peace that I had a father who would protect me from harm.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of adoption as a son, and we may cry out to Him in any situation knowing that He will respond with intimate love and infinite power.

2. We have been made an equal heir of all things with Jesus Christ. When God adopts us as His children he removes all distinctions, between us and other people, and also between Jesus Christ and us. Yes, Jesus is still God and we are not, but God honors those who are in Christ with all the rights and rewards of being His children. The Apostle John states it this way: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:1-2)

3. Finally, the sufferings of today are necessary for the total experience of glory later. We are much more appreciative of gain when we have experienced loss. Blessings are more valued after cursings. Light is more highly esteemed after a period of darkness. Glory will be more fully revealed after suffering. Do not fight the hardship – embrace it as a training ground of personal growth leading towards the revealing of God’s glory.

Hardship and hurt are able to be endured because:

  • fear has been removed by the power of the Father to control and conquer the difficulty;
  • the Father treats me with the same love and honor that He treats Jesus because I have been made an equal heir;
  • God is designing all of the tests in this life to improve me and prove to me His love so that I will experience the fullness of His glory.

Be encouraged – you are a child of God.

Pastor John

VITAL PROTECTION

LifeLink Devotions (Click for audio blog)

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Yesterday we talked about the word vitality, and that God has granted us vitality of life in Jesus Christ. The root word of vitality is vital, and it is used to describe certain organs in our bodies that are essential to existence. Our vital organs are primarily contained in our chest cavity, protected from the normal activities of life by our rib cage. But in the event that we will be involved in some form of dangerous activity, we wear extra protection. Police officers wear bulletproof vests; football quarterbacks wear flack jackets; and Christians wear a breastplate of righteousness.

Being a Christian is a dangerous profession: the Enemy is out to destroy what makes our life vital. He is constantly shooting his flaming arrows at our hearts, trying to interrupt the flow of life-giving blood. He cannot undo the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ, but he can stop it from having its intended result on our personal choices and lifestyles. He shoots his wicked darts at our lungs, attempting to quench the breath of the Holy Spirit so that we gasp for the air of the world to survive. He aims his attack at times at our stomachs, hoping to stop the feeding on God’s Word and the digesting of truth so that he can deceive us and mislead us into sin.

But God has provided us with an impenetrable defense system to protect all of our vitals. It is the breastplate of righteousness. 

Ephesians 6:14 “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”

But what makes this such an effective defense system? First, it is not of our own design, so it has none of the limitations of our humanity. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags and was surrendered as worthless at the cross when we were saved. Second, it is not simply a righteousness made for us by God but rather we are made the righteousness of God. The breastplate is the actual righteousness of God Himself. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus Christ actually became our sin, so we are no longer declared to be sin but instead have become the righteousness of God in Christ. This is not an addition to our lives; it is the replacement of our lives. It is our very identity: we are righteous.

Because of this, when we fall into sin or become overwhelmed with trouble and trials, it may be because we have ignored or forgotten our identity. The righteousness of God is still there, but as Paul says in Ephesians, we have not made sure it is in place. Make sure that your vitals are protected by a constant reflection on the righteous nature and character of God Himself that is our permanent possession and you will be protected from the effects of the bad and evil in our world. God’s righteousness is at work in you to bring about His good.

If you want to take the time for one more point, here is a free bonus. The righteousness of God is not only a defense system, but it is also an offensive weapon against the hardships of life. Read this, and let the truths of Scripture touch and encourage your heart.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”  2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Pastor John

HEALTHY RESPONSES

LifeLink Devotions (Click for audio version)

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Bad circumstances have a way of sapping our energy. We get mentally drained trying to figure out solutions to the problem. We get emotionally drained by feeling all of the possible responses we could have to the problem. We get physically drained by all of the activity it takes to try and fix the problem. I’m tired just writing about it. But I have good news for us all – it is not the circumstance that causes the draining of our energy; it is our fleshly response to the circumstance that does that. The circumstance itself has no power. We empower it by how we respond to it. We empower it to control us and deplete us of strength when we respond to it with our own reasoning and activity. We become emotionally drained because we know the limits of such responses and our hope is diminished based on our finite limitations. 

I want you to notice the difference between what I just wrote and what Paul wrote in Romans about our responses to circumstances.

Romans 8:6 “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Romans 8:10-11 “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

What I wrote is all about what I am able to accomplish in my human nature, and what Paul wrote is all about what God will do through His Spirit. What I wrote brings fear and failure. What Paul wrote is vitality and peace. 

The Greek word for life is zoe, and its base meaning is “the state of one who is possessed with vitality”. I like that word vitality. It describes what I desire for my existence. It is certainly not what I experience when I respond to circumstances from my flesh and human nature. But because Christ is in me, and in you, the death we have been living in response to our circumstances has been replaced with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ who has given life -vitality – to our mortal bodies.

My friends, we have the power of God residing in us, and circumstances cannot change that fact. Our response to those circumstances can change the experience of that fact if we choose to respond from our flesh. I know how easy it is to blame others and blame events for causing our current mental, emotional, and physical stress: I do it all the time. But God is richly showing me that His Spirit provides vitality in all of those times, and that the circumstances are powerless in and of themselves. My response to them is what needs adjustment. The sinful circumstances of this life will not be changed until Jesus returns. What can be changed is my response and attitude. 

Jesus, thank you for bringing your resurrection power into my life and giving me vitality. Forgive me for responding from my flesh to the things that happen in my world and for placing myself on the mental, emotional, and physical throne of my life by thinking I have the solutions and ability to act in my own strength. Use these times to strengthen my faith and determination to trust you with the outcomes. Thank you for the peace that passes all understanding when I give all of the control over to you. Amen.

Pastor John

IT’S ALL WORKING OUT

LifeLink Devotions (Click for audio version)

Monday, January 17, 2021

A very well-known verse in Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.“ Most of us might tend to apply this verse to the circumstances of life and claim that they all have to turn out right. But there is a deeper understanding to this passage than that. I believe that the “things” that are at work for our good are the things that Paul mentions earlier in the 8th chapter of Romans verses one through four.  

Romans 8:1-4 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

When we simply define “things” as the circumstances of life, it becomes very difficult to find the faith to believe they are doing any good when they are so humanly bad. That is why we need to look at the things of God that are constantly at work in our lives regardless of the circumstances so that we can stand in faith during the tough times.

Circumstances can be binding and suppressive. We begin to focus on solutions rather than substance. We turn our attention from who we are becoming to what we should be getting. I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies of all time, What About Bob, starring Bill Murray. Bob is an emotional and psychological wreck, living in the bondage of constant fear. At one point in his recovery process the daughter of his psychologist convinces Bob to go with them to the lake to go sailing. Bob is scared to death of water, but wants to be free and says he will trust the daughter and the boat. The next thing you hear is Bob yelling, “I’m sailing! I’m sailing!” The camera zooms in on the boat and we see Bob lashed to the main mast of the boat with multiple ropes and covered with numerous life preservers strapped to every part of his body. 

Now in Bob’s mind he was sailing because he was on the boat, but he was far from free. That describes far too many Christians today. They are on the boat but they are not free from all of the emotional and physical bondage of a previous lifestyle or experience. A current contemporary Christian music group called Casting Crowns has a song called Voice of Truth, and one of the verses of the song goes like this:

Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in, onto the crashing waves.

To step out of my comfort zone Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, and He’s holding out His hand.

But the waves are calling out my name  and they laugh at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The waves, they keep on telling me, time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!” “You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!” The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

We all have the same choice. We can listen to the voice of the circumstances and believe the worst, or we can listen to the voice of truth and be set free. God’s truth of freedom is constantly at work in us, regardless of the circumstances. We are no longer condemned. We are free from the penalty and the power of sin. You can choose today to live according to the Spirit of God’s freedom and not according to the sinful nature’s bondage.

Pastor John

VICTORY

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, January 14, 2022

There are three Scripture passages that serve as a great conclusion to our weeklong study of being strong and wearing the armor God has provided us.

2 Peter 1:3 – 4  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”

1 Timothy 4:8  “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

1 Timothy 6:6-7  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

The pursuit of everything in our lives is to become a reflection of God’s glory. It is in the power of the indwelling presence of Jesus that the work of godliness begins. It is in the commitment to wearing the armor that godliness is accomplished.

In my files I found this anonymous prayer that sums up the week’s study. I hope you will find it as encouraging and challenging as I do.

The Warrior’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, Today I stand in victory by putting on the whole armor of God.

I put on the Belt of Truth! May I stand firm in the truth of Your Word so I will not be a victim of Satan’s lies.

I put on the Breastplate of Righteousness! May it guard my heart from evil so I will remain pure and holy, protected under the blood of Jesus Christ.

I put on the Shoes of Peace! May I stand firm in the Good News of the Gospel so Your peace will shine through me and be a light to all I encounter.

I take the Shield of Faith! May I be ready for Satan’s fiery darts of doubt, denial, and deceit so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.

I put on the Helmet of Salvation! May I keep my mind focused on You so Satan will not have a stronghold on my thoughts.

I take the Sword of the Spirit! May the two-edged sword of Your Word be ready in my hands so I can expose the tempting words of Satan.

By faith your warrior has put on the whole armor of God.

I am prepared to live this day in spiritual victory! Amen

May I suggest that we read that prayer regularly as a part of our devotional routine. I believe it will change our perspective and give us strength for what is ahead.

Pastor John

FEARLESS

LifeLink Devotions

Thursday, January 13. 2022

Fear kept me from being very good at sports when I was a youngster. I remember the very first time I ever tried out for little league baseball. Playing baseball was my dream. My grandfather used to play catch with me and taught me how to throw the ball straight and with a curve. My mom used to tell me stories of the days she would watch the Cleveland Indians at the stadium on the shores of Lake Erie. She even took me there for a game. I remember my boyhood hero – Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers – and in my office I still have a baseball hat he autographed. I dreamed of playing baseball like Mr. Kaline.

But when I took the field that first day of tryouts, I was scared silly. I had a baseball glove that was ok, but when I saw the gloves the other boys had, fear told me I would not be able to compete. Some of them wore baseball shoes, and I only had tennis shoes. Again, fear of not measuring up overwhelmed me. Most of them had been playing organized ball for a couple of years already, and I was the outsider and didn’t fit into their group. Fear told me I would not be able to compete. I saw the way they caught the ball and threw the ball and stood with confidence at the plate swinging hard at the fastballs the coach threw at them. I knew I would not be able to compete. I was afraid because I had decided that my value and acceptance as a person came from my performance on the baseball diamond, and that performance was about to be sub-standard. Fear told me I was sub-standard.

I was living in a spirit of fear – fear of what others would think of me, fear of not measuring up to someone else’s standard, and fear of having to face the reality of my poor performance. My dream was becoming a nightmare.

But then something happened – I made the team. I was assigned the position of second baseman. I found out later that everyone made a team, and that second base was the best position to put a poor player because other players could cover for him. But none of that mattered – I was on the team. I still had lots of fear. What if I miss a ball and blow the game? What if I strike out and blow the game? Every thought I had was from the negative perspective. I knew I could not compete.

 I hated that first year, but my dream did not die. I played every year after that, and fell more deeply in love with the game. I began to play with confidence, and the day came when I fulfilled my dream (to a degree) and played outfield like Al Kaline on several Amateur Baseball League teams in North and South Dakota, making it to the state championships several times, and leading my team in hitting.

To accomplish all of that, I had to conquer my fears.

2 Timothy 1:7  For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

I overcame fear by discovering my value and acceptance in Christ and not in people’s opinions or standards. To remind me of that every day, I still have a trophy from 1967, the third year I played baseball, and my team won the city championship. Not because I was so good, but because I was learning to not live in fear. I was learning to live in the power of a sound mind. That didn’t come from wearing a batting helmet but by wearing the helmet of salvation. In Christ I am complete, and that removes the obstacle of fear.

Pastor John

SURVIVE

LifeLink  Devotions

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Through my study of the armor of God in Ephesians 6, it has helped me to organize the equipment into three categories:

  1. The armor of Survival.
  2. The armor of Rescue.
  3. The armor of Nurture.

Let’s look at the armor of survival today. There are three pieces of armor that specifically protect us from the attack of Satan – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shield of faith.

  • Truth needs to be the foundation of all our beliefs;
  • the righteousness of Christ protects our hearts so that the life-giving blood of Jesus can flow continuously through our whole body;
  • and our faith in the Presence, power, and promises of God protects us from the attacks of Satan against our personal worth and purpose.

In other words, with these three pieces of armor in place we are able to survive anything this sinful world throws at us, and rejoice in Christ while doing it.

Please take the time to read the following passage of Scripture. It’s one of my favorite because of the hope and joy that it gives.

1 Peter 1:3 – 9  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

We can have hope because the trials will most assuredly prove the genuineness of our faith, resulting in praise, honor, and glory to Jesus. The joy is experienced even during the trials because we are assured of the outcome. Every trial and test makes us stronger to stand against the storms yet to come.

Li Cha Mi, a Chinese preacher, was nearly killed in 1872 by robbers during the violence against foreigners. At a subsequent conference, he said: “You have all heard of my sufferings during the past few months. I wish to say that these sufferings were very slight. It was easy to endure pain when I could feel that I bore it for Christ. It is wonderful—I cannot explain it. When attacked by the robbers and beaten almost to death, I felt no pain. Their blows did not seem to hurt me at all. Everything was bright and glorious. Heaven seemed to open, and I thought I saw Jesus waiting to receive me. It was beautiful. I have no words to describe it. Since that time I seem to be a new man. I now know what it is to ‘love not the world.’ My affections are set on things above. Persecutions trouble me not. I forget all my sorrows when I think of Jesus. I call nothing on earth my own. I find that times of trial are best for me. When all is quiet and prosperous, I grow careless and yield to temptation, but when persecutions come, then I fly to Christ. The fiercer the trial, the better it is for my soul.”

When our perspective is correctly focused on the hope of glory, the joy of the Lord is our strength and we will not only survive trials, but they will make us stronger. Rejoice in the Lord – you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Pastor John

STAND UP!

LifeLink Devotions

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

I apologize to all of you who are not football fans, but the football analogy will be used again today. Yesterday we talked about foolish it is to think that the equipment makes the man. It is equally foolish to believe that the man doesn’t need the equipment.

Imagine this scenario – two teams take to the field for the opening kick-off. In a prideful attempt to prove their strength and skill, the team set to receive the kick-off is wearing no football equipment. Instead, showing off their muscles they are wearing spandex shorts, no shirts, and no helmets. They take their positions, all the while pumping up their chests and flexing their biceps. The opposing team is not impressed, and when the kicker boots the ball to the goal line they rush to engage their foolish opponents. Helmets and shoulder pads smash into unprotected muscle and bodies are strewn across the field. Some of the players are able to get up and prepare for the first offensive play, but they are already in pain. By the time a few more plays have been run, it is obvious that this is going to be a massacre that will probably end in forfeit, as the unprotected players will not be able to continue.

That is the spiritual scenario when we do not put on the full armor of God. We are vulnerable to attack and  unprepared to take any kind of stand against the forces of evil if we do not wear our spiritual pads and helmet. The enemy is not willing to weaken himself simply because we are weak. The opponent does not call time out to give us time to go back to the locker room and get prepared. The war is on, and the opening kick-off has already taken place. Put on your armor.

Ephesians 6:10-11,13  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Notice three important truths from verse 11:

  1. It is our responsibility to put on the armor. In His grace God has given us the equipment, but we must choose to wear it. Everything we need to be protected in the war is in our locker, but we must dress ourselves.
  2. The equipment is provided to make us able to stand. When we are wearing the armor we CAN stand. Don’t go into the war with doubt. We do not need to learn to stand, nor are we just trying to stand stronger; we CAN stand.
  3. The stand we take is a personal stand – so that you can take your stand. Each of us has a different position. Take your stand where God has placed you. Don’t try to play a different position. You weren’t trained for that. Take your stand in your own place and the whole team benefits.

One more thing – notice the guaranteed outcome. After we have taken our stand, and done everything God has asked us to do, we will still be standing! What a great team we are on. We win and everyone on the team is still standing – if they wore their armor. Is yours on right now? 

Pastor John

FULLY EQUIPPED

LifeLink Devotions

Monday, January 10, 2022 

It’s time for NFL football playoffs, all leading up to the Super Bowl. Teams have prepared all year for these games, ready to put on all of their equipment and take a stand against an opponent that is seeking to knock them down and run over them. But there is something interesting I have noticed about all of the protective equipment that they wear: with the exception of some specialized pads to protect specific injuries, they all wear the same things –  helmets, shoulder pads, hip pads, and thigh pads. Yet in any given game, with all of the same equipment, one team beats the other. It must not be the equipment that wins games.

Inside all that equipment is a person, and it is the strength, skill and preparation of the player that makes the difference in the game. The equipment is to protect him, not equip him. Having the equipment on makes the player less vulnerable to injury, so the fear factor is diminished, giving the player the opportunity to push himself to his physical limits. But all of the energy and execution are the responsibility of the player and not the equipment.

As Christians we are also in a battle against an opponent, but this is no game. It is a war. The opponent will not extend a hand and help us up after knocking us down. They are coached to maim and destroy. They will not meet us at the 50-yard line to shake hands and kneel in prayer when it is over. They are an intimidating team. But before we run and hide and forfeit out of fear, let’s remember that we have some equipment to protect us.

Ephesians 6:10-11 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Now, let’s hear a motivational speech from our Coach. 

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. You are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the worldI saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (From 1 John, John’s Gospel, and Luke)

We have two huge advantages over the opponent: Our Coach has already beaten their coach, and our Coach has the ability to actually live inside our equipment with us. When the opponent puts on their equipment they simply take orders from their coach. But when we put on God’s armor, God gets in it with us, and since he has already beaten the enemy once, we are guaranteed of victory again. 

The point of all of this is to get our focus on the right thing – our strength is not in the armor, but in the power of God abiding in us. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. The armor protects us from injury, but it is Jesus Christ who equips us from within to push ourselves to our physical and spiritual limits. It is His power in us that wins the game. Our preparation for battle starts before we put any armor on – it starts in our hearts where Jesus Christ the Coach comes to live and reign. Once we are strong in Him, then we can put on the armor and fight the war.

Pastor John

PERSEVERANCE

LifeLink Devotions

Friday, January 7, 2022

In the classic 1980 golf movie Caddyshack, one of the characters is a Bishop who is really not very good at the game. But on one particular day he has the game of his life. It is raining as he starts, and every shot he hits is the best shot of his life. The storm gets worse as he continues to make shot after shot. Soon the rain is falling in torrents, the wind is blowing in gales, and the lightning is striking all around him, but he keeps playing, seemingly oblivious to the danger and discomfort of the weather. Finally, on the last hole, with water standing an inch deep on the putting green, he sinks a putt for a new course record. Raising his arms in triumph with his putter still in his hand, he is struck by a bolt of lightning and killed. 

Apart from the stupidity of his choice to keep playing in such a storm, this scene depicts perseverance. No matter what the external obstacle, this golfer was focused on completing his purpose to have the greatest round of golf in his soon-to-be-over life. The joy he was experiencing from accomplishing his purpose overcame any obstacle or suffering. 

James 1:2 – 4  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

In Thayer’s Greek Dictionary, perseverance is defined as the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. Perseverance has several synonyms used in the Bible – patience, steadfastness, and endurance are the three main ones. They all express the same truth – stick with it until it’s done. 

Notice in Thayer’s definition the following key points:

  1. We have a deliberate purpose. God has prepared for us a divine purpose, and we are privileged to choose to accept it and deliberately obey it.
  2. Once we have made the commitment to fulfill our purpose, we are to be loyal to everything that makes the accomplishment of the purpose possible – specifically faith and piety: faith being what we believe and piety being how we live what we believe.
  3. Following our deliberate choice to accomplish God’s purpose and our loyalty to faith and piety, we are able to persevere no matter what the trial or suffering.

Now compare those three aspects of perseverance to this passage of Scripture. 

Hebrews 12:1 – 3  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

A deliberate purpose is defined as a race. A loyalty to faith and piety is defined as fixing our eyes on Jesus. Perseverance is defined as running without growing weary or losing heart. That’s what maturity looks like in a follower of Jesus. And when we’ve finished the last hole and accomplished our objective, raise your arms in triumph because Jesus will take you home and say, “Well done!“

Pastor John