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The Call To Persevere

The Call To Persevere

    Have you ever considered how the New Testament speaks of the Christian’s life as a fight or intense struggle? A brief survey of the NT will reveal this truth. In our overview we will concentrate on passages where the Greek word used is thlipsis. We will highlight the word in the text (NIV) used to translate thlipsis to help bring out the nuances of its meaning.
    John 16:33 records a statement Jesus made to his disciples, "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 world." The followers of Jesus can expect trouble in this life. Peace is found in Christ for he has overcome the world. It’s in and through him that his disciples overcome the world and its troubles.
    Paul and Barnabas taught the same truth in Acts14:19-22, “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’ “ Here we see Paul and Barnabas telling believers not to view hardships and trouble as something strange or unexpected.
Paul summarized the matter in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, “So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.  In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.  For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.” Trials should not rattle believers. The Devil wants Christians to be unsettled by troubles, but we should not be caught off guard when they come into our life. We know we are “destined for them.”
    We must also realize “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”(2 Cor. 4:17). If you think Paul is speaking fast and loose read
2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10 noting some of his “light” trials. We need to keep them in proper perspective. What is the correct outlook? “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance”(Rom. 5:3). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”(Rom. 8:35). “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity”(2 Cor. 8:1-2).
   The Holy Spirit moved John to make the same emphasis in Revelation. He gives us a summary statement in 1:9, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Being “in Jesus” means you will face troubles. We are called to “patient endurance” as we seek to place ourselves under Christ’s rule and, also, to advance his reign. In his commentary on Revelation Alan Johnson states, “Christians are called, as was John, to reign now with Christ by willingly entering into suffering conflict with the powers of the age.” Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain our Lord’s call for his people to enter into the struggle. These chapters show this will involve afflictions, suffering, and hardships. The attacks will come from within the church as well as outside the church. There will be doctrinal error and sin as well as persecution to be faced. Those who overcome will share in the victory with Christ.
Have you heard the call that is found throughout Revelation 2 and 3, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”? It is repeated seven times and each time it is followed with a promise, “He who overcomes…” We persevere in our daily tribulations and trials because the victory has already been secured by Christ.  It’s the firm foundation that causes us to sing in the midst of our struggles-

                    How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
                    Is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
                    What more can he say than to you he has said,
                    To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

                    Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;
                    For I am your God, and will still give you aid;
                    I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
                    Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

Your brother in the patient endurance that is ours in Jesus,
Jim Gordon