On the Perseverance of the Saints
For those with a theological bent, the title of this piece may have sparked interest. Questions of eternal security, assurance, election, and so on, surround such a topic. But that is not the direction I will be going here this time. This will be more of a personal reflection than a theological treatise. What I want to do here in fact is honour those who are persevering in the faith.
This arises out of my current stay on the West Coast. I have made a number of trips to the west over the past decade or so. It is always good to reunite with old acquaintances here, as well as meet new folk. The believers here have always been welcoming and encouraging. They have had me stay with them when I am here, they have had me speak in their churches, and they have welcomed me into their functions, fellowships and families.
It is always a time of blessing when I am here, and a time of encouragement. What strikes me most about these folk is their dedication and persistence. Most of these folks have simply been faithfully serving their God and their families over the years, and have been a great example of not growing weary in well doing.
In fact I consider these people to be the real pillars of the church. Most of these saints are not church leaders as such. They are not in the limelight and are not the big movers and shakers in the body of Christ. They do not get the attention and fanfare and applause that the more upfront leaders do. They are just ordinary – and faithful – men and women of God who day in and day out serve their Lord and one another. They are the real unsung heroes of the faith in my books.
They of course have their fair share of hardships, disappointments, setbacks and difficulties. They struggle with illnesses, relationship problems, job losses, heartache, and much more, as does every one else. Yet each time I come back they are still faithfully serving the Lord, the church and one another. They have persevered when many others have fallen by the wayside.
It is that perseverance that has me so impressed and humbled. And it is that dedication that I wish to uphold and honour here. Their names are not in lights, their deeds are largely unknown, their servanthood is not trumpeted, and their faithful commitment and dedication is rarely heralded. Yet I want to acknowledge and praise these real saints of God.
They do what they do not for the fanfare or remuneration, but because they love their Lord and those around them. They are real examples of what a follower of Christ is to be like. I am proud to know them and be around them.
Of course there is a flip side to all this. The longer I am a Christian, the more I become aware of those believers who do not persevere. Not every follower of Jesus stays on course. I keep learning of people I had long known in the faith who have given up. Some who went through Christian training with me years ago, or some who served in leadership positions with me a long time ago, are now no longer walking with the Lord.
Some have dumped their spouse, their kids and their faith. Some have gone after “strange flesh” and broken their marriage vows. Some have even gone on to embrace ungodly lifestyles. Some act as if they never even knew the Lord. It is as heartbreaking as it is perplexing.
Yet we of course have many warnings in Scripture about such things. We are warned about not abandoning our Lord, of not shipwrecking our faith, of not letting the deceitfulness of sin get us off course. Those warnings must be taken seriously. “Let those who stand take heed lest they fall.”
Sure, we also have a truckload full of Scriptures that affirm our security in Christ, that speak of God’s ability to save us to the uttermost, of the assurance we can have in the finished work of Christ, and so on. Such passages are both reassuring and comforting.
Yet both sorts of passages need to be taken seriously. Again, it is not my purpose here to enter the very deep theological waters that surround such topics, including the question of whether such people who fall away were ever saved in the first place. I will not here declare my hand as to whether one side is right and the other wrong. I will only say at this point that I think we need to cling to both sets of texts, and allow both to speak to us with clarity and conviction.
But it is not my intent to end on a negative note. I would like to think that for every personal example I am aware of a believer falling away (or seeming to), there may be ten – or a hundred – believers who are holding on, each day, each week, each month, each year and each decade.
These quiet achievers, who go unnoticed in the secular world, and often go unnoticed in the Christian world as well, are the ones I want to uphold and honour here. They need encouragement along the way, just as they have been a great encouragement and example to me.
They are the ones that will one day certainly be the recipients of those stirring words, “Well done, good and faithful servants”. To all such men and women of God, I salute you.