We are in the middle of the sermon series called “A Recipe for Fullness of Life – A Not So Secret Sauce.” What is the fullness of life? It’s faith in a trusting and loving God that we live into every day. And how to live that Christian faith is not a secret. In fact, the Bible gives us very clear instruction on how to experience all that God has for us, and how to honor God and others in the process. The book of 2 Peter 1:5-7 lays it all out for us, sort of like a recipe with different ingredients that when all put together, it turns into this vibrant, strong, beautiful faith. God desires and wants each of us to have that kind of faith so that we can live a full life with Him.
So far, we have learned about adding goodness to our faith. We have been given everything we need to live in such a way that we bring good into the world.
The second ingredient is knowledge. Seeing God for who He really is, is the beginning of having wisdom in our lives.
Last week, we talked about adding self-control to the list. Without self-control to say no to the thing we shouldn’t do and yes to the things we should do, we can’t live the life God wants for us.
The next ingredient we’re going to talk about today in the recipe for a full life with God is perseverance.
Simply put, perseverance is persistence in doing something despite the difficulties or obstacles in achieving success. If you have ever played sports, then you have probably had to have perseverance in order to meet the goal or win the game. If you’ve ever exercised with a set goal, weather to lose weight, gain muscle or train for a particular event, then you’ve likely had to push yourself; just 10 more reps, 5 more, 1 more.
Shortly after Matt and I got married, I decided I was going to do this 60-day exercise routine to get back in shape. It was a way to kick things off and hopefully get me into better habits. It was a mix of Pilates and yoga that you did for six days and rested on the seventh, all on video so you can do it in the convenience of your own home. But let me tell you it was no cake walk. To get to the end of just one session tested my endurance. But I knew I had to push myself if I wanted to get better, so I did. Each week, the sessions got harder and harder. Many times, I would ask, “What am I doing this for?” Knowing I sit way too much in my job and heart decease runs high in my family, I wanted to make a good effort to be healthy.
But I’ll be honest, I wanted to quit more than once. So I had a choice to make. I could give up, or I could keep going and finish the 60-days to jumpstart my health. With some regular encouragement from Carter and an internal pep-talk every day, I’d push through and finish. In order to make it to the end, daily I had to have perseverance.
The Christian faith is not much different. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Life is hard, and following Jesus can be costly. Being a follower of Jesus takes work, and it’s not meant to be a once and done thing, or just when you feel like it, or need it kind of routine. Being a Christian is a life-long endeavor, not a passing emotion or feeling.
Just like being in the middle of a 60-day challenge or a long-distance race and wanting to quit, many of us have found ourselves in the middle of life, tempted to give up on our faith as well. It’s no wonder why God placed this ingredient in the recipe for a full life exactly where He did.
The reason it comes after self-control is because without the Holy Spirit’s help in controlling our thoughts and actions, we have no hope of persevering when things get tough. In order to finish well in this life that God has given us, you have to have perseverance. There is too much at stake for us to quit. Our Christian witness is at stake. God’s dreams for our lives are at stake. How you’re going to be judged by Jesus Christ one day is at stake. Where you’re going to end up one day is at stake.
Perseverance is such an important part to what it means to follow Jesus that the author of the book of Hebrews wrote this incredible passage to encourage us to keep being faithful when things get hard.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
The first reason we are to persevere is because we are surrounded by, what the author calls, a cloud of witnesses. There are multitudes of saints who have gone before us and have finished the race of life. They have run the race, not only finished it, but won. Now, they are witnesses to what we can do. Christians that come after these saints should look to them and be encouraged that we too can run the race and win.
Look, I don’t know if the saints before us are watching us live our lives, but I’d like to believe if they could, they would be cheering us on. Can you picture faithful men and women like Moses, David, or Mary saying, “You can do it. Remain faithful.” If they aren’t cheering us on, I’d bet to say the angels are. Isn’t it true, that a cheering crowd is often the incentive and motivation we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not throwing in the towel.
POINT # 1 – PERSEVERE BECAUSE YOU AREN’T ALONE
In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, there was a heartwarming story of perseverance that took place as a man named Derek Redmond from Britain was competing in the 400 meter race. Part way through the race, he snapped his hamstring and began to limp in extreme pain. Watch this video to see Derek, with the help of his father from the stands, finish the race.
Have you ever felt this way in life? As if the pain of disappointment, regret, shame, guilt, or hurt is too much to continue living for God? Peter reminds us that perseverance is an absolutely necessary ingredient to experience the full life of God, and then the author of Hebrews encourages us by saying that you’re not the first ones to run this race of life and you’re not alone in doing so.
One of the fundamental truths given to us in the gospels is that Jesus promises never to leave us and never to forsake us. Jesus is in your corner. And when you feel like giving up, know that there is also a great cloud of witnesses in Heaven and in this room right now who believe you have what it takes to keep going.
One of the main reasons Christians find themselves quitting on their faith is that they get tangled up and hindered by the sin in their lives. Again, this is the reason self-control is so crucial to our success. It’s no secret that sin will disqualify us in the race we are running, so we have to choose wisely until the end. Which leads me to talk about repentance.
POINT #2 – REPENTANCE LEADS TO PERSEVERANCE
Every one of us will find ourselves needing repentance. Sin is living any way that is contrary to the way of God. The Greek term for sin means ‘to miss the mark’. It’s traveling in the wrong direction. While one path leads to life and peace, the other path leads to destruction and sorrow. When we are traveling the way of sin, we take all this extra heavy weight on our shoulders; we’re tired and exhausted, and we’re missing out on the full life with God that we could be experiencing.
The proper response is given to us all throughout the scriptures. We must repent. Repentance is a 180-degree turn to travel in the opposite direction. You ask Jesus Christ to forgive you, He throws off the sin that has entangled you, and you now choose to walk in new life.
When we sin, we hurt our relationship with God and our relationship with others. Sin divides us. Sin is one of the easiest ways to hold us back and wear us out in our pursuit of the full life. But when we find ourselves freed from sin, we are then free to run the race laid out before us again in faith. This is not a single, solitary action; this is a choice we must make daily, and practice daily.
What’s the one thing, that if you would cast it off, would make you feel free to love God and others? What is one sin that holds you captive? It’s not until we repent, that then we are empowered to persevere.
The book of Hebrews tells us that when we run the race of life, we must run with our eyes fixed on Jesus because He is the author and perfecter of our faith.
…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Whenever we find ourselves being tempted to look to the right or to the left, to fall back into sin and shame, we need to turn our eyes again to Jesus and keep running for the prize.
At the end of this passage, we’re given the reason that we can persevere and strongly finish our life of faith.
…Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
POINT #3 – WE CAN PERSEVERE BECAUSE CHRIST PERSEVERED
The reason we can keep going and finish strong is because Jesus persevered on the cross. What would cause Jesus to offer up His life on the cross? To be beaten, to take the nails in his hands and feet? Why would He allow Himself to be humiliated and shamed? The Bible says it was because of the joy that was before Him.
What joy is found in death? What joy is found in a brutal death? Philippians gives us insight into the mindset that Jesus had in his life, death, and resurrection.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Jesus was obedient to the Father by coming as a servant and giving up His life to free us from sin and to offer us a full life. He was obedient and, according to Hebrews, He gave it all with joy. Jesus saw the joy that would come from offering us the very power we need to trust in Him and to live a life worthy of the Gospel. Aside from His sacrifice, we were hopeless in our sin. There was no way we could run the race, let alone finish it, without His obedience to death.
Another reason people quit on their faith and do not persevere is because they don’t expect following Jesus to cost them anything. Being a Christian often brings with it scrutiny and pressure from the world. It’s hard. It’s painful, but that is the cross we are to bear because it is the cross Jesus chose to bear.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.
There is a death that we experience in having faith in Christ. It is a death to our old way of life. A death to sin so that we can experience resurrection to walk in new life in obedience to Jesus.
Each and every day, we are presented with a chance to commit ourselves to the pursuit of Jesus, to get to the goal, to win the race and be with Jesus, to die to our old desires and come alive to a new way of living.
Take a moment and think about your life. What sin do you need to repent of? Are you persevering? Have you given up? You can repent and throw off the heavy weight of sin. Jesus died so that you can be free to finish the race of life well.
There is too much at stake to give up on your faith. Don’t do it. With Jesus as our inspiration and example, we can push forward and stay faithful. So many others before us have done it, and we can do it too.