Perseverance can be defined as “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” When I started riding my bicycle for exercise about three years ago, I found that each time I could increase my distances. If I rode 40 km, then I would try 60 km and so on. One day I noticed something called a century ride and thought I should try that. A century ride is 100 miles or 160.93 km. So, I would plot some back roads and headed out. I did a few of those but I much preferred the metric century, which is 100 km or 62.14 miles. Let’s just say for those rides I did not break any land speed records and I was wiped out when I finished, even with stops along the way. My behind especially had something to say about those endeavors. There were times along the way when I questioned my sanity and wanted to stop and call for assistance to get back home but I kept going. There were other shorter rides where when turning to come back home, I ran into a wall of wind that literally stopped me in my tracks as I found riding in the wind very difficult. I wasn’t prepared enough to plot a course that made sure the wind was in the right direction for my return ride home. There were times when I thought to myself look at me go and I was flying, but then realized the wind was behind me and when I turned around, I was travelling at a snail’s pace. The bottom line is that I finished the rides. When I started riding (rides where normally about 40 – 90 km), I said I would not walk my bike up a hill, and I was able to do that. Thankfully the hills I ride on are not that big but when you are tired, they feel like much bigger hills. I can’t even imagine doing the mountains, especially those who do it at race speeds. As each kilometer would go by, you would realize that you are getting close to the finish line and a jump into the pool. Suddenly you would be at the halfway point and heading for home, but it was the last few kilometers that were often unbearable, and your mind and body were saying, that’s it, we are done. After a brief discussion on the side of the road, the journey begins once again and eventually reach the destination.

        This introduction is about my ability to go for a bike ride and what I could accomplish and about my health. Humans have this ability to accomplish and even create amazing things. There are people out there who have incredible abilities to accomplish incredible feats. I thought wow I went for a long bike ride, but some ride these long distances day after day. The Tour de France is around 3500 km over 23 days, averaging 160 km / 100 miles day and in real mountains. Some hike / climb mountains, explore in all kinds of weather conditions. Some start amazing businesses or have invented products that changed the world and in doing so took years out of their lives, but they persevered and were successful. Today our topic is not about what we can do in our own strength, and yes man can accomplish some amazing things, but what God can do through us is beyond comprehension. God said to Moses, Exodus 34:10 “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.” The bible is filled with sign, wonders, miracles, healings, and demons cast out. When compared to God, man is very limited in what they can do. Today this is about returning our focus to God’s word and away from man. Hebrews 12:1 “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” This is about running the race with perseverance not focused on man but God, not in our own strength but God’s. Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” When Paul was teaching Timothy he said, 1 Timothy 4:6 “If you point these things out, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 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. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” 

        Unfortunately, many in the church spend their lives focusing on the physical, the things they can accomplish with their own hands. You often hear about someone in the church giving praise to God for something they built with their own hands. Even though they do not adhere to the word of God completely and follow other gospels, they say they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them. In many cases what they have built can be duplicated outside the church and those outside the church are even more successful. The reality is that much of what has been built in the church is a copy of what is happening in the business world. When Covid struck, the church was exposed for its powerlessness and sadly truly was a non-essential service. Instead of being the living body of Jesus Christ and doing as Jesus did, the church is an organization that does as they see fit. So much emphasis is placed on the building and has been since cathedrals were first being built. As we have seen over the years, success in the church is based on the worldly definition of success. The more you accomplish, the more you build, the larger the following, the more successful you are declared to be. Then the successful tell others how to do what they did, but rarely is it cloned as successfully. This happened with Willow Creek Community church, and everyone wanted to be them but in the end we saw why the church should not follow after man. “A major sexual misconduct scandal, involving Willow Creek founder Bill Hybels. The scandal prompted Hybels to resign under pressure on April 10, 2018, and eventually led to the resignation of Willow Creek’s entire board.” As one writer pointed out they have been in decline ever since. Also, just because a leader hasn’t fallen as Hybels did (there are many), we are not called to follow them. This shows my age but another church that churches followed was Saddleback and Rick Warren his books and I am sure there are others that have replaced them. His book “The Purpose Driven Life” – “The Purpose Driven Life is far more than just a book; it's the road map for your spiritual journey. A journey that will transform your life,” has been translated into 137 languages and sold more than 50 million copies in multiple formats, yet he teaches other gospels and has no power. All these so-called gurus do not have the power of the gospel, which is why we are not supposed to follow men and women, but Jesus Christ. Psalm 105:4 “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 40:4 “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” Psalm 146:2 “I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. 5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Psalm 118:8 “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” 
        We also see so much emphasis and money is based on the building and all that goes with it, but scripture says, Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” In today’s church, success is defined by what a person has built, not defined by doing as Jesus did as we saw above with the gurus. Paul said 1 Corinthians 4:20 “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” There are lots of people talking to the masses, but the masses remained unchanged. Those people doing the talking are called gurus and followed as if they were Jesus Himself, but they do not do as Jesus did. Matthew 4:23 “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” They may have a great building and organization, lots of books and people following them, but where is the power. The church was to do as Jesus did. Acts 5:15 “As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” Acts 19:11 “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” That is actually the definition of success in the church, not some Fortune 500 business model. God did not leave out His plan for the temple, yet these gurus feel the need to write a book and say this is the plan God gave me for the church but God already gave us His plan. Ephesians 2:19 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Instead, the church decided building something with their own hands would be better. Isaiah 2:8 “Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.” Jeremiah 25:6 “Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.” 7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.” Galatians 1:6 “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

        The first step to persevering by faith is to return and submit to God’s word and turn away from man. Hosea 14:1 “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! 2 Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. 3 Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” Most people really have no idea what it means to persevere by faith. This journey is not about you or I, nor is it about what we can build with our own hands. Everything is about Jesus. Jesus said to Peter, Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it.” And no Peter is not the Rock as the Catholics teach. The rock is Peter’s confession, not Peter himself. Jesus is the head of His church, and He is the one who builds it. Yes, there are some pretty impressive structures that we call the church, but that isn’t the church, it’s just a building. Persevering isn’t just about getting up on a Sunday morning when you do not feel like it. I got myself to church, therefore I have persevered. What the church has built is not the church Jesus started. The church turned away and followed other gospels and ended up powerless. The Catholics falsely call Peter the first Pope and they continue the succession of popes. But if that is the case why does the Catholic church look nothing like Jesus and His gospel and filled with sin and corruption. That is false teaching. This is where placing tradition above scripture can be so dangerous. Every church like the Catholics have some form of other gospels that they follow religiously. Persevering in those other gospels is not what we are talking about but many persevere after them. Amos 2:4 “Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, 5 I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” That is why the abomination that causes desolation has decimated the church.

        Persevering faith is not about following man, it is about following God’s word no matter what and to persevere, you have to decide if you believe God or not. As a minster of the gospel, you are supposed to point people to Jesus, not to your own brand. Even if you are not a minister, as a Christian you are supposed to be pointing people to Jesus. A prophet proclaims the word of God that people do not want to hear, they do not add to God’s word or take anything away. If you don’t believe, you will do it yourself as the church has done and remain powerless. If you do believe, you will not turn away from God’s word no matter what and you will never give up and you will wait till God turns His face back to the church. Job was blameless and a man of integrity, and he never gave up, even though he faced insurmountable hardships and loss. Job 2:3 “Then the Lord said to satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” He was mocked and ridiculed for standing firm on what he believed. Job 30:1 “But now they mock me, men younger than I, whose fathers I would have disdained to put with my sheep dogs.” He would not turn against God no matter what. Even though his family, friends and strangers tried to get him to turn away, he refused. Job said, Job 27:2 “As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made my life bitter, 3 as long as I have life within me, the breath of God in my nostrils, 4 my lips will not say anything wicked, and my tongue will not utter lies. 5 I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. 6 I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.” Job was true to his word and is an amazing example of persevering faith. 

        Even after the loss of his possessions and his children, he refused to turn away. Even when God was nowhere to be seen, Job would not turn away. We have to remember we have his account and the ending and the account of many others, so we really have no excuse not to be persevering faithfully. Job stood strong even though he felt all alone. He said, Job 23:8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. 9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. 11 My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside. 12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job did this because he knew, Job 19:25 “that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes - I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Yesterday we talked about standing alone even though none go with you. Job was tested by God to see if he would remain blameless. Job continued to stand firm, even though his body was ravaged with sickness, he lost his family and possessions, his so-called friends were all trying to get him to confess he was a sinner and turn away from God. It is important to remember when reading Job, that the first two chapters are about God allowing satan to try to get him to curse God but satan’s efforts did not end after those two chapters. satan’s goal was to get Job to turn away from God, just like he did with Adam and Eve. satan said Job 1:9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” satan even used Job’s wife, who was vulnerable to satan’s attacks because her children all died, to try and get Job to curse God, but Job would not. Then satan said Job 2:4 “Skin for skin!” “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 6 The Lord said to satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So then as you read the book of Job, remember satan is behind the scenes trying to get Job to curse God and die. Especially when Elihu comes along. God would end up cutting off this arrogant young person when God said, Job 38:2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” God then started questioning Job. Job 32:3 “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” After this intense questioning, even Job who was blameless and did nothing wrong to deserve everything that happened to him, humbled himself before God and said, Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job accepted those words spoken to Elihu and realized even though he was blameless, there was so much about God He didn’t understand and repented. 
        During all that happened, Job did not curse God and through it all maintained his integrity. He did not blame God, even though he did not fully understand what was happening to him. Job 42:7 “After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” Notice that Elihu was not prayed for. Then God blessed Job with twice as much as he had before. 10 “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.” That is persevering faith. Job did not give up and God blessed him with more than he had before. 
        Job did not know what was happening nor did he know everything would be restored the way it was, but he remained faithful. He stood on his own, even when he felt like God was far from him.  His perseverance was so strong James talks about it. James 5:7 “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” Matthew 13:16 “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The prophets spoke God’s word and believed even though they never saw all of the word of God completed in their lifetime.

        The difference between us and Job is that we have the everything written down since the beginning of time. God’s word is before us, so we see examples of obedience and disobedience, those who persevered and those who did not, those who were faithful and the faithless. We see the power of God all throughout scripture, in the Old Testament and the New. We also see what God requires from us, so we are without excuse. Even if you do not have God’s word in your hand, scripture tells us there is no excuse for not turning to God. Romans 1:18 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” Because man did this, God punished them. Paul goes on to say, 24 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Though many in the church think God does not have a problem with homosexuality, He does but it is not just homosexuality that is a problem as you can see from the list above. So, there is no excuse not to be persevering faithfully.

        The problem for most is they do not know God’s word. Therefore, they do not know that God tests and disciplines and they do not know that God will allow satan to come against us just as he did with Job, and they may not know that Job did not give up and he, albeit alone, stood strong. They also do not know that satan, the abomination that causes desolation has decimated the church as many teach this is something that happens way off in the future. They do not know or refuse to acknowledge that the church is powerless to do anything about it because the church has rebelled against God. They have come to believe that the church they see today is the church Jesus intended it to be. This is why it is so important to test the spirits. They do not know the church is filled with false teachers. They do not know they must turn from their wicked ways so that God will turn His face to shine on us once again but most refuse to repent and turn from the ways of man. While there are lots of examples of perseverance in this world, perseverance without our eyes on Jesus does not lead us to eternal life. Our life on this earth is about God’s plans, not ours. As Jeremiah said, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Though many use this verse, they miss the previous verse that says, 10 “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” They had been banished because they refused to obey God’s word and those few that survived spent seventy years in captivity. This verse is a promise of restoration. Even with the prophecy by Jeremiah, Daniel still confessed before God. Daniel 9:4 “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.” 

        We must know God’s word in order to follow His plans. God gave His plans to David for the temple and God gave us His plans in the New Testament for the third temple that is not a building. As I said earlier, the church seems to think God left out the specific plans for the building and decided to add their own. That is why you often hear someone say God gave me this vision or dream or plan, but he didn’t because He already gave us His plan. Jeremiah tells us Jeremiah 23:6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 21 I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied. 25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” By doing that, God’s plans are replaced, but in doing so there is no power as per God’s plans for the church. Even without power, the church continues to follow their own plans and have decided that this powerlessness is how the church is supposed to be. This is why the church must turn away from the plans of man and focus once again on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1 “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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” It is also important to understand that God will discipline us. 5 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
        When Job was suffering as he was, his friends and those around him could not see that God was involved, nor could they understand that Job had done nothing wrong. We on the other hand have the book of Job, so we have no excuse. We know about the conversation with God and satan. We know that God disciplines and tests those he loves. We also know that after that time of discipline, he will restore what was lost. Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Here we see how important perseverance is. James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

        When Paul spoke to the Thessalonians, he said, 2 Thessalonians 1:1 “To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1 “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” When teaching Timothy, Paul said, 1 Timothy 4:16 “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

       If you are persevering in faith, that means you have chosen to follow God’s word no matter what. It is also important to understand that there are times when faithfully persevering will end in death, but it does not mean God abandoned that person; it just meant they were faithful unto death. Romans 14:8 “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Acts 21:13 “Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” As Stephen was preaching, he said, “Acts 7:56 “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” Many prophets died proclaiming the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 26:20 “Now Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath Jearim was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord; he prophesied the same things against this city and this land as Jeremiah did.” They killed him. 1 Kings 18:4 “While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.” 2 Chronicles 24:20 “Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” 21 But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple. 22 King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, “May the Lord see this and call you to account.” Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Those prophets persevered even though proclaiming the word of the Lord cost them their lives. Jesus said, Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 32 Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” These people on the other hand were afraid to persevere. John 12:42 “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” 
        There were also those like Job who would survive. Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were willing to die before they would bow to an image of gold, but in this case, God saved them. They said to the king, Daniel 3:17 “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” That was faith. Daniel refused to turn away from God and was thrown into the lion’s den but survived. Daniel 6:23 “when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Scripture makes it clear these were not tame lions. Those who accused Daniel were then thrown into the same den and Daniel 6:24 “And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.” Jeremiah was told Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. 7 You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 7:27 “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. 28 Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.” Jeremiah persevered and spoke the word of the Lord even though he suffered for speaking the truth. Jeremiah 20:7 “I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long.” Ezekiel was told Ezekiel 2:4 “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.” The same still applies today as those who speak the word of the Lord must not be afraid to say what the bible actually says. Too many ministers are afraid to lose their jobs for speaking the truth. It is like politics where people know if they do not toe the party line, there will be trouble and loss of position and a paycheck. The same goes for the listener. You can’t be afraid to speak up or leave. 2 Timothy 3:1 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”
        God tests us to see what is in our hearts. Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” He tests those He uses like Abraham was tested. Genesis 22:1 “Some time later God tested Abraham.” God had given him a promise but then asked him to offer his son, the promise as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:17 “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” God’s plan was never to have Abraham kill Isaac but only to see if he would obey. Joseph was also tested in many ways. He was separated from his family and was sold as a slave by his brothers and tested when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. Genesis 39:6 “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me! 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” He was then imprisoned and tested some more even though he already had this amazing dream about the future. He would need to remain faithful. Psalm 105:16 “He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; 17 and he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. 18 They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, 19 till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true. 20 The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. 21 He made him master of his household, ruler over all he possessed, 22 to instruct his princes as he pleased and teach his elders wisdom.” His family would see that God was using Joseph to save them and to fulfil His plan. Joshua and Caleb had to remain faithful all those years in the desert even though they did not deserve to be there. Even Jesus was tested in the wilderness while satan tried to tempt him. Jesus shows us how to persevere against satan’s attacks. Jesus responded, “it is written” and quotes scripture. 
        Scripture is clear that if we follow God’s word wholeheartedly, you will have to persevere faithfully. 2 Timothy 3:10 “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Yes, as Christians we are going to be tested, disciplined and even persecuted. Peter tells us 1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 1:6 “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Paul told us Colossians 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 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— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.” 

        The “if you continue” is not something in the church most want to delve into as it means repentance from wicked ways. But if you have decided to follow Jesus no matter what, you can be sure that satan will be there to try and stop you just as satan is there to encourage those in their refusal to repent. This is why you need to hold on firmly to the word of God. When God tests and disciplines you, you want to persevere faithfully and not give up. For many, when hardships and trials come their way, they turn away from God and not to Him. We know that if we seek God, we will find Him, but we must seek Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Mark 12:29 “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” It is only after you do this that you can truly love your neighbor as yourself. If you are seeking God, don’t give up. Hebrews 10:19 “Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

        In all of this it is imperative that you make sure you are standing on God’s word and not on the words of man. When you do, God will bless you with His presence. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 31:16 “This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. 17 So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord.  Your children will return to their own land.” Jeremiah 33:10 “This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 30:22 “‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.’” King Asa was told 2 Chronicles 15:7 “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” Jesus said Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Job was blessed with twice as much and God rewarded him for his faithfulness, but the end goal was not prosperity but faithfulness and not cursing God. God wants to bless us with His presence, but we must remain faithful. Stephen before he died Acts 7:55 “full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” The greatest blessing that we can have, is for God to dwell among us once again. If God is dwelling among us that means the church has repented and His kingdom has come near. Mark 1:14 “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Zechariah 1:3 “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.” That means the church will once again go out and do as Jesus did in the same power and authority He had. Yes, eternal life is our reward in heaven for faithfulness but until then there are so many people who have been deceived and deluded who call themselves Christians who will not see eternal life who need to hear the gospel and repent and turn from their wicked ways. Then the church can go to the ends of the earth and proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whenever the final day is for this world and no one knows, until then we need to persevere faithfully, remaining true to God’s word.