Click the link below to download the PDF.
Welcome to Part 6 of the Evidence of Spiritual Life Series. I pray that this series has helped you to recognize whether or not you have spiritual life. Of course, some of you may still have doubts, and others may be convinced they have spiritual life when they don’t. So I hope that you will continue the study with us through Part 9.
If you know for certain that you aren’t born again into new life in Christ, I don’t want you to wait until the end of this series to take that step. Please . . . today is the day of salvation; don’t wait any longer if you know you’re still estranged from Christ.
But those of you who are convinced you’re a living, growing child of God, I hope this series has been a helpful roadmap for your spiritual growth. However, please don’t think of this roadmap as moving toward a destination, and then moving away from that destination toward a new one.
In the Christian life, there is nothing we’re to leave behind except our old selves corrupted in the flesh. I suppose that instead of a roadmap, we view this process of maturity as rows of blocks in a wall.
All Christians are born into a relationship with God by grace through Fatih. All spiritual life and maturity grows on the foundation of faith. But that foundation has perfectly square corners and straight plumb lines. This is because God calls us to start living a life of moral excellence in Christ from the very moment of our conversion. Of course, we’re never going to move beyond moral excellence, but as we grow in the knowledge of God, each subsequent row of bricks in our wall will conform to the moral excellence established from the beginning in Christ. That’s why Spirit-control is next on the list. It’s submission to Christ in the power of the Spirit that helps us to think like Him and—therefore—to consequently live like Him. And it is in our faith, virtue, knowledge, and self-control that God requires that we persevere.
And that is the topic of today’s study.
But before we get to that, I’m really looking forward to being the keynote speaker at a parenting conference in Howell, Michigan tomorrow.
I’d love to meet any listeners who attend the conference, but I’d also like to invite all of my listeners to consider inviting me to speak at their church, ministry, or organization. It may be a full-out conferences or a class or a workshop, but I would be honored to minister to you and the people in your life.
Please check out AMBrewster.com to learn more.
You can access AMBrewster.com, CelebrationOfGod.com, as well as all the other members of the Evermind Ministry family at EvermindMinistries.com. So, be sure to check them all out. And while you’re at CelebrationOfGod.com, don’t forget to access and enjoy today’s episode notes, transcript, and life resources.
And now, let us persevere.
1. The Necessity of Perseverance
Not to sound too redundant—I know, that’s a great way to get into your first point—hopefully the order of these spiritual disciplines is making a lot of sense. It all starts with faith in God that immediately produces good works (moral excellence), and as we grow in our knowledge of God, we will grow in our good works as we cultivate Spirit-empowered self-control. Then as we continually submit to that control and build those spiritual muscles, we will grow in our consistency, and that consistency in our good works is the next item on the list which we call perseverance or endurance or steadfastness or—depending on your translation—you may also find “patient enduring.”
The Greek idea behind the English word “perseverance” refers to abiding under something. It’s like the mythological creature, Atlas who bore the weight of the world on his shoulders.
God doesn’t just want us to adopt occasional virtue or cultivate isolated good works . . . He wants us to continue in the things which we’ve learned and grow in them. In fact, a lack of perseverance is a sure sign of an unbeliever.
You may have made it this far in our study, and you may be certain that you have spiritual life because all of the things we mentioned were evident in your life the first 6 months after you professed to be a follower in Christ. But every year since your fervor and passion and obedience and submission to God has waned and faded and mellowed.
Consider Romans 2:5-8, “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds.”
According to verse 5, a person who doesn’t persevere in moral excellence is stubborn and unrepentant.
And then Paul continues in verse 7, “to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”
"Perseverance in doing good works” characterizes those who are seeking glory and honor, immortality, and eternal life.
Verse 8 further describes the character of individuals who do not persevere in good works. Paul refers to them as selfishly ambitious, those who do not obey the truth, but instead obey unrighteousness, wrath, and indignation.
True perseverance can only come as we actively pursue the things of God because only God can cause us to persevere in His will.
II Thessalonians 3:5 states simply, “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” Steadfastness is only found in Christ.
So, what about you? Is your life characterized by persevering in good works which is impossible for human beings to accomplish in the flesh and is only possible through the direct working of Jesus Christ?
Are you continuing in the things you’ve learned and growing in them? Are you more spiritually mature this year than you were last year?
Are you hoping for the future reality of your Holy Spirit-empowered perseverance?
And Romans 15:4-6 reads, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus. 6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hope comes through faith in what is written in the Scriptures through the power of God and which results in the same mind among God’s people as they obey Him in all things.
But for what are we hoping?
2. The Hope of Perseverance
As was mentioned earlier, those who are truly born again, have eternal life, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to persevere. If they fail the grace of God, they were never truly born again in the first place because God always completes the work that He begins in His people, and no one can take a true believer out of God’s grasp. But what is the hope toward which we persevere?
Hebrews 10:36 reveals, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” As we consistently endure in the will of God, we will receive that which He has promised. But what is the promise?
Verses 37-39 read, “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. 38 But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. 39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
If we shrink back, we will receive destruction, and our souls will not be preserved. A lack of perseverance leads to eternal death, but steadfastness on this earth is the forerunner of eternal life in glory! Revelation 14:12-13 puts it this way, “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.’”
John describes our future hope as eternal rest.
And even though it’s a future promise, Romans 8:25 says that, “But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Perseverance in the power of God actually fuels the hope we have that He will keep the promises He’s made to His children.
And James 5:11 explains how we can trust God, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
Compassion refers to the Father graciously giving believers everything they do not deserve because He loves them with the same love He loves Jesus.
And mercy refers to the Father not giving believers the condemnation they deserve because Christ has given them His righteousness.
But the blessing of perseverance is not merely a future reality. James 1:3-4 promises, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
This passage has three promises . . .
A. Endurance results in our perfection.
Now, this word has been misunderstood by those who believe that Christians can be sinless this side of heaven, but that’s not what this word means. Let’s read some other places in the Scriptures that use this word in order to better appreciate the perfection that’s achieved via endurance.
James will use this word three more times before the end of his letter. In James 1:17 he wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
This sets a high standard for this concept because it describes perfect gifts as coming directly from God. This is similar to Matthew 5:48 where Jesus says, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Again, that’s an impossibly tall order, but what it does is it once again confirms that our spiritual maturity is in Christ, through Christ, to Christ, and in the image of Christ. He is the standard, not our pastors, not our favorite Christian influencers, not our own conceptions about holiness . . . God alone is the standard of perfection, and He demands that we be maturing in it.
Then in James 1:25 we read, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
This substantiates what we have learned before. If we want to mature in our virtue, we will find God’s enabling and instruction in His perfect Word.
And then James 3:2 we read, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.”
Here we see the idea of perfection being tied to our ability to submit our words and—by extension—our actions to God’s expectations. This is a beautiful picture of Spirit-control.
In Matthew 19:21 Jesus tells the rich young ruler, “If you wish to be complete [that’s the same word translated “perfect” in James], go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Here Jesus equates perfection to seeking God’s will instead of our own. This is consistent with what we learn in Romans 12:2 (which should be familiar to you), “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Paul’s use in I Corinthians is helpful in rounding out this concept. His use of the word refers to our maturity.
I Corinthians 2:6, “Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature.”
I Corinthians 14:20, “Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 tells us that God gifted us pastor/teachers to equip us for the work of the ministry which is building up the body of Christ which verse 13 describes as, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
Colossians 1:28 illustrates this truth in Paul’s life, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.”
This was the same thing toward which Epaphras was working. In Colossians 4:12 we read, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”
Philippians 3:14-15 tells us, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.”
Hebrews 5:14 further describes the spiritually mature this way, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”
Earlier in the passage, the author of Hebrews contrasts this solid food of the Word with the milk of the Word, the elementary principles that they had already been taught. My friends, remember this—spiritual maturity requires growth and change, learning new things, deeper things, more mature things.
So, what does endurance accomplish in us? It makes us more mature, and the increasing maturity is increasing conformity to the perfection of God via the Holy Spirit in our sanctification.
This is an absolute must and an unavoidable reality of spiritual life. If you are not growing in Christ, you are not born again. If you are on a perpetual, unrelenting, unrepenting, downward slide, you are probably not a child of God.
And this will be further substantiated with the remaining list.
B. Endurance results in our completion.
Now, this Greek word is a synonym of the word we just considered. I don’t believe this list necessarily itemizes three different results of endurance, but it instead highlights three facets of the same result.
The first word argued for the trajectory and the momentum of our spiritual maturity, and I believe this word which is only used twice in the Bible is going to focus on the future reality. If we are on the right trajectory, then by God’s grace the future result will be our spiritual completion.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24 reads, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.”
A corresponding noun form which only appears in Acts 3:16 describes the health of a miraculously healed man as being “perfect.” Again, the future toward which we are moving is one in which God has removed our sinful flesh, and we get to celebrate God perfectly for all eternity.
And it’s in that direction that we should be moving now.
And then our third idea from James 1 shows us the inverse. If I am being perfected with the future hope of completion, then I can have confidence that I am not going to lack anything that I need to glorify God.
C. Endurance results in our possession.
I’m using the word possession to be a positive contrast to lacking nothing. Instead, we have everything we need.
And we learned this truth early on in our study in II Peter 1:3, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”
We must not be foolish enough to ever think or believe that we don’t have what we need in order to mature in our spiritual lives.
We have faith through God’s grace, we’ve been given Christ’s new life which comes with the ability to be morally excellent, we have all of the knowledge we need in the Bible, and we have all the empowerment we need in Sprit-control to persevere in our spiritual growth.
Now, let me ask you this. Do the present and future promises of God that result from perseverance excite you, or do you think it’s not worth all the hard work?
Does being perfected in Christ to the glory of the Father and through the power of the Spirit not delight you? If so, it’s quite possible that you don’t have spiritual life to begin with.
But if you do have spiritual life, this is one of the big reasons God has left you on this earth. As you have been commanded to be salt and light to the lost, dark, and dying world around us, God expects you to be sanctified from one degree of glory to another so that your salt becomes saltier and your light becomes brighter.
So, now let’s finish by discussing . . .
3. The Process of Perseverance
How are we to practically grow in our consistency, perseverance, steadfastness, and endurance?
Luke 8:15 gives us the first requirement, “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”
We need to be honest about the Bible. The “good heart” we’re to have is a mind that is consumed with that which is beneficial to the will of God. That is the heart that will accept the knowledge of God.
Colossians 1:9-12 unpacks this process beautifully, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
The first practical step is to . . .
A. Pursue Christlikeness
We must first be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, we must also understand it, and then live in wisdom—wisdom being defined as skillfully living what we know and understand. It’s the fruit of true belief.
As we grow in our knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we will walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
It’s important to note that growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, and self-control always results in more knowledge which leads to increased faith, moral excellence, and self-control. That repeating pattern is the very nature of steadfastness.
The Colossians passage continues in verse 11, “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.”
And of course, we recognize that none of it is possible without the glorious strength, power, and might of our great God!
And it all inextricably leads to verse 12 “joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.”
In writing to his young disciple in I Timothy 6:11, Paul instructs, “But flee from these things [all the sinful things he had listed in the previous chapters], you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”
Men and women of God must consistently chase after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, and gentleness in such a consistent way that they are known for their perseverance.
Practically speaking, spiritual growth is actually pretty simple and straightforward. It involves studying God’s Word to know and understand the milk and the meat, and then it requires intentionally and premeditatedly putting into practice in your life through God’s power the things which God commands.
So, what about you? If your closest family and friends were to be surveyed, in which of the Christ-honoring character traits that I just enumerated would they say you are growing and persevering?
But there’s a second practical step.
Faith produces moral excellence which produces a desire for increasing knowledge of God which submits to Spirit-control that—over time—results in consistent obedience.
But there are two sides to every choice. On one hand we choose to persevere in righteousness, and on the other we choose to reject that which does meet the standard of moral excellence set by God Himself.
B. Flee Sin
Consider Hebrews 12:1a, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.”
What are some of the encumbrances and sins in which you find yourself regularly entangled? I often encourage my counselees to carefully consider this question and compile a list. I encourage them to talk to spiritually mature individuals who know them well in order to add to the list.
One of the most difficult and yet most fruitful assignments I have ever given is to write down 100 ways in which you sin on a regular basis.
Generally speaking, an average born again believer can work through 1-20 pretty easily. Beyond that, they hit a wall. It’s at this point that I help them to think more specifically. Instead of saying that I’m unloving (which is true), it’s valuable to enumerate the specifics of that. I Corinthians 13 is helpful to this end. A lack of love is often the result of impatience, pride, rejoicing in the wrong things, and so on.
This helps the counselee work through number 50. But they often hit another wall. At this point, we start looking at the roots of our sin. We recognize that the most base foundation of all sin is not merely pride, it’s idolatry. We’re self-worshippers.
Beyond that, when we start to see ourselves for what we really are, it’s much easier for certain sins of which we previously believed we were not guilty, are actually true of us.
We are gluttons. We are adulterers. We are fools. We are often immoral, impure, sensual, hateful, angry, disputing, divisive, and envious. We start to see ourselves as more like Ebenezer Scrooge than less like him: “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!”
That’s why this assignment is so powerful. When we can see ourselves for what we really are, it strips us of pride and it reveals how much more growth we need.
So, how are we to lay aside these life-dominating sins?
The Hebrews passage continues: “and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus.”
This is where I ask, Who is Jesus to you? Maybe you’ve never considered that. Maybe you have. Maybe you have a doctrinal statement with a robust description of your Christology, but the real question is do you actually live like it’s true?
Listen to how the author of Hebrews describes Jesus, “the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Jesus authored and perfects the faith of every believer. He joyfully suffered a torturous death for His people. He is right now seated at the right hand of God, in complete control of all things, and He did all of that so that you . . . that’s right . . . you . . . could persevere (not grow weary and lose heart).
So why do we not persevere as consistently as we should? The answer is simple, we’re not looking to Jesus. We’re not laying aside the sin that offends His excellence. We’re not living in the faith that produces genuine self-control in submission to the knowledge of God from His Word.
So, if you genuinely desire to be perfected in your steadfastness, you must commit to the following: When you are tempted to return to the sins that so easily entangle you, stop, pray, and meditate on the truth you’ve been learning from the Bible. Make a conscious decision to persevere in what you know is right.
Now, I said before that this process is simple. That means it’s not complex. I’m not insinuating that it’s easy. In fact it’s so hard and so impossible that we can’t do it without faith, Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, a growing knowledge of God’s Word, and self-control that’s empowered by the Holy Spirit.
But it can be done . . . it must be done because endurance is not just an evidence of spiritual life, it’s a requirement for all of us who have spiritual life.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets so that other followers of Christ can learn the importance of perseverance. And if you need personalized help in your discipleship, don’t hesitate to reach out to Counselor@CelebrationOfGod.com.
And join us next time as we seek to better know, love, and worship God and help the people in our lives do the same.
To that end, we’ll be discussing what it means that perseverance produces godliness.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a discipleship experience designed to equip followers of Christ to better know, love, and worship Him as they help others in their lives do the same. We exalt God, teach His people how to practically worship Him every day of the year, and train them to disciple others.
Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
AMBrewster is the creator of The Year Long Celebration of God and host of its podcast.