Tag Archives: Perseverence

God’s Guide to Spiritual Fitness

For whom He (God) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,

that He (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:29 (NKJV)

This week we will continue our teaching on spiritual fitness by describing what it looks like in the believer’s life.

Examples of spiritual fitness can be found throughout the Bible and is generally synonymous with righteous living.    In the Old Testament, Noah was described as “a just man, perfect in his generation, walking with God” (Gen. 6:9).   Noah’s spiritual fitness insured his perseverance in completing the daunting task of building the Ark.  Job was designated as “perfect and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil” (Job 1:1).  Job proved himself spiritually fit for the challenges placed in his life by Satan.  In the New Testament, spiritual fitness is connected to the renewing of the mind as a result of being new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Concurrently, the “new man” is being continually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ through his obedient love for God and the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:29; Phil. 2:5-8).

So what does spiritual fitness look like? How does the believer know if they have it?  Spiritual fitness is not a list of “do’s and don’ts” nor is it a specific set of behaviors one can practice.  From our earlier definition it is a condition of qualification or “readiness” for God’s purposes.  It is a state of being.  Based on that definition and the biblical examples provided in God’s Word, I have assembled some general principles for understanding spiritual fitness by using the acrostic “FIRST”.  Why first?  To be spiritually fit, you must put “first things first”.  Spiritual fitness is necessary in order to continue on the path of righteous living even when the world would have you follow another path.

F-Have Faith in the truth of the Bible.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).  Trusting the sufficiency of Scripture is critical for spiritual fitness.  God’s Word is the anchor on which the believer’s reality and meaning is derived.  Unlike postmodern followers, believers rely on the truth of God’s Word.  It is relevant for 21st century living.  

I-Take on the Identity of Christ  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6).  We know we are being conformed to the image of Christ—He is our model for spiritual fitness.   Our identity with Christ causes believers to realign their thinking and behavior with His.

R– Develop a Relationship with the God of glory. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).   Being in God’s presence is where spiritual change can take place.  For spiritual fitness, the believer’s relationship with God must become a priority.   

S-Walk as Sanctified people of God.  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” (Col. 2:6) Believers choose a lifestyle of holiness controlled (filled) by the Holy Spirit.  Spiritual fitness includes the pursuit of God and continuous development of the believer’s faith (Heb. 12:14).  Christ will judge those claiming identification with Him but who are not actively engaged in holy living (Matt. 7:21–23).

TTrust in the finished work of the cross.  “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  Spiritual fitness helps believers live as new creatures in Christ, even when it doesn’t “feel” right.  The believer who is spiritually fit understands there is nothing they can do to earn their salvation nor is there anything they can do to loss it.  They are confident that God will carry out His sanctifying purposes to the end.

Spiritual fitness is not a destination—it’s a journey.  Let the Holy Spirit be your personal trainer. (1 Thess. 2:13-14)

Faith to Persevere

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,

and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13   (NKJ)

To persevere requires one to continue despite difficulties, opposition, or discouragement. This requires not only spiritual power but also faith.  Our friends and family try to reassure us by telling us to “hang in there” or “tough it out” but unfortunately, encouraging words do not always succeed in moving us forward.

That is where “persevering faith” comes in.  Not “saving faith” that we associate with our initial salvation, but the ability to see through difficulties and press forward for the prize (Phil. 3:14).  I’m talking about “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).  Faith that perseveres looks to the future and visualize the promises of God, in all their fullness.  It was this “forward looking faith” that helped the Faith Hall of Famers to persevere.

“Having seen the promises afar off.”   The word “promises” is a metonymy—a figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another with which it is closely associated.  The word “promises” is a metonymy for the “things promised.” Literally, the Faith Hall of Famers “had received” their individual promises—whether it be deliverance from destruction, children to a barren couple, or a future homeland (vv. 10, 14,16). The “things promised” were the spiritual blessings of the Gospel dispensation and the future heavenly inheritance.  Each one died in the firm expectation of the promised Messiah and in believing views of the heavenly glory.  In their “mind’s eye”, they had an inner awareness of what the promises meant—in all their “fullness.”      

“were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” To be “persuaded” means to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended. In this case, it is God who provided the promises.  The Hall of Famers confidently believed based on the veracity of God.  To “embrace” means to salute or greet.   Based on God’s assurance, they “eagerly welcomed” (versus acquiesced to) their destiny. They moved forward with full confidence.

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”  To “confess” implies expressing openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. The Faith Hall of Famers desired more than this world had to offer, especially after seeing the promises afar off.  They fixed their eyes on those things which are above where Christ is seated (Col. 3:1).  If they regarded themselves daily as earthlings, they would not have retained the vision of faith and may have been tempted to turn back.      

The order of the aforementioned verbs teaches us an important practical lesson on developing persevering faith.  First, we must envision the promises of God.  Then, based on the Giver of the promises, we confidently accept, believe, and rest on the reliability of God’s word. It is here that our faith becomes grounded.  Lastly, faith “sees” with understanding, is “persuaded” in the heart and “embraced” by the will.

In a society where instant gratification is the norm, faith that perseveres requires a daily commitment to “forward looking” faith.  This letter to the Hebrews was to press upon them and us, the critical need for a faith that would last, wear, overcome obstacles, and endure until the end.  Like the Faith Hall of Famers, the eyes of our heart must see the blessings God has promised and be persuaded that in due season, they will be ours.  We are to joyfully anticipate our future as opposed to present advantages.  Faith that perseveres single-mindedly looks to the future with an eye on the Provider who “according to His divine power has given us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:3, 4). 

 

SELAH: Ask God to share with you His plan for helping you to persevere in your faith.  What does God want you to “see” with your understanding, be “persuaded” in your heart, and “embrace” in your will?

Power to Persevere

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,

and watching thereunto

with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:18 (KJV)

 

If you were to ask me what character trait is critical for spiritual growth and maturity, I would answer, “perseverance”; and if you were to then ask me which character trait is the most difficult to master, I would answer again, “perseverance.” Webster defined perseverance as the “act of continued, patient effort.” While many preachers and teachers typically stress the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) as traits worth nurturing, I’d like to spend time exploring a spiritual trait which also merits attention–perseverance.

The term perseverance communicates the idea of overcoming, energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of trial. To persevere means to be “constantly diligent and persistent”. Perseverance requires us to push through our pain and fear even when the challenge is daunting and difficult. It is more than “stick-to-it-ness” and calls for the believer to see past the current barrier, temptation, or persecution (1 Cor. 4:17-18).

Spiritual perseverance has its basis in two realities: (1) our hope and (2) the Holy Spirit. Our hope is based on confidence in God’s goodness and care–a sense that God loves us (Psalms 63:3) and that “He that began a good work in us is able to perform it (Phil.1:6). The Holy Spirit is critical in cultivating spiritual perseverance. Through His power and presence, we develop courage and boldness to overcome persecution and temptations (Acts 4:31). The Holy Spirit stands ready to empower us to meet the challenges we face (1 John 4:4). It is in His power that we are able to remain faithful to Lord and Savior in the midst of temptation and persecution (Rom. 14:4).

Stand firm on the hope of glory. Energetically serve God. Resist and overcome sin. Call upon the power of the Holy Spirit to help you live a life of personal holiness and service. Be diligent and steadfast in your walk of faith. You have the power to persevere.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:

for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,

which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1: 12

 

SELAH:  Even the Apostle Paul had to learn to persevere.  Read his prayer found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.    Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal key areas in your life in which you need more power to persevere.

The Spirit of Truth

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”   John 14:16-17 (NLT)

John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, shared the following observation about truth.

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”  

Likewise regarding truth, the Apostle Paul warned the young minister Timothy of the dangers that await him as new converts would “turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4).  Truth, unfortunately, is being packaged in many forms; many are more speculation and creative editorializing, than substantive truth.  Because of this trend, it is important that believers have a “real-time” reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  While our primary guide is the Word of God, as we discussed last week, God has also provided another source—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.

Earlier in this series we defined truth as that which agrees with reality.  For the believer, our reality has been defined by what God has placed in His written Word.  For the disciples in our text today, however, there was no written Word as they faced a hostile world without the presence of their Beloved Jesus (John 15:18-20).  It was Jesus’ presence that gave them the courage to challenge the spiritual tyranny of the religious leaders.  It was Jesus’ loving response to the diseased and disenfranchised that modeled what true love looked like.  They would need God’s truth as they turned their focus to witnessing (Acts 1:8), baptizing and teaching (Matt. 28:19-20).

In John 14 Jesus promises to send the Spirit of Truth that would abide with them forever.  It was the Holy Spirit Who would now come to live within them.  We generally think of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifting or empowering believers to accomplish the purposes and ministries of Christ.  However, the attribute Jesus chose to share with His disciples in John’s text focused on “truth”.  It would be the Spirit of Truth that would assist the disciples as they were persecuted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  They would be tempted to denounce and deny Him Whom “the world could not receive, because it neither saw Him nor knew Him” (v. 17).  They would need the Spirit of Truth to call “to remembrance” the life and ministry of Jesus Christ—especially His work of salvation for sinners (John 14:26).  The Spirit of Truth would assist the disciples in accomplishing the “greater works” promised by Jesus (John 14:12).   Jesus was indeed “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”.  After Jesus’ departure, the ministry of truth would continue because the Spirit of Truth.

Like the disciples of the first century, believers in the 21st century have the assistance of the Spirit of Truth to assist them especially in exposing the spirit of error.  The spirit of error is seen in the morays and life styles of the world.  For unbelievers, it leads them to be deceived and disobedient to the purposes of God in their life (Ep. 2:2).  For the believer, the spirit of error tempts them to doubt God truth and draw them away from the leading of the Holy Spirit (2 Thess. 2:15).  The Spirit of Truth stands ready to silence the lies, myths and fables of the 21st century.  Our confidence lies in the promise, power, and presence of the Spirit of Truth.  He is our True Compass as we search for truth.

Prayer:  “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”  Let your Spirit of Truth reign supreme in my life.  Let me trust in that which He guides me to do and obediently follow the path of Your choosing.  I receive Your Spirit of Truth and walk in the knowledge and freedom which You have graciously given me.