2 Corinthians 4:1-2, 5-6 “Therefore, since we have received this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. … For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” …
My flesh never sleeps. It never takes a break. My struggles never end; if I fought on my own, the flames of sin would consume me in an instant. I echo the words of Paul in Romans 7, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” I join with him in joyful thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ Jesus who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with lovingkindness and compassion (Psalm 103:4). His sacrifice is the only thing allowing me to persevere through the trials that assail me. Without Him, I would have been forever encompassed in the temptations weighed against my soul.
Those who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ’s atoning work on the cross know this fact well. How often do we forget, though? How many times do the worries of this world lay hold of our hearts, causing anxiety and fear? These sins are so fundamentally opposed to the truth we claim, yet I see myself and many other Christians continually fall by their hands! Anxiety, namely, is a multi-faceted sin, but one of its severest encroachments upon truth is its expression of unbelief. When I become anxious, I show off a lack of faith in God; the same God who always has been and always will be. The God who told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM,”; the One who created the heavens and the earth, made man and controls all things. When Moses tried to run from the will of God, He rebuked Moses, saying “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (Exodus 3:11, 12) More than these, anxiety contradicts our faith in the One who made us alive together with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions! (Ephesians 2:5) We know that if He has the power and love to deliver us from His all-consuming wrath, He has the strength to uphold us through any circumstance we encounter.
Anxiety is ultimately pride, for when we attain this form of doubt, our actions are screaming that we are not content with God’s sovereignty in our circumstances. 1 Peter 5:6, 7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.” We must humble ourselves to receive our circumstances in a godly manner, offering all of our worries up to the Lord, because out of care, He will comfort us.
Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 35: 3, 4 “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will have His vengeance; the recompense of God will come, but He will save you.”
On a closely related topic, the Lord has lately been teaching me what it means to persevere through trials I have brought about my own sin of idolatry. I have had to battle my flesh as it has risen within me time and time again. By His grace, I have been able to overcome and persevere through this temptation. I have been comforted throughout this time by Jesus’ words in John 14:1, 3, 15-16; 15:4-5, 9-11 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. … If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also. … If you love Me you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, the He may be with you forever. … Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. … Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be made full in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
The Greek word for “abide” is also translated as “remain”, “endure”, and others. Jesus has told us that apart from Him, in our flesh, we can do nothing of eternal value. I persevere because of the cross. He has sacrificed Himself for my debt, and calls me to abide in His love. He calls me to serve Him no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter how much pain, heart-brake, trials and persecutions I must endure. Paul served as a perfect example of this, as he endured more than any of us will ever know for the sake of Christ. Concerning the thorn in the flesh that the Lord gave Paul, he wrote “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul suffered so much for the sake of the gospel, yet he endured it all! I should be ashamed if I complain or become anxious about any struggle I might have, for Paul did not become anxious but endured all forms of persecution! Never should I say that a specific situation or setting caused me to sin, for Christ has given me the power to persevere. Romans 8:37 “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”
His grace is sufficient; for this reason I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, knowing that the testing of my faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, so that I may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Philippians 3:14, James 1:3,4 emphasis added). I persevere because I know it pleases my Lord, and He will bless me for it. (James 1:12) I must become a man and do away with childish things, as I persevere in Christ through my life on this earth (1 Corinthians 13:11, 12). I must bear my yoke as a son of God, as in Lamentations 3:27-32 “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach. For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to his abundant lovingkindness.”
In the end, I must imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. Since I have the ministry of furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of His Kingdom and His rule, I will endure. I finish by quoting the ever faithful Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.”