In writing to the Christians at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul makes an interesting statement. He says, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 NIV) It’s not like these people didn’t already know or hadn’t already experienced God’s love. They had already accepted Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf. They had already experienced salvation. I think what Paul is saying is that they needed to develop the same kind of love that God has. They needed to demonstrate God’s love in how they lived their lives and interacted with one another.
What grabbed my attention in that verse, however, is that Paul prays that their hearts would be directed into Christ’s perseverance. Your translation may say, “into the steadfastness of Christ.” Why do we need to be directed into steadfastness or perseverance? Well, if you’re like me, it’s easy to start projects. It’s easy to get excited at the beginning of something. But sometimes it’s not so easy to finish what I’ve started. Unexpected problems crop up. Excitement gives way to discouragement. It can be very tempting to abandon a project before it’s finished because something new has come along.
There’s more to perseverance than just helping us to finish projects. Paul explains it this way in chapter 5, verse 4 of his letter to the Romans, “...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (NIV) Notice that it is perseverance which builds character. Why is this important? Because it is character which produces hope. In the next few verses, Paul goes on to say that our hope rests squarely on the fact that Jesus died for us. It is through His blood that we are justified and reconciled to God.
Living for Christ is not always easy. The initial excitement and joy of being forgiven can turn into discouragement when we find out that we still have to overcome problems or bad habits. Sometimes we face opposition. Sometimes it would be easier to just go along with peer pressure or the standards of our culture.
Fortunately, Christ Himself set us an example of perseverance when the going got tough. Can you imagine what would have happened if He had decided not to follow through with God’s plan of redemption? We would still be in our sins, with no hope at all. But Jesus did follow through. When the time came for Him to sacrifice His life for us, Scripture says that He “...resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51 NIV) He could have walked away. He could have called 10 thousand angels to destroy His enemies. He could have come down off the cross. But He didn’t. He saw it through. Because He persevered, we have the hope of eternal life – provided that we persevere in following Him.
Each week we take the time to remember what Jesus has done for us. We eat a piece of bread which represents Christ’s body which He sacrificed for us. We drink some juice which represents His blood which cleanses us from sin. Today as we partake of these emblems, let’s not only remember His sacrifice, but also Jesus’ perseverance which sent Him to the cross. Let’s remember the hope we have because of His perseverance in providing salvation.
Let’s also renew our commitment to live for Christ. Let’s follow His example of perseverance. As it says in Hebrews, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV)