A faith that endures is a faith that sees the finish line, the completion of the promise. It is a faith that hopes amid uncertainty and sees as reality the fulfilled promise. Enduring faith runs with patience through the challenges of life.
I was reminded last week of the Lord’s enduring love for us. Along with our prayer team, Carolyn and I were praying for people after a Sunday service. A middle-aged couple, whom I’ve never seen before, came up for prayer. As I began to pray, the Holy Spirit gave me an impression.
I sensed the Lord say, “They have suffered loss, the loss of a child.” Compassion welled within me for them. I asked the Lord about this word, wanting to be assured of it before I shared it with them and prayed for them. Again, the impression came, “They have suffered the loss of a child and are grieving.” Confident this was the Lord, I shared my impression with them that they had lost a child and were grieving, she burst into tears and nodded as if to say, “yes, this is true.”
I began to pray for God to heal their broken hearts. The Holy Spirit ministered deeply to them for a few minutes. After receiving ministry, they shared with us they were visiting family in Tucson for a few days and lived in PA. They found our church on the internet and felt impressed to come this Sunday.
She then shared, “Your word and prayer ministered to us significantly. A year ago, yesterday, I lost my daughter.” Carolyn and I comforted them, knowing that the four of us had just experienced a “God moment” that only he can orchestrate. You see, one word, one impression from Jesus, empowers us to continue our race of faith. His word, impression, and at times visions to us, let us know that he knows, cares and is helping us along life’s journey.
Let’s continue our discussion of faith this week by examining enduring faith.
First, is faith something we muster up? Do we believe harder to have more faith?
Faith is both a fruit of the Spirit and a gift of the Spirit. While we can posture ourselves to develop more faith, ultimately it is God who imparts faith—faith is a gift. There is the gift of faith, but there is also what I like to call the “deposit of faith” that comes from daily relationship with Jesus.
Jesus told the man with the tormented son in Mark 9:23 “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Jesus is not speaking of intellectual belief or agreement, but a heart-belief that is real faith. Only Jesus can give this type of faith—it is to the heart, not the mind.
Belief is an assurance of the mind; faith is an assurance of the heart.
Peter could walk on the water because Jesus said to him, “Come!” Peter believed in his mind that perhaps he could go to Jesus, but once Jesus spoke “come,” Peter now was assured he could.
Heb. 11:1 AMPC, “Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].”
True faith is an expectant anticipation of the reality of the promise before the manifestation. Faith acts upon God’s revealed truth with an assurance of the answer.
While faith is assured, nurturing hope is the seedbed from which faith comes.
Hope is protection for your mind. Without hope, you will lose stability in your walk with God. Consider your big toes for a moment. They provide “stability” in your walk. Hope could be likened to your big toe! It provides your walk of faith stability.
God’s love shed abroad in our hearts creates faith and hope. Paul said that “now abides these, faith, hope and love.” Hope is a joyful anticipation of the promise. God desires to free us from hopelessness. Love, along with hope, activates our faith.
Pastor Steve Wilson shared recently at our church about the interaction of love and faith from Galatians 5:6 AMPC, “For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”
Simply stated, faith is expressed through love. Faith is activated, energized, expressed, and works through love! Like epoxy with two components that need to be mixed to be activated, faith needs love to work properly. When faith and love work together there’s something produced. Faith won’t do the job it’s created to do unless we ask God to give us love for others. Faith doesn’t have power until love is added. Love is the battery. Love does something in faith. Faith communicates what’s intended when love is added. Faith works by love.
Faith that Endures
The writer of Hebrews had much to say about enduring faith, but let’s examine Hebrews 12:1-4:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”
After the powerful “faith” chapter of Hebrews 11, the writer now says, “therefore” and begins chapter 12. Keep in mind that chapters and verses were not added to the bible until the 13thcentury, so “therefore” is a continuation of the faith discussion in Hebrews 11.
Imagine the exhilaration an Olympic marathon runner experiences as they enter the stadium, packed with cheering spectators, to cross the finish line. Exhausted, the runner can see the finish after a grueling race, and knows they are about to cross and finish their race.
In my twenties, I ran competitively long-distance races; including a couple of half-marathons and many 5K and 10K road races. Every race was challenging, running competitively taxes your mental and physical endurance. As you near the finish line of a long, tiring race, a cheering crowd gave you a psychological “boost” to finish your race strong.
For 1stcentury Christians reading this epistle, they would have understood the imagery, but perhaps couldn’t fully relate this metaphor to their Christian experience—filled with suffering and persecution.
Yet, according to the writer of Hebrews, this is the true invisible reality every Christian is experiencing: you are running a race headed to a triumphant finish line in Christ.
As we run our race of faith, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, both old and new testament heroes of the faith who are cheering for us to run strong and finish well.
To run our race well, we must lay aside every encumbrance that would hinder us.
While praying last week, the Lord gave me a vision related to this Hebrews 12 passage. I saw Christians trying to run, but they were carrying old, heavy auto parts and trying to run! Impossible to run carrying “weight!” Imagine trying to run carrying a heavy car battery? The Lord impressed upon me the need to remind the Church of the need to “let go of” the old, heavy and obsolete burdens of our past and run with endurance toward our finish line in Christ.
The Greek verb for “lay aside” can also be translated “to rid oneself” or “throw off.” It is often applied to what people must discard when they become a disciple of Jesus. For example, the works of darkness (Rom. 13:12), the old self (Eph. 4:22), falsehood (Eph. 4:25), anger and gossip (Col. 3:8), moral impurity (Jam. 1:21), and malice and deceit (1 Pet. 2:1).
Like disciplined runners who shed excess body weight and unnecessary clothing (in fact, ancient Greek athletes stripped to compete), we should remove any “bulk” or “burden” that would impede our progress to the finish line.
Your race, your walk of faith, is not a sprint, but an endurance run that will include some long, uphill climbs and navigating some rough terrain. Perseverance or endurance is one of the essential qualities of the Christian life (see Heb. 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:”
I asked the Lord after this vision, “But how Lord?”
Specifically, I asked, “How Lord? How do believers shed themselves of the hindrances, run their race well and finish strong?” Immediately I saw a vision of Jesus, smiling, happy, on the other side of the great finish line of life, waving to me, saying, “Come on, you can make it!” Faith that endures is a faith that sees!
The answer was simple, “Consider the example of Jesus and look upon him!”
Heb. 12:2-3: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
Like Olympic runners who focus their attention on the finish line, we are to focus our attention on Jesus, our older brother who has reached the finish line before us. Consider his example of love, faith and endurance!
To run your race well and finish strong, you must look to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of your faith. All true faith begins and ends with Jesus—the Alpha and Omega. When I want more faith, I must seek him, look to him!
Our endurance of faith is anchored in his endurance!
Jesus himself fixed his eyes on the goal and the joy of bringing humanity across the finish line with him. You see, faith works through love, and the by-product of love and faith is joy—joy inexpressible and full of glory! Hope undergirds faith, it is joyful in anticipation of the promise!
Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith. You can have God’s faith as you learn to keep your focus on Christ. Your faith is strengthened as you follow Jesus and understand who you are in him. He, and many others, are cheering you on to finish well!
The moment you take your eyes off Jesus, you lose sight of the primary goal of your faith and rob yourself of endurance to run. He is the goal, your destination and the reason you do what you do.
He is your source of life, your greatest joy, and the motivation to ask audacious requests of the Father. Real faith is rooted in the nature and character of God. As you learn to trust Jesus more, his faith will be imparted to you.
Enduring faith that finishes strong begins and ends with Jesus!