A Christian has reached the final state of his spiritual growth when he is able to keep Christ’s ‘command to persevere’.
Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.’ Rev 3:10
Persevere’ in Greek is the same word translated elsewhere as in the Bible as ‘endurance, constancy, enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting)’.
The final state in perseverance or endurance is reached after a person goes through many years of troubles, as in the case of most Christians, or zenithed through a single instance of ultimate testing, as in the case of people such as Abraham and Job, and other ancient servants of God who were tested at some point in their lives by an extreme trouble, and in the case of Christians today who, in unswerving faith, go through severe persecution or personal tragedy – people who are especially selected by God and equipped to fulfill a great and special purpose in Christ’s ministry after they have been tested and proven in the fiery furnaces of affliction.
If this seems a frightening aspect of the true Christian life, then always keep it uppermost in your mind that no believer will ever go through an extreme suffering unless God equips him or her for it, according to his precious promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
‘No temptation has come your way that is too hard for flesh and blood to bear. But God can be trusted not to allow you to suffer any temptation beyond your powers of endurance. He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will never be impossible for you to bear it.’ JBP
Remember this sentence, especially the word ‘every’, in that verse whenever you think of any Christian’s adversity:
‘He will see to it that every temptation has a way out, so that it will be impossible for you to bear it.’
What greater assurance and comfort do we need to face any trial!
The Greek word for ‘temptation’ is ‘peirasmos’, which means ‘a putting to proof, discipline, by implication adversity’. So when God allows you to be tested, he is putting you to proof, to refine you, so you could come out of the furnace of adversity refined, mature, and steadfast.
This refining process is lifelong. Our entire life is comprised of small, medium and big trails, which are the crucibles of our growth in Christian maturity. The final point of absolute full maturity is reached only when a person finishes his life course and breathes his last.
But there is one particular point in the life of every child of God when he or she crosses the spiritual Jordan, whereby e proves to God that e is now a solid Christian, capable of patiently enduring any trial he or she is put through, capable of serving God in any capacity, a ‘strong-meat’ believer, no more needing the soft milk of a tender and immature child of God, as were some of Paul’s brethren.
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto you were not able to bear it, neither yet now are you able.’ ‘But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age’. 1 Cor 3:1-2; Heb 5:14 KJV
Strong meat’ is the state when a Christian is able to accept and digest every spiritual solid food and every cup of strong drink God gives him for his growth.
Jesus asked James and John, ‘Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to him, ‘We are able” ’.
And Jesus did not doubt their conviction. ‘You will indeed drink my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with’, he responded. (Mat 20:22-23)
When you are also able to drink the same cup of affliction that the disciples did, and be baptized with the same baptism that they went through – which means burying your selfcentered will in a watery grave and raising up to a new life to do only the will of God, whatever that involves – you reach the same state of spiritual maturity as ‘he who endures to the end’ (Mat 24:13). This is the point of growth that Christ desires for every follower of his to reach as soon as possible.
For some, this point is reached imperceptibly, and the person one day wakes up to realize that he or she has already reached this mature state of perseverance after many years of seemingly endless troubles. For many others, this final proving point to God is reached during the severest trial of their lives. This is the point that Abraham reached when he lifted his knife to sacrifice Isaac. This is the point that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reached when they were cast into the furnace by Nebuchadnezzar. This is the point that many faithful Christians reach when they are faced with the prospect of choosing life and betraying God, or choosing to risk death or great trouble so they can be faithful to God, and they unhesitatingly choose to be faithful to God.
And to those who are ready to choose to be faithful to God at any cost, let me give you this assurance based on my personal experience:
When I came to the excruciatingly painful point that I knew I would be physically devastated or even die if I did not get immediate medical help (in a place, deep in the dungeons of Arabia, where, no matter how critical a person’s physical state, if it was the weekend, no doctor would be available), and the devil wanted me to give up trusting God anymore to deliver me, I forced my right hand, weakened by my affliction, to slowly raise itself up, and pointed my forefinger and middle finger in a victory sign to the devil in the sight of all the heavenly hosts. It was the climax of several weeks of extreme affliction. But that was the turning point. From that moment onward, the devil left me and my pain decreased almost immediately and I was soon able to smile and move around normally, and within a few days I was walking out of my prison cell, to lead a far more active Christian life than ever.
Once you have convinced the devil you would rather die than betray your Savior, he will flee from you terrified, and thereafter, any attacks on you would be from a safe distance and could never be as intense as the one which enabled you to cross the Jordan of your life.
‘Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.’ James 4:7 AMP
‘And do not [for a moment] be frightened or intimidated in anything by your opponents and adversaries, for such [constancy and fearlessness] will be a clear sign (proof and seal) to them of [their impending] destruction, but [a sure token and evidence] of your deliverance and salvation, and that from God.’ Phi 1:28 AMP
Israel’s troubles and challenges did not end soon after they crossed the Jordan, but they were nothing compared to what they had endured during the 40 year trek through the Sinai desert. Even so, once you reach the maturity point where you have proved to God you will be faithful to him at any cost in your life, all troubles that come to you after that are just finishing touches to your refinement process and seem, by comparison, mild.
There will come times, sometimes lasting a long time, when all the promises of God would seem unavailable, when God himself seems far away from your trouble, and all your cries for help seem to go no higher than the ceiling of your bedroom. You would cry, like David did,
‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me, And from the words of my groaning? Ps 22:1
And there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, except to ‘be still’ decide to endure and trust God to deliver you in his own time. (Ps 46:10)
These are times in a growing Christian’s life that he will have to endure from hour to hour and from day to day. He becomes an hourly and daily survivor with whatever strength and little reliefs he receives in his misery.
God will not allow a Christian to go through such an intense phase until he or she is ready for it, irrespective of whether the Christian emself feels ready for it. Almost always, the Christian would feel he or she is simply not able to cope with it, but find, on looking back after some months and years of endurance that e has somehow managed to survive through the fire e had initially thought he or she could never go through.
This, faithful follower of Christ, is the most difficult and painful, and ultimately the most rewarding of all Christian experiences. Even the great God in all his omnipotence could not find another way of refining us more perfectly than through severe troubles that require our patient endurance.
It is only when you reach this God-given ability to endure patiently to the end every trouble that you will also have reached the final state of spiritual maturity where there is no more need for your severe testing. You will also have reached the state where you are eligible to be spared from the terrible tribulation coming upon the whole world in the endtimes. I repeat Christ’s personal assurance:
‘Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.’ Rev 3:10
You need not be tested with extreme troubles with the rest of unrepentant humanity. A time of unthinkable tribulation is coming soon upon the whole world ‘such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.’ (Mat 24:21)
To escape the coming tribulation, you have to keep Christ’s command to persevere through your troubles. You have to endure without complaining whatever God allows you to go through today.
But remember always: however severe your present trouble seems to be, however unsolvable your present situation seems to be, God promises you this:
‘I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.’ Ps 34:4,6
Thank God we have his promise we will come out of every trouble smiling and praising him ever more!
It is only when you reach this God-given ability to endure patiently to the end every trouble that you will also have reached the final state of spiritual maturity where there is no more need for your severe testing.
One vital final point of this message.
The state of patient endurance is reached not by your determination to grit your teeth and patiently endure every trouble that comes your way. When you do that, the pain of your troubles only increases. Just as a patient’s pain is increased when he braces himself and tenses his biceps as the doctor inserts an injection needle into his arm. The least painful state is to lie relaxed and untensed and let the physician perform his job without any effort on your own part to help him reduce your pain. This least painful state is attained not by your struggles and efforts, but only by your belief that whatever is happening now is God’s specific will for you and therefore you willingly and unresistingly accept the work of your heavenly Surgeon in every area of your daily life so he can quickly excise every offending and toxic quality in your spiritual body.
The longer you resist, the longer you will have to go through the cleansing process. It is your belief in God’s personal care of you, your confidence that he will not allow you to suffer beyond the capability he has already given you, and your willingness to submit to whatever he does in you that are the calming factors in all your afflictions.
’When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him.’ James 1:2-5 JBP
Just run to Christ in sincere desire and persevering prayer for him to help you carry the heavy crosses of your life. When you do that daily, you will soon reach the point where you will have crossed the Jordan and find an amazing change in the way the troubles affect you now: they are so endurable now, so light to bear!
‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Mat 11:28-30
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’ John 16:33 AMP