"He who stands firm to the end will be saved."
We seem to be living in times of increasing uncertainty and difficulty.
The United States is now engaged in a war against terrorism. We
face possibilities of war in Iraq and North Korea. We face possibilities
of major casualties to terrorism in our own country. We face worldwide
economic uncertainty. In this country we have seen the collapse
of major corporations. Many have suffered unemployment or serious
financial loss as a result. It sometimes seems as if much that we
thought we could rely on is proving undependable. There is a sense
that everything is moving faster, becoming more intense, becoming
How do we deal with this uncertainty? I suggest that, as committed
Christians, we need increasingly to stand firm in our faith in God,
who alone is certain and unchangeable. God existed before the universe
was created, he will exist after the present heavens and earth are
destroyed, he does not change, he is all-powerful and all-good,
he is faithful, and he is far bigger than any difficulty or problem
with which we may be confronted.
Psalm 46:1 declares, "God is our refuge and strength, an
ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear."
God sometimes takes us out of our trouble. More often he helps us
get through it. He is with us when we walk through the valley of
the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). When we pass through the waters
or the fire, God is with us (Isaiah 43:2). "Do not be afraid,
for I am with you" (Isaiah 43:5). In a world where everything
else seems like quicksand, God is solid bedrock. (Unless otherwise
indicated, all Scriptures are from the New International Version,
and any emphasis has been added.)
In a sense, today's uncertainties are good if they lead us to
depend less on ourselves and more on our God. Paul wrote of extremely
difficult things he went through, and said, "But this happened
that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead"
(2 Corinthians 1:9). Especially when times are confusing and uncertain,
we need to "trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean
not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) - or on our own
strength, or resources, or cleverness, or human institutions.
If we are to trust in the Lord in this way, we need to know, beyond
a shadow of doubt, who God is, and what our relationship to him
is. We need to have a clear faith, and to stand firm in that faith.
In a world which tells us that there is no absolute truth, no absolute
morality, and no absolute good or evil, we need to be quite sure
of what we believe and what we stand for.
A. Jesus' End-time Prophecy
A useful place to begin, in considering these matters, is Matthew
chapter 24. In it Jesus gave one of the great prophecies of Scripture.
He was talking about the "end times", the times just before
his physical return to earth. I do not know whether we are now in
the end times, but we certainly are approaching them. So what Jesus
said about them is very important. I shall concentrate on a small
part of this tremendous prophecy. Some of the themes which it raises
I will discuss in more detail later in this paper.
The disciples asked Jesus when the end times would come and Jesus
"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come
in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ', and will deceive many.
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you
are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still
to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against
kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed
over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated
by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away
from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false
prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase
of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands
firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24: 4-12).
Let us look at some of the themes raised by this extraordinary
a. "Watch out that no one deceives you" (v. 4).
I believe that deception is a characteristic of the end times,
and is increasingly a characteristic of the times we live in. Others
seek to deceive us, and we often deceive ourselves. The best safeguard
against deception is to be very sure of what you believe, and to
stand firmly on that belief. A mature Christian, who knows what
he believes, will not be "tossed back and forth by the waves,
and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning
and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Ephesians
I can speak to this from personal experience. For a number of
years my wife and I were members of a New Age organization. Its
teachings seemed plausible and "spiritual", but they were
not grounded in Scripture and in many ways were contrary to Scripture.
At the time we joined it we were not well-grounded in Scripture,
and hence did not perceive the falsity of these teachings. We may
have learned something from the experience, but I think the time
could have been better spent in other ways. I think most people
who accept false teachings do so because they are not well-grounded
in God's truth.
One of the characteristics of our time is a kind of "doublespeak".
We use so many pat slogans and euphemisms to describe things, that
we lose sight of what we are really talking about. We, as Christians,
need increasingly to speak God's truth into every situation, rather
than falling into "politically correct" jargon that obscures
the truth. God's word is truth, and his truth sanctifies us (John
17:17). It is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32). Jesus Christ
is "the truth" (John 14:6). We, as Christians, need to
proclaim God's truth and believe that it will prevail.
Let me give a few examples. Many more will doubtless occur to
you. The Palestinian suicide bombers are, as President Bush has
said, murderers, not martyrs. A fetus is a baby. "Partial birth
abortion" is murder. What some call an "alternative life-style"
is homosexuality, which is an abomination to God. Let us not be
afraid to call things what they are.
b. False Christs ( v. 5).
In difficult times people often look to some charismatic individual
as a "savior" - such as Hitler or Jim Jones. I think Jesus
is saying, "I am your Savior. Don't look to anyone else to
save you from your difficulties and confusion. I am the only way,
the only truth and the only light. No matter how attractive and
persuasive this or that person may be, he does not have the answers
you need." This applies even to charismatic religious leaders.
We need to be careful not to idolize them, or to put our faith in
them rather than in the God of the Bible.
c. "See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things
must happen" (v. 6).
Don't be surprised, or alarmed, or thrown off course by wars, racial
conflicts, famines, earthquakes and the like. Jesus has told us
ahead of time to expect them They do not represent chaos or lack
of control on God's part. God is in charge and things are happening
as he has said they will. It's OK.
d. "All these are the beginning of birth pains"
A woman can endure birth pains because she knows they have a purpose.
Something wonderful is coming out of them. When it seems that everything
is falling apart, believe that good is coming out of it. Pearl Harbor
seemed like a disaster, but I believe it birthed something in our
nation that contributed in a major way to the ultimate defeat of
the axis of evil consisting of Germany, Italy and Japan. The terrorist
attack on this nation on September 11, 2001 seemed a disaster, but
I believe something is being birthed in our nation as a result that
will cause major changes for the good. God is able to bring good
out of evil. I think we can say, to those who cause events like
these, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good"
(Genesis 50:20 ).
e. "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted"
Christians were persecuted in the days of Peter and Paul. Christians
are persecuted today in many parts of the world. We, in the Western
world, cannot assume that we are immune. Jesus tells us that we
can expect persecution for his sake. "Blessed are those who
are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven" (Matthew 5:10). "If they persecuted me, they
will persecute you also" (John 15:20). And he showed us the
key to dealing with persecution. In explaining the parable of the
sower he spoke of the one "who hears the word and at once receives
it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time.
When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly
falls away" (Matthew 13:20-21). We cannot handle persecution
unless our faith is deeply rooted.
f. "Many will turn away from the faith" (v. 10).
When "bad" things occur, or when God fails to answer
our prayers in the way that we had expected and hoped he would,
some become disillusioned, and even angry at God, and turn away
from God. Jesus tells us to expect this, but also not to be among
those who turn away. The key is that our faith must be deeply rooted
g. "He who stands firm to the end will be saved"
The Greek verb, hupomeno, means, literally, to stay under. It is
often translated, "persevere". Its basic sense is to persist,
to persevere, to hang in there. It can have also the sense of enduring
Scripture speaks often of the importance of standing firm. Peter
says that the devil, like a roaring lion, seeks whom he may devour,
and tells us to "Resist him, standing firm in the faith"
(1 Peter 5:9). Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God "so
that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then..."
(Ephesians 6:13). In each of the letters to the churches in Revelation
chapters 2 and 3 there is a wonderful promise to "him who overcomes."
A great Scriptural example of standing firm is given by Paul.
"We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down,
but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8). I believe God is increasingly
calling on us to say, "Whatever the circumstances, however
difficult and discouraging things may appear, we believe in a God
who is greater than the circumstances and we will stand firm."
I believe that the key to being able to deal with the difficult
and uncertain times we are in is to know what we believe and to
resolve that, no matter what may happen, we will stand firm in the
faith. In order to develop the ability to do this when major challenges
arise, we need to practice standing firm on lesser issues that arise
from day to day. The confidence that comes from having won a lot
of minor victories will help us to be able to win the big victories
when the occasion arises.
B. Focus on God, Not the Circumstances
In this materialistic society our tendency is always to focus
on the changing circumstances around us. Scripture tells us not
to do this. It tells us to fix our eyes on God who is bigger than
the circumstances, and who does not change.
When we focus on our circumstances we become victims of our circumstances.
Our joy, our peace, become dependent on the changing circumstances
around us. Scripture tells us to "be joyful always" and
"give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16,
18). Paul wrote, "I have learned the secret of being content
in any and every situation" (Philippians 4:12). Paul's contentment,
his state of mind, his peace "which transcends all understanding"
(Philippians 4:7), were not at the mercy of changing circumstances
over which he had little control. They rested on his faith in God,
who is eternal, all-powerful, all-good, faithful and unchanging.
When we focus on God's truth we are no longer at the mercy of
the circumstances around us. I think this is part of what Jesus
meant when he said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really
my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set
you free" (John 8:31-32). Knowing and relying on God's truth
sets us free from the hold of our circumstances..
1. Focus on the Things Which Are Eternal and Unchanging.
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain
of what we do not see... By faith we understand that the universe
was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out
of what is visible" (Hebrews 11:1-2). Our faith, our confidence,
does not depend on what we perceive of the changing circumstances
around us. It rests on God, who is eternal and faithful and does
not change. "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6).
God "does not change" (James 1:17).
For example, all the circumstances were against Abraham and Sarah
having a child in their extreme old age. But God had promised that
they would have a child, and Abraham believed that promise because
"he considered him faithful who had made the promise"
(Hebrews 11:11). "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed"
(Romans 4:16). Based on the circumstances, Abraham could have had
a confident expectation that he could not have a child. But he put
his expectation, not on the circumstances, but on God's promise.
"He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of
God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being
fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised"
(Romans 4:20-21). His hope in God was an anchor to his soul (Hebrews
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal"
(2 Corinthians 4:18). "Set your minds on things above, not
on earthly things " (Colossians 3:2). "Let us run with
perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on
Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set
before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at
the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2). If we
"seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness", other
things will be taken care of (Matthew 6:33).
In the time of Moses, the people of Israel focussed on the circumstances
- the powerful people, fortified cities and giants - and concluded
that they could not take Canaan. The advice of Joshua and Caleb,
who focussed on God's promise that he would give them Canaan, was
ignored (Numbers chapters 13 and 14). The result was that the Israelites
wandered in the desert for forty years, and a whole generation of
Israelites failed to receive the promise of God.
David, who also had to face a giant, had his priorities right.
To the men of Israel, who were looking at the physical circumstances,
Goliath seemed huge and frightening. David looked at God, and saw
that God was much bigger than Goliath. He said to Goliath, "You
come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against
you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel
whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me...
The battle is the Lord's and he will give all of you into our hands"
(1 Samuel 17:45-47).
Many of us have our own Goliaths. We come up against something
that seems too much for us to handle - whether it be personal, city-wide,
national or international. We need to remember, as David did, that
the God who created the universe by his word is bigger than our
problem, and that the battle is the Lord's. If we submit ourselves
to God (James 5:7), if we are "strong in the Lord and in his
mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10), we can prevail no matter how
overwhelming the circumstances may seem. God is bigger than the
circumstances. Paul said, "I can do everything through him
who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13).
Jesus told us to expect problems. "In this world you will
have trouble" But he went on to say, "But take heart!
I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). John has told us that
he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God "overcomes the
world" (1 John 5:5). Paul wrote, "We are more than conquerors
through him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).
2. Believe in the Power of God.
God is all-powerful. He is the Almighty. If he were not, he would
not be God.
"With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
"Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). God "can
do all things" (Job 42:2). Nothing is too hard for the Lord
(Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17, 27).
We need to believe that God "works out everything in conformity
with the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). "The plans
of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through
all generations" (Psalm 33:11). No plan of God will be thwarted
(Job 42:2). God's "purpose will stand"; what he has planned
he will do (Isaiah 46:10-11). God declares, "as I have planned,
so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand" (Isaiah
14:24). God knows the plans he has for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and
he will carry them out. If we keep God as our anchor, and do not
waver, he will bring us into the destiny he has planned for us.
God is our refuge and strength .(Psalm 46:1). David, who had more
than his share of troubles, was firm in his faith in God. After
God had "delivered him from all of his enemies", he wrote,
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God
is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn
of my salvation, my stronghold" (Psalm 18:2; see also Psalms
61:3; 144:1-2). He is "My rock of refuge, a strong fortress
to save me" (Psalm 31:2). "He lifted me out of the slimy
pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my foot on a rock, and gave
me a firm place to stand" (Psalm 40:2). There are many similar
God is in charge of history. He "sits enthroned above the
circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers"
(Isaiah 40:22). "The nations are like a drop in a bucket"
(Isaiah 40:15). He "brings princes to naught and reduces the
rulers of this world to nothing" (Isaiah 40:23). "There
is no authority except that which God has established" (Romans
13:1; see John 19:11).
We see many occasions in Scripture in which God gave his people
victory in spite of what, in the natural, seemed like impossible
odds. Consider the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus chapter 14) ,
the battle of Jericho (Joshua chapter 6), Gideon's army (Judges
chapter 7), the protection of Jerusalem from the Assyrians (Isaiah
chapter 37), and Jehoshaphat's victory over a vastly superior force
(2 Chronicles chapter 20). After the crossing of the Red Sea, Scripture
records that "when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord
displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and
put their trust in him" (Exodus 14:31).
Scripture also records times when God withdrew his protection
from his people (see Joshua chapter 7), and even brought defeat
and seeming destruction to them (see 2 Kings 17:7-20; Jeremiah 30:30-35).
This tells us that, if we are to rely on God's strength in difficult
times, we had better be truly submitted to and serving God. "Submit
yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from
you" (James 4:7). It is only as we submit ourselves to God
that we can exercise his authority over the forces of evil. We have
the "incomparably great power" of God working in us (Ephesians
1:19) because we believe (which implies obedience), and because
we have the Holy Spirit living in us (see Acts 1:8). God gives the
Holy Spirit "to those that obey him" (Acts 5:32). It is
only those who do the will of the Father who can enter the kingdom
of God (Matthew 7:21). See my paper on "The Importance of Obedience".
In the same way, I believe our nation can only survive in these
difficult times if it has the protection and favor of God. If we
forget or ignore God, if we, as a nation, violate his laws, we cannot
expect to keep his protection and favor. In Deuteronomy chapter
28 God spelled out at great length the blessings that would come
to his people Israel if they obeyed him, and the curses that would
come if they disobeyed him. I believe the same principle holds true
today. God has blessed our nation for over two centuries because
we were founded on godly principles, and he has given us remarkable
success economically, militarily and in other ways. When we depart
from those godly principles, we may lose his blessing and protection,
and may find ourselves in very difficult circumstances, with no
one to look to for help beyond the circumstances.
3. Rest Our Faith on Who God Is, and Not on the
In the time of Daniel, three young Israelites were threatened
with being burned alive if they did not bow down to an idol. They
told the pagan king, "The God we serve is able to save us from
it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he
does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your
gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel
3:17-18). Their faith, their commitment to God, did not depend on
what God did. It was based on the unchanging character of the eternal
This is a major point of the book of Job. Satan said to God, in
effect, "Of course Job fears and serves you. Look at all the
blessings you have given him. Take them away and he will curse you."
So God allowed satan to destroy Job's wealth and his family, and
to inflict him with a very painful disease. Job continued to worship
and serve God. He said "shall we accept good from God, and
not trouble?" (Job, chapters 1 and 2).
God does not want "fair weather friends". He wants people
who are committed to serve him and worship him no matter what their
circumstances are, and no matter whether he does or does not seem
to answer their prayers. As we come into difficult and confusing
times we need to ask ourselves, "Do I serve God for who he
is, regardless of the circumstances, or do I serve him only when
things are going well?" In the parable of the sower, Jesus
says of the one whose faith is shallow and has no roots, "When
trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls
away" (Matthew 13:21) Will we fall away when trouble or persecution
comes, or will we by perseverance produce a good crop?
C. Look for God's Purposes in Our Difficulties
I believe that, if we submit ourselves to God and obey him, he
wants to bless us with good things. His plan is to prosper us and
give us hope for a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows our needs (Matthew
6:32) and he "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask
or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us"
(Ephesians 3:20). But he is more interested in developing our character
than he is in improving our material circumstances. His desire is
that we should "all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge
of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure
of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13). He wants us
to be transformed (metamorphosed) into his likeness (Romans 12:2;
2 Corinthians 3:18). He wants us to "put on the new self, created
to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians
4:24; see Colossians 3:10) To achieve this character transformation,
God may allow, or even cause, circumstances which are difficult
God tells us, "Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline"
(Revelation 3:19). "Endure hardship as discipline" (Hebrews
12:7) . "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share
in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace
for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your
feeble arms and weak knees" (Hebrews 12:10-12).
Athletes train by working against resistance. I believe God trains
us in a similar way. If we need to learn how to love, he may place
us among people who are difficult to love. If we need to learn patience,
he may allow situations that try our patience. If we need to strengthen
our faith, he may allow situations that seem impossible, so that
we are forced to depend on our faith in God. And so forth.
Hence we find that Scripture tells us to welcome difficulties
when they come. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever
you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2; see also Romans
5:3). I believe this is an example of the broader principle that
"we know that in all things God works for the good of those
who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"
(Romans 8:28). When "bad" things happen to us, we need
to ask, "How can God be using this for good? What can I learn
from it? How can I grow because this is happening?"
(I want to make one thing clear. Paul did not seek suffering as
something good in itself, as some have done who whip or otherwise
torture themselves. Indeed, when threatened with a flogging, he
avoided it by pleading his Roman citizenship. But when difficulties
and suffering came, Paul saw in them an opportunity for growth.
Jesus prayed that he be spared the agony of the cross. He did not
seek or desire the pain. But when he became convinced that he could
not avoid it, he accepted it. "For the joy set before him [he]
endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Hebrews 12:2).
What are some of the purposes for which God may allow, or cause,
a. To test our faith.
"For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all
kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater
worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may
be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when
Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6-7). James also refers
to "the testing of your faith" (James 1:2).
b. To cause us to rely on God.
Paul writes that in the province of Asia, "We were under great
pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired
even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God
who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
c. To enable God's power to work through us.
"But [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for
my power is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore, I will boast all
the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may
rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For
when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
When we are at the end of our rope, have no more strength, and can
see no human solution to a situation, then God is able to move in
d. To cause us to give God the glory.
Before he gave Gideon the victory over a vastly superior force,
God caused him to send most of his army home, "in order that
Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved
her" (Judges 7:2; see also 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
e. To learn God's ways.
"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn
your decrees" (Psalm 119:71).
f. To build our character.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials
of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops
perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may
be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).
"We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering
produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his
love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us"
(Romans 5:3-5). The discipline of hardship "produces a harvest
of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it"
The word "perseverance" in these passages is hupomene,
which is the same word used in Matthew 24:13 to mean "stand
firm". It is as we deal with difficulties and suffering that
we develop the ability to stand firm to the end. Having to deal
with difficulties and suffering can be seen, then, as a way of training
ourselves to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). Note also that Paul says
that the perseverance that comes from sufferings and difficulties
produces hope. The very things that, to the natural mind, may seem
hopeless, actually lead to hope.
g. To teach us to be content in all circumstances.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances"
(Philippians 4:11). Paul had learned to base his contentment, not
on the changing circumstances, but on his relationship with God,
who does not change. In order that we also may learn to be content
in all circumstances, we may have to experience, as Paul did, some
God does not want us to be "murmurers and complainers"
(Jude 16 KJV; see Numbers 11:1-2, 14:29, 16:41; Deuteronomy 1:27).
He wants us to "do everything without complaining" (Philippians
2:14) and to "give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians
When faced with "bad" circumstances we often ask, "Why
me?" (We seldom ask this when good things come to us!) Or we
say, "It is unfair." But consider this. We did not deserve
our salvation. We are saved by grace, that is, by God's unmerited
favor. "It is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). We did
not deserve or earn the many blessings God has poured out on us.
"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
(Romans 11:35). So if God sometimes allows us to go through difficult
circumstances for our own good, what right have we to complain?
As Job said, "shall we accept good from God and not trouble?"
(Job 2:10). For fuller discussion see my paper on "Pain and
If we can see trials, difficulties and sufferings as things that
God uses for good (if we allow him to), they will be much easier
to accept and live under. When we see that the ultimate outcome
will be good, we can have the courage and determination to stand
firm to the end.
D. Put Our Trust in God
In order to do these things, we must put our trust in God.
"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust
in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7). "Have faith
in the Lord your God and you will be upheld" (2 Chronicles
20:20). (This is God's 20:20 vision for us.) The battle is the Lord's"
(1 Samuel 17:47).
God does not want us to be unaware of the circumstances around
us, but he wants us to remember that he is greater than the circumstances
and that all things are possible for him. He wants us to do everything
that is in our power, and then to stand in God's power and not our
own (Ephesians 6:13).
Will we put our ultimate trust in the daily newspaper or TV news
report? In the words of a political, business, economic, educational,
religious or other leader? In the world's international, political,
economic and other systems? Or will we put our ultimate trust in
the word of God, which is truth (John 17:17) and "stands forever"
(Isaiah 40:8)? See my paper on "the Authority of Scripture".
Will we trust in the Lord, or will we lean on man's fallible understanding
(Proverbs 3:5)? Whose report will we believe?
Our greatest protection from the confusion of this world is the
certainty of God's truth. "You word is a lamp to my feet and
a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). "Though I sit in
darkness, the Lord will be my light" (Micah 7:8).
Paul expresses the issue clearly, "Do not conform any longer
to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing
of your mind" (Romans 12:2). When we put our trust primarily
in the systems, philosophies and spokesmen of this world we are
conforming to the pattern of this world, rather than becoming transformed
into the character and likeness of God.
Paul tells us that Jesus gave us the ministries of apostles, prophets,
evangelists, pastors and teachers "to prepare God's people
for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up,
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the
Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of
the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed
back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind
of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful
scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things
grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the
whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work"
If we are not solidly rooted in Christ, we will be "blown
here and there by every wind of teaching." Jesus warned us
not to be deceived, and not to believe those who claim to be Christ,
and I believe that warning applies also to those who claim to have
answers to today's problems which are not founded on God. If we
are not solidly rooted in God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), we
have no stability and assurance. But if we are built up in our knowledge
of God, and in the unity of his body, then we have something solid
and enduring to hold onto.
1. Know What We Believe
First, we must know what we believe. "Always be prepared
to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15). If we cannot tell someone
else, in simple terms, what we believe and why we believe it, can
we be sure that we really believe it? We need to know that we know
that we know certain basic truths about God and our relationship
to him, so that we can never be shaken from that knowledge. For
this we need to have a solid grounding in the essentials of our
Christian faith. As times grow more difficult, the need for such
a grounding increases.
2. Continue in Our Belief.
Jesus told us to "hold to my teaching" (John 8:31). Paul
wrote the Corinthians, "By this gospel you are saved, if
you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you
have believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:2). He wrote the Colossians,
"once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your
minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you
by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his
sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if
you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from
the hope held out in the gospel (Colossians 1:21-23). To
the Romans he wrote, "Consider, therefore, the kindness and
sternness of God; sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you
provided that you continue in his
kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:22).
To the Galatians he wrote in deep distress that they were "turning
to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all" (Galatians
1:6-7). He feared lest all his efforts on their behalf had been
in vain (Galatians 4:11.) .
"See that what you have heard from the beginning remains
in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father"
(1 John 2:24-26). "See to it, brothers, that none of you has
a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God"
( Hebrews 3:12). "Do not be carried away by all sorts of strange
teachings" (Hebrews 13:9). John warns of deceivers and says
"watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for"
(2 John 8). Jude urges believers to "contend for the faith
that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3). We
need not only to continue in our faith; we need to contend for it,
proclaim it, assert it against opposition, and demonstrate it in
In times that are increasingly difficult, uncertain, confusing
and full of deception, our greatest source of strength is to be
able to hold on to what is true and unchanging. If we find ourselves
floundering in a quicksand, we need to find the solid bedrock of
God. If we are to stand, to persevere and, indeed, to be conquerors,
we need something greater than ourselves to hold on to. That something
is Almighty God. We need, always, to "be strong in the Lord
and in his mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10).
David, who bore a heavy load of difficulties, dangers and discouragement
before he became king, wrote, "My soul finds rest in God alone.
He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will
never be shaken" (Psalm 62:1-2). God, and God alone, is our
rock, our fortress and our salvation. This needs increasingly to
be our position as times grow more difficult.
I believe we will find that our faith is increasingly being tested.
If we are to meet these tests, we need to work now to establish
a faith that is true and unshakeable, and cannot be moved. God has
given us everything we need for such a faith. He "has given
us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge
of him" (2 Peter 1:3). We need to work with it and build a
faith that cannot be shaken so that, no matter what happens, we
will be able to stand firm to the end.
James Morrisson, January 2003.