Friday, October 03, 2003

The Perseverant God
[This is another installment of a column I write for the Community Press newspapers in Cincinnati.]

My family and I recently joined a local gym. Following my workouts each day, it seems that a different body part is sore. The only thing that keeps me going is my goal of being healthier and stronger, taking care of my body as a gift from God.

In the Bible’s New Testament, a man named Paul notes the self-discipline required of athletes and says that as a follower of Jesus Christ, he tries to “run” his life with the same sort of self-control. “I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others [the Good News of an eternally changed life through the crucified and risen Jesus] I myself should not be disqualified,” he says. (First Corinthians 9:27).

Followers of Jesus disqualify themselves from life with God when they tune God out, self-indulgently living only for themselves, refusing to turn back to God for forgiveness and the power to live the high-quality lives God wants to give all people.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” the Bible says. (Romans 8:1) Forgiveness and everlasting life are God’s gifts to all who follow Jesus. But in a world full of little gods vying for our time and our allegiance, it’s easy to wander away from Christ (James 5:19-20). Like athletes who remember their real goal in life, Jesus-followers need perseverant self-control: doing things that help them in their goal of living with God, avoiding things that distract them from that goal.

In commending perseverance to us, God doesn’t ask us to do anything that He isn’t willing to do Himself. In fact, “perseverant” is one of many words that aptly describes God.

God never gives up on us! And God displays incredible discipline, focus, and supreme self-control in pursuing His mission of living forever with the children He’s made in His own image. The whole Bible is the story of how God has focused His attention and energy on winning us back so that we can live with Him forever.

Most incredibly, God became a human being in the Person of Jesus just so He could take our rightful death sentence for sin. Although on the night before His execution on a cross Jesus understandably wished that there could be some other way of accomplishing this mission, He persevered. He went to the cross. As a result, the Bible says, Jesus has “the Name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

When I think of God’s perseverant love for a sinner like me, I’m overwhelmed. I know that whether by thought, word, action, or all three, I have violated every one of God’s commandments. I am a sinner. But God has never given up on me or on you!

The perseverant God we know through Jesus Christ wants a relationship with you. If you’ve never done so before, you can talk to God right now and tell God, “Lord, I want to turn away from sin and everlasting separation from You and receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and God. Because of what Jesus has done for me on the cross, I ask Your forgiveness and I ask You to give me a new life. I also ask You to live inside of me so that I have the power to persevere in following You my whole life and into eternity.” Then to help you persevere in following Jesus–even after you sin–find a church home where you can serve God and others and where you can be encouraged to keep following the God Who loves you completely.

[Mark Daniels is pastor of Friendship Church, 1300 White Oak Road in Pierce Township.]

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