In an age where the cultural norm is to follow your heart and where feelings trump faith, how are Christians supposed to keep believing truth that we are so often tempted to disbelieve? Here are five ways that Christians can keep themselves staying the course on the narrow path which leads to eternal life:
1. Keep with repentance. This was the crux of Jesus’ message; he called all people to repent of their sins and to trust in him for eternal life (Matthew 3:7-12; Mark 1:14-15). If we want to be people who persevere, we must be people who repent of our sins and look to Jesus for grace to change. In continuing to repent of our sin, not only are we being obedient to God’s word, we are also reminded of our weakness and the greatness of Christ our Savior.
2. Cultivate faith. Hebrews 11 says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” and “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6). Faith is a necessary component which we must possess in our lives, yet if it is something that we cannot touch or see, how should we cultivate it?
Believers grow in faith by spending time with the Lord alone in his Word and in prayer, as well as being with brothers and sisters at church. By reading God’s Word, we learn about who God is, we learn about ourselves, and we learn what He has done for us. The message of our sinfulness and Jesus’ complete salvation saturates the entire Bible and is something that we need to hear if we are going to keep with repentance and follow Jesus. Praying to God reminds us of our dependence upon Him and our need to bring our burdens and cares to Jesus who cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Spending time with other saints provides necessary encouragement for our hearts when we feel weary, and it gives us the opportunity to see how the Lord has worked and is working out his salvation in the lives of others as well as in our own. All these things build up our faith.
3. Hold fast to God’s promises. God has perfectly fought for his children in the past and will continue to do the same until we are brought home to heaven. Do you believe this? Remember when God protected the Israelites from the Egyptians by drowning them in the Red Sea? Or when He sustained Noah’s family during the worldwide flood? Furthermore, He has promised to send the Holy Spirit and complete the works which began in us (John 14:16, Philippians 1:6). He has promised to justify, sanctify and glorify those whom he has called (Romans 8). God is faithful and cannot lie; His promises will come to pass.
4. Be known. Being known in a church does not simply mean being recognized by most of the congregation. Being known means that your brothers and sisters in Christ know the deep struggles and sins of your life. Is there a mature man or women (not just a peer) in your church who knows all the dirt about you? By opening yourself up to someone like this in your church, you will be putting sin into the light and not giving it an additional opportunity to fester and grow in the dark corners of your heart (James 5:16). This confession is painful, but it is worth it.
5. Serve and have friends in the church. By serving the church, you will get to know more people and build relationships. You can additionally do this by joining a small group. By making friends and serving the church you will build a community in which it should be challenging to leave. Close brothers and sisters in Christ will be absolutely necessary to your faith and perseverance when you are going through trials; they will act as a safety net for your spiritual life when you are tempted or when you fall into sin. Spiritual guidance from mentors and friends is not just for the spiritually young or weak but also for the mature and wise.
Overall, perseverance is hard work. But there is reward in pursing the Lord and living a grace-empowered life which honors him. God gives grace to his weary saints. Persevere in persevering; what you find at the end will not be disappointing.
Ethan Holsteen is a graduate of the biblical counseling program at Boyce College. He now works as a teacher for adults with Down Syndrome at the Down Syndrome of Louisville.