Understanding that we are saved by God’s grace and that we cannot earn our salvation, that we do not, in fact, deserve salvation, but condemnation instead (Romans 6:23), nevertheless we must acknowledge a responsibility to “press on.” The apostle Paul said: Not that I have already obtained it [resurrection from the dead], or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12).
There are two words of encouragement to which I would draw your attention here. First, how wonderful is the thought of being laid hold of by Christ Jesus! Each of us has sinned, earning death and losing access to the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but that loving hand “laid hold of” those who have been saved. That’s encouraging!!
The second word of encouragement is for those laid hold of by Christ to follow Paul’s example and “press on!” Do not be content in the knowledge that God loves you and offers His salvation. Press on because we have not obtained the goal for which strive; not yet. However, with His help we can because He loves you and so do I.
Almost 40 years ago a line in a movie caught hold and everyone started saying, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry!” Well, if it’s really love, why wouldn’t you? I know, I know, the point being made in the movie is if I love you and you hurt me, I forgive you without your apology. Maybe it would be better to define love from Scripture.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we find a great definition and description of love; the kind of love that will help us endure with patience whatever happens to us in this life. And the first thing on the list is patience. Love is patient (v. 4)! When I struggle with impatience, I’m actually struggling with love!
Looking over the list I see that love also is not provoked (v. 5); does not take into account a wrong suffered (v. 5); and bears all things. These are areas where I struggle. Perhaps I could find excuses or explanations, but it still comes down to a lack of love. Perhaps your love for me means you don’t need an apology, but my love for you requires one.
I’m so glad God loves me. He loves you, too, and so do I.
Paul was in prison! That gives him a leg up on the moral standard when it comes to giving advice on how to endure hardship. Even as a prisoner he could still command that Christians walk (live) in a worthy manner (Ephesians 4:1). Notice the further detail of this command in verse 2: …with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love…
In these days of political correctness you will find a lot of folks who will agree whole-heartedly with this verse. However, what PC means by “humility and gentleness (meekness)” and “showing tolerance for one another” is avoidance of sin. Tolerating one another in love is not acceptance of sin, or Paul would not have commanded that we restore those caught up in it (Galatians 6:1).
We are, however, to be humble, gentle and patient with one another, tolerating one another in love, meaning we are going to have to “put up with” some folks who may have just as hard a time putting up with us. Be patient with those around you. Correct and restore when necessary, but do it lovingly and patiently. Love others, knowing that God loves you and so do I.
You may have heard chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews referred to as the “hall of faith” chapter. It is full of examples of great men and women of faith, many of whom are very recognizable characters from the Old Testament, while many others are not named at all. One of the most poignant statements of the chapter is that these were people of whom the world was not worthy (11:38).
Hebrews 12 begins by calling these folks a great cloud of witness and enjoins us to follow their example and run the race set before us with endurance (12:1). The chief characteristic of our heroes of faith is the endurance they showed because of their faith. Of course, our greatest example of faith is Jesus Himself, Who endured the cross because He considered the price not too high for the joy set before Him (12:2). That joy, of course, was not the cross, but what the cross (and His subsequent resurrection) gained….hope for us!
So, He is our Example of how to endure and not lose heart (12:3). Our word of encouragement today is…don’t lose heart! Hang in there. God loves you and so do I.
We count those blessed who endured… (James 5:11a). James writes these words in an immediate context that begins by commanding patience (James 5:7). It is hard to be patient! That is most likely why it is so often commanded in Scripture. In fact, the rest of the verse in this passage holds up the example of Job and his patient endurance of the trials that befell him.
James seems to be making his point about patience and endurance in the area of our personal relationships. Personal relationships are sometimes difficult, aren’t they? It is easy to see the need for patience and endurance. It is doubtful that any of us will suffer in our personal relationships the way the prophets suffered in speaking in the name of the Lord. Many of them suffered horribly and even died horribly, for their faith. These prophets are those counted blessed who endured (James 5:10).
So, without making light of what you suffer right now, I want to suggest that we all consider those who have suffered far more than we are suffering at the moment…and hang in there. God is full of compassion and merciful, and He loves you. And so do I.
As Christians, finding favor with God would seem to be something worth pursuing. The apostle Peter noted that there was even a way to find favor with God as a slave working for an “unreasonable” master.
We don’t have masters and slaves anymore, although some workplaces may seem like we do. However, the principle here is the same; the right way to respond to those who are in authority over you. Peter says that we are to be submissive to those who are in authority over us (1 Peter 2:18) and not just to those who are “good and gentle,” but to those unreasonable ones, too. And the reason we should do this? For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly (1 Peter 2:19). That’s a pretty good reason, if you ask me.
Endurance is what we need in order to do this (verse 20). We all know that sometimes, living this life is not easy. Our responsibility is not to always look for the easy way out, but to endure. If you want to find favor with God, endure! He loves you, you know, and so do I.
Faith, hope and love are certainly three important gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13). This was not the only time Paul linked them together as part of the Christian life.
Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians had a lot to do with encouragement. In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 he noted their work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ… This congregation possessed all three of these marvelous gifts. When he penned his second epistle to them, just a short time later, he began by noting that both their faith and their love for one another had grown (2 Thessalonians 1:3), but he doesn’t mention hope. Why not?
It becomes very clear when we read just a bit further that the church in Thessalonica was suffering persecution. Discouragement would have been an ever present part of their lives, and hope is often the first casualty in that situation. By the time we reach the end of the second chapter, the apostle offers a prayer to the One Who gives eternal comfort and good hope, that He comfort and strengthen their hearts in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17).
Such is my prayer for you this morning. Stand firm; hold on and remember, God loves you and so do I.