Author’s note: This article, written some years earlier, perhaps more than when written, puts focus on the times God’s Word speaks to in regard to being faithful to completing the mission and the assignments the Lord has placed us here to accomplish.
Vince Lombardi, the famous Green Bay Packer coach of the 1960s, known for his draconian training regimen in preparing his players, said: “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” He put his observation to practical use against his opponents by making sure it was the opponents, not his team members, who were fatigued by game’s end. Each Packer player was totally spent at the end of each practice session; the coach and the players left all they had on the field of preparation.
When strength was returned and fully pumped up on game day, there was more than enough to overpower those not as intensively conditioned. The result was a championship team that continues to be memorialized in sports lore all these years later. There was no team that could match Lombardi’s Packers when the fatigue set in during the later stages of the games they played during the height of their power. There were teams that could match their natural athletic abilities, but none could match their endurance.
The game was won by the intensive time of preparation as much as it was won on the actual field of play.
The use of the above sports analogy is not far-fetched. Paul, the great champion for taking the gospel of Christ forth, used just such an analogy to describe his life, death, and glorious future in God’s kingdom:
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Paul, it is obvious by studying his writings, was a sports fan. He used things like running a race, beating the air, finishing the course, and other terms that give us insight to the fact that he at least took interest in the society of his day. That society was one filled with sports activities and would have been a natural area of subject matter for the great teacher to interject as he presented the gospel and matters of Bible doctrine.
The games of the day included Olympic-type events. The races, in particular, turned on the cheers of fans of the day. Crowns of laurels (formed from leaves) were placed upon the victors’ heads by the judges.
Paul made the linkage of the races of his time to the bema (judgment seat of Christ), at which children of God will receive crowns of victory based upon how they ran the race in Christ’s cause during their lifetimes. The very nature of such a race indicates the necessity of enduring–of persevering—through the long, sometimes uphill miles of living a life of righteousness.
Most often, Paul used such analogy to indicate, as in the verses above, the fact that the Christian should be willing to endure. In many places, he taught how to build endurance. That preparation most often was wrapped around prayer, Scripture study, and practical action–witnessing and teaching truth to others.
God’s Word telling us to endure is one topical area of Bible prophecy that has caused anxiety-ridden questions among some. It seems to those who question that the command to endure, according to the language used, is a requirement in order to assure that salvation is achieved. One must “endure unto the end” to be saved–to win in the game of life, thus to secure one’s place in heaven for eternity.
Endurance is one of the things God requires of His children. As a matter of fact, He demands it. But what does the term “endurance” used in the scriptures, causing anxieties among some believers, mean exactly?
A close examination of the key verses involved is necessary to understand the term “endurance” in God’s prophetic lexicon. One such reference is found in the Apostle Paul’s foretelling about departure from Bible doctrine in the end of the Church Age:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Timothy 4:3–5).
Paul was prophesying a time—indeed, I am convinced we are in that time—when many within the very heart of the Christian church will move away from preaching and teaching that man is lost and needs the Savior, who is Jesus Christ, alone (John 14:6). This failure to endure the sound doctrine taught by Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles would, Paul indicated, be a fatigue that would make cowards of many, causing them and those they teach to turn to lies.
We see today this very thing. The gospel that man is lost in sin, thus, must turn to the shed blood of Jesus Christ for remission of that deadly sin, has been changed to give the feel-good message that God is love and would never condemn those He knows to be less than perfect. The fable makers teach and preach the do-good message that we must go along with the world of philanthropists who preach a social gospel to feed, clothe, and, in general, show the have-nots that humanism is their savior.
Much of the Church today thus has failed to “endure until the end.”
Jesus pronounced, in strong language, the role “endurance” will play in the days leading up to His second advent:
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:11-13).
Jesus even asks in one instance whether He will find any faith on earth when He returns. And this is where the anxiety comes in for some. Is Jesus saying that those who do not hold to absolute Bible truth until the very end won’t be “saved”? Must we—and those of the Tribulation era—never slip up and sin, thus departing from truth, or else suffer the eternal damnation of hellfire?
The answer is found within the character of the One who issued the solemn statement. Jesus, who said, “It is finished” when He completed the redemption plan of God on the cross at Calvary, also said:
“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
Saints “endure” through Christ. We haven’t the ability to resist this fallen world apart from the strength found only in our Savior. The supernatural endurance required to “endure unto the end” is not in us but in Jesus, who paid the full price for our eternal souls:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
When we are “in” Christ, we will “endure” because Christ “endures.” He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
Now, this does not excuse the Christian from remaining faithful to God. In that sense, “endurance” is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to the very end—of our lives, or until the Rapture of Christ’s body, the Church. We are to strengthen ourselves for spiritual battle in order to not become fatigued through prayer, Bible study, and exercising our witness before our fellow man. We put on the whole armor of God as we are directed to do in Ephesians, chapter 6.
God equips us. He doesn’t demand such a hard thing without providing the ability—even the absolute guarantee—of that sort of “endurance” that takes His child “unto the end.”
Those who fail to exercise their witness, in whatever way God directs, become flabby, ineffective ambassadors in Christ’s royal service. There is always a heavy price to pay for such sloth. Not loss of salvation for those who are truly in Christ’s grip, but a loss of position within the kingdom of God.
Those who fail to endure in the center of God’s will suffer loss of rewards when kneeling before their Savior at the judgment seat of Christ.
That is one primary reason we at Rapture Ready and this blog exhort Christians to join in our efforts in these closing days of the Age of Grace—the Church Age. There are many, many opportunities to labor, to “endure,” during these trying times that are presented by the dynamic Rapture Ready website and this blog’s efforts to reach the lost world for Christ.
Many are writing articles, many are writing encouraging emails, and some are giving in other ways to God’s work on raptureready.com.
One area we very much need help in is finances. Donations have dwindled, yet the ministry-associated needs of Christ in these closing days of the age have never been more pronounced. Enduring to the end also means supporting Christ-centered ministries with our financial offerings. If hundreds of millions can be contributed to the prosperity ministries who teach that false message of giving to get, why do not those who hold to Bible truth not support faithful ministries with greatly abundant offerings?
Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).