A pressure cooker, a vice grip and a firm handshake walk into a bar. That would be the set up for a joke as most people would automatically recognize, the punch line? The bar tender says, "You look tense". Not too funny, we concede, however this 'joke' could also be a reflection of what some of us (as well as the world around us) have been living daily over the past few months. The point being that stress and anxiety are REAL. The unknowns of life (we've been told) are scary and worrisome. As a people group we have been shoved (collectively) into a type of unknown environment with less answers than there are questions. We've been doing good though, haven't we? We've done our best to stay focused on what God says in His word and not pay too close attention to what is being dictated to us everywhere else.
So, what now?
Now, we need to stay the course. We need to keep focus, keep trusting God, keep choosing TRUTH over lies and keep encouraging all around us to do the same. See, now is the time to dig deeper.
Matthew 24:13 (NASB)
"But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved."
This is it. This is the time when this verse applies perfectly. Saved from what? As we can all read, this chapter in Matthew is speaking about the signs of the end coming close. We've referred to this chapter many times and we do so again and again and again, because we need to see the things that are so easy to miss. See, all through this chapter the subject matter is heavy. It covers false prophets and people who pull other people away from the TRUTH, it covers those who want us dead and out of the picture and lawlessness that will ramp up; THEN it talks about the PERILOUS TIMES! And stuck right in the middle of all the madness is this simple little caveat available to all of us in verse 13 (above). But what does it TRULY mean to endure to the end?
We all spend more time 'in between' than anywhere else. In our last blog we call it the LULLS and for those of us who thought that talking about the 'down time' was uncomfortable; this blog is going to provoke us to find the nearest excuse to stop reading. We get it, LULLS (or our down time) are sacred. Having a binge once in a while makes us feel empowered and free to make our own decisions. Eating junk food (while we're at it) gives us a comfort that we just aren't getting anywhere else. Life can be tough from that perspective. So it's completely understandable that the thought of needing to dig deeper into the things of God especially during those 'holy' moments of bliss, seems a bit fanatical (to put it nicely). After all, enduring (to remain, to last) is very different to pressing (to move in a direction, to act with steady force).
Philippians 3:14 (NASB)
"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
So which one is it? Are we meant to endure or press? What if it were TRUE that these two work synergistically together?
It all boils down to GRACE. This is the purpose of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. As a result of which we are able to no longer strive, strain and work our way into the Kingdom of our Father; we are already there. This same grace gives us the ability to press AND to endure equally with the same amount of effort. Grace makes it easy for us to do both, but the secret ingredient to this is found as Romans 5:2 reveals to us, FAITH. Tapping into our God given grace isn't as hard as it seems, just as it is with our salvation; we've already got it, and by FAITH we act accordingly.
The only way we cannot access grace, is to act as though we don't have it.
Through FAITH, our God given GRACE enables us to both press on toward the goal AND endure to the end like a ballerina moves about on her stage flowing from one end to the other so beautifully and effortlessly, performing division one elite athleticism that would shame Michael Jordan (in his prime and of course before his new documentary). THIS is the GRACE level that we have. Our time spent meditating on the TRUTH (the word of God), communing with our Father and resisting the CONSTANT distractions, attacks, maneuvers and misguidings of the enemy; these are actions that perfect and strengthen our GRACE by FAITH muscles.
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
"But he 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."
See, the analogy of the ballerina (being an elite athlete) isn't just clever and entertaining. Ballet, specifically, combines the art of muscle control, movement, stillness and flexibility. These are the things (coincidentally) that we need to perfect and strengthen our Faith/Grace muscles as well. Muscle control to endure to the end; movement as we press onward; stillness of our faith; and the flexibility to stretch outside of what is comfortable.
Right now, God is summoning us to step across a threshold that defines us as true followers of Jesus or as followers of a restrained Christian culture. Another way to look at it would be the difference between an African Lion with all of his wild instincts in tact roaming the great plains verses an African Lion in a beautiful habitat created and confined by the zoo keepers. The church of Acts (the original church) was WILD. The church that Jesus is coming back for must be even WILDER. As much as this may seem like a contradiction in terms, the need to start living as a WILD follower of Jesus (during these wild times) actually begins with standing still, standing our ground and maintaining a resolve that is not swayed by what happens from this point forward. This is how we both endure and press on, and to do this we must understand the GRACE that we HAVE in order TO do this.
The biggest potential to cut us short of living in the full blown GRACE that God has given us, would be our lack of knowledge of this GRACE. When we truly begin to implement Proverbs 3:4 and we actually trust in the Lord with ALL of our heart (translating to all of our lives), then we will truly and completely LEAN NOT upon our own understanding. Listen, we HAVE the faith and the grace to endure in a forward moving unstoppable force unto the full measure of Jesus, reimagined for the age we are already in. We are here in this unusual time and we ARE unusual people. We have been equipped with all that we need to remain steadfast, ready to help, living to love and confident in our position within God's kingdom in heaven as well as here on earth.