The adult Sunday school class at Grace is winding up a study based on J.I. Packer's book "Rediscovering Holiness." I don't think I can recommend this book highly enough to my fellow Christians. Yesterday, we worked through the first half of the last chapter, which deals with endurance. The entire book is excellent, but this last chapter is my favorite yet.
After stressing the truth that Christian endurance is lived out by fixing our eyes on Jesus, Packer writes, "The most vital truth for the life of holy endurance is not, however, that Jesus is our standard, momentous as that truth is. The most vital truth is, rather, that Jesus is our sustainer, our source of strength to action, our sovereign grace giver (see Hebrews 2:18, 4:16), "the author and perfecter of our faith" (v. 2)."
Packer continues a bit later, "It is precisely the glorified Lord Jesus, who by His Word and Spirit brought our faith into being and keeps it in being...who now helps us to stand steady as we gaze on Him and cling to Him by means of our focused, intentional, heartfelt prayer. It is often said that 'Help!' is the best prayer anyone ever makes. When directed to the Lord Jesus, it is certainly the most effective."
Pain in this life is a certainty. We are assured in Scripture that we will encounter various trials, sometimes very difficult trials that threaten to overwhelm us and crush our faith, and Scripture does not lie. Our suffering is useful for our growth in holiness - sometimes exposing sin and leading us to repentance, sometimes causing us to lean harder on Christ, sometimes "building muscle" for a future battle or gifting us with the ability to encourage our brothers and sisters in their struggles. Oddly, through our struggles, we discover new encouragement: We are amazed to find God's Spirit doing in us what we could never do ourselves. We discover new strength and deeper faith. We yearn more fervently for Christ and for Glory.
And when we wipe out in this great race of faith and find ourselves face down, bruised and sore, it is then that we feel most powerfully the tender ministrations of our Redeemer. He cleans our wounds, applies His healing balm, binds us up, and lifts us back into the race. Like Paul, we discover anew that at our point of greatest weakness, God's grace and strength are put on glorious display...and we are amazed. Packer writes, "He (God) reveals the glorious riches of His resources in Christ by keeping us going, so that overwhelming pressures do not overwhelm us, even when they look like doing so....one way God glorifies Himself in His saints is by keeping them going when anyone else would have had to stop."
I think sometimes we under-rate the significance of this work of God, His simply sustaining us, His working to keep us "keeping on." We think the victorious Christian life must be something like sunshine and daisies (an idea totally contrary to Scripture), when actually it looks more like this - It is the broken-hearted mother who prays again today, for the millionth time and against all visible reason for hope, for her rebellious and wayward son. It is the lonely wife who again today prays that God will empower her to love and be faithful to her emotionally distant husband. It is the college student sitting through another lecture that denies God, who confesses in his heart and conversation again today that God is sovereign over all His creation. It is the terminally ill patient who prays again today, "Lord, help me to live the days left to me to Your glory, and then help me to die well."
Jesus is my sustainer. I will finish this race - will stand one day in Glory, holy and righteous, rejoicing in the presence of God. I will. And if today I find that I lack the endurance to press on, I have this great confidence - Jesus is not lacking in endurance. He has an abundance of strength and encouragement, enough to pour over even me, and He will sustain me.
1 month ago