As we wrestle with this topic of endurance and faithfulness, I think it is important to point out one thing. Everything we do can either draw us closer to or push us further away from God. The authors of scripture often noted this in how we form our character as humans. People develop righteousness when they turn towards God and allow God to renew them. Unrighteousness develops when people stubbornly refuse to take the steps towards God’s kingdom.
Jesus noted this in the church of Philadelphia with how they had endured many tribulations and kept the faith. All those years that Philadelphia continued to persist and focus on God’s love produced an admirable faith–so commendable that Jesus did not scold them as a church like he did other churches in Revelation!
Think about that for a moment. Everything we do either brings us closer to God, or it pushes us further away. In many ways, our faith journey is a lot like taking steps. We don’t suddenly arrive at the final destination–whether that be heaven or a life that looks like Jesus. We don’t get there overnight. It takes time to develop a Christlike spirit. It takes time to have Godly character and attitude. It can even take a lifetime to practice being a disciple of Jesus over and over again, day in and day out.
In my interviews to become a Methodist pastor, I once heard a story from one of my mentors. (If you’ve ever been around the United Methodist Church for a long time, perhaps this Wesleyan theme of perfection might sound familiar.)
John Wesley, the great evangelist and founder of our denomination, had a question he would ask people as he preached the gospel hundreds of years ago. He would ask them: “Are you going on to perfection?” The correct and hopeful answer is obviously, “Yes, I am moving towards the direction of perfection.”
Well, a young pastor many years ago was going through the pastor ordination process and he was asked this very question by the board of ministry: Are you going on to perfection?
This young man thought about it for a moment and I can only guess what was going on in his mind based off of his answer. He probably thought to himself, Going on to perfection? Well, nobody is perfect, so why on earth would I say yes? I know I’ll just sin and sin again each and every day! So he boldly told the committee with a smirk, “No, I’m not going to move on towards perfection.”
An older pastor in attendance with many years of wisdom asked in response, “Then where are you moving towards? Imperfection? Hell? Satan?”
The point is that we are called to move on toward perfection. We are called to continually strive towards it. Even if we fail, we must always trust in and follow Jesus. Only he can change us from the inside out to make us perfected in God’s divine love.
How are you taking steps towards God? How do you struggle with temptation to go the other way? We all take various steps in life, and if we are not careful, we might find ourselves journeying in the opposite direction of God’s kingdom.
Never forget that every action you take in life either brings you closer to or farther away from Jesus.