As we reach the end of our series on discipleship we’ve seen that disciples follow Jesus, listen to God’s word, gather together, pray, are filled with the Spirit, pursue holiness, grow, love others, make disciples, work, steward and suffer. And we’re finishing the series with disciples persevere.
Following Jesus isn’t a momentary decision that you can simply sit back and look back fondly on for the rest of your life. It’s not like the ticket stub or programme from a cup final or concert that you pin up somewhere to take you back to the day. Following Jesus is a day by day life long pilgrimage. But sometimes that pilgrimage is hard. It’s hard because we sin, and sometimes we find ourselves thinking would I really keep on sinning like that if I was truly saved? Or maybe something happens and we find ourselves struggling for a long time and we think; as a Christian I shouldn’t feel like this and then ‘Am I really saved?’ Some of us struggle with assurance, we doubt and we question and we’re quick to lose any sense of security.
Others of us struggle with the opposite problem. There’s little progress in our lives. Little growth. But we have false assurance because we keep looking back to that day when.
There’s a danger I’ve been very aware of this week as I prepared this. It’s the danger of unsettling those who struggle with assurance, and confirming the complacent. It’s a bit like the teacher in front of a class of students at this time of year. They’ll encourage the class to work really hard for the last couple of months of term so there’s evidence to be able to award their grades. But even as you do that you know that message is really a kick up the backside of those who complacently coast but that they’re likely to ignore it. Whilst those who are already working hard, in some cases too hard, will take this as a rebuke and work even harder.
So let me ask this question: As you look back on the last year can you see evidence of growth in your love for Jesus and of Jesus character being formed in you? Are you still actively following Jesus, seeking his will, not just drifting along in the slipstream of others who are? Don’t make COVID an excuse. How are you doing spiritually? Where are you headed spiritually? How can you be sure you will finish the race of the disciple and hear God’s welcome and well done?
We need to see that assurance because of what God has done for us and perseverance in discipleship by us aren’t opposed to each other. They’re two side of the same coin. The assurance of God’s work in salvation and his keeping of us leads us to persevere, you can’t have one without the other.