About a year and a half ago, my mom moved in with my wife and me into our new home. The house doesn’t have much of a yard and most of it is rocky. But this didn’t stop my mom from planting a peas tree. Although I told her I doubt it would grow, she continued to water it every day. To my surprise, the tree started to grow. It even got so big that she had to use a rope to keep it from leaning into the pathway. Then one day, with great excitement, she showed me a pot of peas the grew from her tree.
That experience with my mom reminded me of how most of us give up too early when we start something. Jumping from project to project, we find ourselves continually starting over, never reaping the fruits from anything. This is perfectly illustrated in a picture that has been floating around the internet. In it, two men are mining for treasure, but one of them gives up just before reaching it.
It’s a challenge to keep going, especially when we don’t feel like we’re making any progress. But every goal worthwhile requires persistence to achieve it. This couldn’t be more true with our relationship with God. The true reward for being a believer comes after death. This can make it all the more difficult to persist. In this article, I want to share 3 points that will help you endure to the end.
Know What To Expect
Knowing what to expect is the first point that will help you to endure to the end. When my wife and I were going through marriage counseling, one of the topics I clearly remember was expectations. The counselor told us that it’s important to make our expectations clear as having the wrong expectations will lead to issues. Ever since, despite emotions, we try our best to make our expectations known to one another and we recognize it as one of the keys to a successful marriage.
Similarly, knowing what to expect when starting a business also helps you to endure through the process. While implementing my first business idea, the first set of rejection made me question the idea I had and led me to give up. It was not until I started listening to a podcast called How I Built This, that my view of rejection changed. The podcast featured founders of popular companies that shared their stories. In those stories, what became clear to me was the amount of rejection they all faced in the early stages of starting their business. This made me realize that I should expect rejection as it was a normal part of the process and it helped me persist in later projects.
Knowing What To Expect In Our Walk With God
Knowing what to expect in our relationship with God is an important part of enduring to the end of our lives remaining faithful to him. Jesus makes clear the things we should expect so that we be encouraged when we go through them.
It’s A Trade
One of the things he makes clear is that by having a relationship with him we must make a trade. We have to give up something. He says:
“…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)
In our relationship with Christ, we may want the best of both worlds. The security of salvation and the pleasures of this world. But as Jesus indicates, it doesn’t work that way. Knowing this in advance helps us to see this trade as a normal part of having a relationship with him. Not only do we give up something, but we also gain something better. Just like anything worthwhile.
Another example of what we should expect in our walk with God is that it doesn’t exempt us from life’s challenges. Sometimes believers incorrectly think that by becoming a Christian, life will be easier. This is not reality and Jesus makes it clear. He says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 (NIV)
Not only does Jesus makes it clear that we’ll have trouble in this world, but he also says why he is letting us know. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace…” Jesus understood that having the wrong expectations could derail our relationship with him and so he makes sure that we are aware. This leads us to the next point. With expectations clear, it’s important to be prepared.
The second point that will help you endure to the end is being prepared. Les Brown said, “It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” I agree with him and I’m sure you would too. Using this format, I want to say that it’s better to be prepared for a hard time and not have one, than to have a hard time and not be prepared. Being prepared however is not always as simple as it sounds. Somethings you know when you’re prepared, but other things you only know you were prepared in the end.
For example, if you were preparing for a paid dinner, it would be easy to work out the amount of food and seating based on the number of tickets sold. In the same way, if you were a runner training to beat a world record, the clock times during practice runs will determine if you’re ready or not. On the other hand, if it were a 100m race, you wouldn’t know for sure if you were prepared to win the race. Other athletes just like you would simply train to run to the best of their ability. This brings me to the main point of this section.
Be As Prepared As You Can
To endure in our walk with God, we should be as prepared as we can in order to face difficulties. To be as prepared as you can means developing as much faith as you can. I remember a dream I had of being left behind and going through the tribulation period. I was being chased by what I believe may have been officers of the one-world government. As I ran, I was getting tired and so when I woke up it led me to think that I needed to start working out in case I ever had to run for my life. Later I recognized that maybe it wasn’t physical stamina I needed to develop, but spiritual stamina. That is, to make my faith strong enough to sustain me during hard times. Jesus also said to expect this type of situation. He said:
“For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.”Matthew 24:24-25 (NIV)
During the end times, things will take place that will challenge our beliefs. It is important to develop our faith in order to be prepared and endure through them. Let me expand on developing faith.
Developing Faith Is An Ongoing Thing
Developing faith is an ongoing thing. Paul said that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV). So in order to develop as much faith as possible in order to be prepared as possible, we must continue to fill our hearts with God’s word.
It’s like when I developed a great interest in the book of proverbs. As you may know, it speaks a lot about avoiding the adulterous woman. While the adulterous woman might be figurative, one day I went to the grocery store to buy some lettuce among other things. While on the line, a lady in front of me made note of my items and came on to me asking if I was a healthy eater. Instantly I responded, “I’m married!”. Now that may seem presumptions of me, but she replied: “so what, I’m dating”. This proved that my response was appropriate.
This is how much the word of God should be in our hearts. When situations arise, the first thing that should come to our minds is what God’s Word says concerning it. This is why Psalms 119:11 (NIV) says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
To endure to the end, we have to be prepared. The way we prepare in our relationship with God is by developing faith. This faith comes through reading God’s Word. Because we don’t know how much faith we’ll need during hard times, it’s important to develop as much faith as you can to be as prepared as you can.
Stay On Target
The last point on how to endure to the end is to stay on target. This point is a little different from the others in that you can actually get to the end and only then realize it’s the wrong end. Early in Darren Hardy’s book The Compound Effect, he talks about how if a plane leaving from Los Angeles heading to New York City was off by 1 degree, after traveling the necessary miles to arrive in New York City, it would be 150 miles off, in Delaware or Albany, New York. What’s the point? We can start off right, but being off slightly takes us in the wrong direction ultimately causing us to end up in the wrong place.
It’s like some politicians who may initially believe in changing things for the better, but somehow down the line, their ways get corrupt. Or like in marriage, where the things that the couple did early on that kept the relationship strong, slowly changed to the point where they find themselves contemplating divorce. This moving off course ever so slightly is called drifting, unlike a drastic, conscious shift in direction, we usually don’t notice it which makes it much more dangerous.
Be Careful Of Drifting In Your Relationship With God
In our walk with God, we can easily drift if we’re not focused. Paul warns about this when he said: “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1 NIV). Usually, when we start out in our relationship with God, we are passionate and consistent in praying, reading our bibles, and attending church. But in time, we may find ourselves neglecting some of these activities little by little. Assuming these small, 1 degree neglects won’t have an impact, over time it takes us completely off course. This is probably why Jesus said:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”Matthew 7:22-23 (NIV)
This group of people that Jesus rejects on judgment day thought they were fine. But obviously they weren’t. They most likely started out good, but somewhere down the line, they started to drift causing them to arrive at the wrong end. So what’s the solution to drift?
Examine Yourself To Stay On Target
The solution to avoiding drift is continually examining yourself. It’s like driving a car on a straight road. Although you set the steering wheel and the car is going straight ahead, it will start to drift to the side. Just like we have to make continuous steering adjustments as we drive on a straight road, we have to make continuous adjustments in our relationship with God. This ensures we arrive at the right end. Look at what Paul states in 2 Corinthians 13:5:
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
We have to test ourselves often to ensure we are still on track. As a believer, simple test questions you can ask yourself to assess your relationship with God are:
- Am I still showing love to others as I should? (John 13:34-35)
- Is there anyone I haven’t forgiven? (Matthew 6:15)
- Am I giving as much as I could? (Luke 6:38)
- Am I praying consistently? (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Your answers to these test questions will help you determine if you need to make any course corrections. Just like driving, as you recognize you are moving away from the things you should be doing, bring yourself back on track.
There’s A Prize Waiting
As I conclude, remember that there is a reason for enduring to the end. All of this work is not for nothing. The Bible says:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
We don’t get rewarded if we give up, but only when we endure to the end. Know what to expect, be as prepared as you can, and stay on track. There’s a prize waiting.