We received the following question:
I WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR PRAYERS THAT I MIGHT PERSEVERE IN CHRIST. THOUGH I HAVE BEEN READING DEVOTIONALS AND SCRIPTURE. MY QUESTION HAS BEEN HOW DEVOTED IS MY HEART. I BELIVE THAT THE BIGGEST QUESTION I HAVE HAD IN GOING THRU THIS TIME HAS BEEN: WHERE DO I LEAVE OFF AND WHERE DOES GOD PICK UP. WHERE IS MY OWN EFFORT NEEDED AND WHEN DOES HIS SPIRIT OF GRACE MOTIVATE ME TO SERVE HIM. IN ALL THIS I HAVE FELT THAT GOD HAS WANTED ME TO EXAMINE MY HEART.
I am not sure I know exactly what is in your mind when you say "persevere in Christ", but some things come to my mind as I listen to you here. Because we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love (as the songwriter said), we must be ever conscious of the words of our Lord in John 15. He is the vine, we are the branches, we must abide in Him - the vine supplies the very life to the branches. I believe that is not merely speaking of the gifting of eternal life, but rather the perpetual flow that makes the abundant life possible, for He came that we might have life AND have it (life) more abundantly. Paul uses terminology like "growing up into Him". We are only able to persevere as we yield to the One that Jesus sent (the Comforter) to abide with us that His presence would be continually with us, abiding with us, Immanuel (that is, God, with us), providing the enabling power as we yield our wills to His will so that His will might be done here on earth as it is in heaven. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). We need to stick really close! I think also of the admonition to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
From Peter's second letter:
"To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence [effort required?!], add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble [perseverance?!]; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Testing no doubt comes in the thought life - much of the spiritual warfare of life occurs in that arena! That is why (I believe) Paul writes to the Philippians:
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."
We have some responsibility in keeping the flames of love for our Lord burning and not letting them burn out. We have a relationship with the living God. We learn SO much from our relationship with our spouse. Keeping the spark and the joy and the fun of the relationship doesn't occur by taking the other one for granted, but by falling in love all over again, and again, and again. Draw close to me, and I will draw close to you. One of the ways we stay close to God, and the paramount method by which we grow and by which we are instructed and cleansed is the reading and studying of God's Word (e.g. Rom. 10:17 tells us that "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" and 1 Peter 2:2 tells us to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby"). We also grow by putting into practice those things that God has shown us and taught us (e.g. Heb.5:13-14 tells us that "everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil".).
Where do we leave off and God pick up? That might be the wrong question. It's you and God the entire time - not you first and then God picking up after. Jesus said "Apart from Me you can do nothing". "With God all things are possible". He teaches, we learn. He leads, we follow. He prompts, we respond. He guides, we cooperate. He loved, we RESPOND in love. He ACTED, we respond with actions (not efforts to "earn" His favor, but actions that are produced by a response to Him - that's what James really speaks about)
I believe God's grace is always drawing - drawing unbelievers toward Him, drawing believers closer to Him - that we might be the "beloved disciple"s who "leaned on Jesus' bosom, not just following in the crowd from a distance), and even more than that, He gives enabling grace, comforting grace, etc.
As for examination - the Scriptures exhort us - Let a man examine himself! It is ALWAYS a good thing to do! If we only did it once and then never did it again, we would not grow, for we would not see ourselves as we ought - where we have been, where we are, where we are going. We need to constantly evaluate/examine - even though it is difficult, and even though we often do not like what we find! It is one of the ways God uses to conform us to His image. Oh to be like Him!