"for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."
You all know the illustration that comes from the Reformed tradition and kind of explains the outline of the Reformed Faith? It uses the acronym T.U.L.I.P. Quickly, the letters stand for:
Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)
Of all the doctrines mentioned, the one I've always had the most difficult time working with is the last. Maybe I try to carry the idea of perseverance too far. I don't know about you, but I want people to come to Christ and really stick with him for the duration. And yet I look around and I see people who have faith and then wobble a lot. I've seen some people come to Christ and then completely drop the faith for 10 years! How is THAT perseverence?
What James says here makes sense. I can't account for false starts, and I don't have a clue what the parable of the 4 soils is about, but I know this: someone who is a genuine believer will grow when their faith is tested through trial. One of the marks of a shallow or empty faith is that at the first sign of trouble the believer runs the other way.
I want you to know that during times of testing I have yelled at God, told him I was "done" with him, taken baseball bats to trees, escaped into sleep or a good bottle of wine. This is what a trial will do to you. This is human. But I always wake up eventually to the reality of Christ in me and see how he has been at work and is causing me to grow. And so the next time I maybe don't take out the bat. Maybe the next time I don't yell so much. I am, after all, a cracked pot. God is lovingly working on me and one day will perfect me. Perseverance doesn't mean perfection. It merely means I don't give up.
Courage, someone said, does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow".
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.