This morning, we come together to give honor and glory and praise to Jesus, the author, pioneer, and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). We join together because we know that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). We know that He alone possesses all that we need for in Him alone is the fullness of our salvation and the purpose for our lives. In Him alone, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Jesus is not only the way, He is a way-maker! Where there is no other way, Jesus is able to make a way. When the Israelites were caught between the Red Sea and all the chariots of Egypt, He parted the sea and went with them on dry ground all night long, lighting the way He had made for the Israelites and darkening it for the Egyptians (Exodus 14).
Again when the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan River and enter into their promised land, He dammed up the river so that the entire nation passed through it on dry ground even though the river was in its flood stage (Joshua 3). Elijah and Elisha also walked through the Jordan River on dry ground after they struck it’s waters with the same cloak (2 Kings 2).
In the fiery furnace, it was none other than Jesus who protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego so that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them (Daniel 3).
While travelling throughout the parched Desert of Sin where there was not water to drink, Jesus brought water from a rock, enough for all of the people and livestock to drink (Exodus 17, 1 Corinthians 10).
Over and over again, Jesus made a way where there was no other way. He was a refuge, strength, and provider for His people and He still is today. No matter what difficulties we face, we never face them alone if we put our faith and trust in Jesus. He is right there with us and for us making a way where there is no other way.
Though God is always faithful to make a way for us, to walk it is a choice He leaves in our hands. Jesus said:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
To follow that narrow road to life, the way that Jesus truly is and has made for us, requires something on our part that we would prefer not to think about. This requirement is perseverance. To persevere is to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement.
To follow the narrow path and to enter through the narrow gate into God’s Kingdom is not a path for the faint of heart. It is one that requires courage and boldness. It is one that requires discipline and commitment. It is one that we must be willing to travel even if those who begin on it with us choose to part ways with us as we continue to travel Heaven-bound. Though it is at times difficult, we never walk it alone. It is also the path that leads to the greatest of rewards in life! It is through perseverance alone which we receive the richest of rewards!
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Now I don’t know about you all, but there are days when I wish that God lead me like Israel with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. You know, just a little one that I can see so that I know when to rest, when to get up, where to go, who to talk to, etc. God, instead, placed His own Holy Spirit within us to guide and direct us and thought that it was a far better way.
The Holy Spirit is able to give us the strength, words, and encouragement that a little pillar never could. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to persevere on the race marked out for us through all of the highs and lows of this adventurous path.
When we begin to feel weary or discouraged on this path, Paul reminded us to consider Jesus. After all, He is the pioneer of this path that we are on. He is our forerunner, our pace car, the one who has already been where we are going. He can fully empathize with us. He has lived in the same flesh that we live in. He is aware of our temptations, weaknesses, and even our unwillingness to do God’s will. He dealt with it all, but also overcame it all. Since He has overcome, He is now able to also help us to overcome. He went ahead of us to pioneer a way and to lead us in it.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
How awesome is it to think that God, because He is eternal, can simultaneously be with us and also go before us? Nothing is a surprise to Him, nothing catches Him off-guard, nothing comes our way that He is not prepared for. Therefore, we do not need to be discouraged or be afraid, we simply need to keep moving forward trusting in Him!
Isn’t it interesting that Moses mentioned nothing to Joshua in this exhortation about the past? He simply said that the Lord would be with Him now and go ahead of Him. This reminds me of a few individuals who boldly told Jesus that they would follow Him, but first… When choosing to follow Jesus, there are not such things as “but firsts.” We either begin and persevere on the path toward Him or we don’t. As Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is not try.”
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Of course, we all know what happens when you begin to plow and then look back, right? You end up off course! Over and over again, the Israelites would stir up the anger of the Lord by doing exactly this.
God saw ahead of them a promised land flowing with milk and honey that they were heading toward. They saw only the desert that they were in and the pleasures they left behind in Egypt. They looked back and would whine and complain and wish that they had never started on this journey with God. God would become enraged because they refused to look ahead in faith toward the bounty He had waiting for them on the other side of the desert.
We must also be cautious not to do the same thing in our lives! We must not look around us at our difficulties, nor behind us to better days. We must keep our eyes fixed Heaven-ward on Jesus alone and on His promises persevering toward a bountiful future. Otherwise, we may be tempted to peek back and have our faith derailed by unbelief.
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.
We must persevere in the ways of the Lord so long as it is called, “Today.” We must hold to our original conviction when we first chose to follow Jesus. Come what may, we choose to follow Jesus. We choose to trust Him and follow His path, whether easy or difficult, whether convenient or sacrificial, whether with friends or alone, we choose Jesus.
Jesus also gave us this parable teaching us to persevere not only in our everyday life, but also in our prayer lives.
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
To persevere is to have faith. To continue to follow Jesus and to trust in His word and promises even in the face of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement is to truly have faith. This is the kind of faith that moves mountains, the kind of faith that makes the demons shutter, the kind of faith that is richly rewarded! James gave us this practical example to teach us how to persevere in our faith:
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
To persevere is to walk not by sight, but by faith. It is to seek after Jesus with full confidence that He is enough. It is to trust that He is good and faithful and that His reward is waiting on the other side of this dry and thirsty season of trial.
1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
This morning, God is encouraging us to seek after Him passionately and with perseverance. He is not calling us to seek after His provision, His healing, His strength, His deliverance, nor any of His wonderful benefits. Yes, these and many more will certainly come, but only after we choose to seek after Him alone.
Yes, our path is difficult. Yes there are thorns, and traps, and discouragements set before us, but there is also great reward and revelation and adventure set along it as well. In the end, there will be rest from all of our troubles and there will be a new order of things. Until then, we persevere on this path set before us. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our pioneer, author, and perfecter of our faith. We do as James wrote:
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.