Endurance, Faith, and Obedience

Revelation 14:12

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.

What does it look like to live as a true believer in a hard world? God’s word calls us to endurance. And God’s word describes us as those who trust Jesus and follow his commands.

Revelation 13 and 14 paint for us a picture of a polarized, divided, embattled world. In chapter 13, the beast is marking out men as his own and persecuting all who refuse to be identified with him. Those who will not bow to his evil worship or take part in his wicked practices will be cut off from polite society. They will be attacked, mocked, ridiculed, ignored, persecuted, robbed, starved, exiled, and killed. Were a Christian to see that chapter alone, it would be powerfully disheartening in many ways.

But then, as the follow-up to the vision of the beast and false prophet, much like we see in other passages, our scene shifts. We see the Savior, standing strong, keeping his own. We see those bearing not the mark of the beast but of the Lamb. We see songs of worship and faithfulness among the people of God.

Then, as a transition, we read the verse that is above. What we see in chapters 13 and 14, I believe, come together, meet, and lead us to this conclusion. The beast is evil. The world will grow hostile toward those who love and follow the Lord. When the evil are in power, they will seek to ostracize those who love the Lord. But, in the midst of this all, Jesus has his own. Jesus keeps his own. Jesus loves his own. And the call for those who know Jesus is to endure. Stand strong. Do not give up. Do not be discouraged. Endure.

The call for endurance, as we see above, has a tie to marks of identity. The call is for saints, those saved by Jesus and set apart for God. All true believers are granted that label by God. All who know Jesus are set apart from the world to the glory of God. And the saints are to endure, not giving in to the temptation to compromise with the world and live like those who belong to the beast.

At this point, depending on the author of the article, a reader might expect one of two things. One might expect a bigtime gospel reminder, a doubling-down on grace and hope. Or, given another author, one might expect a passionate call to obedience to the word and ways of the Lord. In point of fact, God gives us both.

How do the saints endure? Faith and obedience are central. Let’s first talk obedience, as it is the lower-hanging fruit. To love Jesus, to stand strong, to remain faithful in this life in the face of hardship requires obedience to the word of God. What will make a believer stand out in this fallen world, especially in seasons of persecution and hardship, is the believer’s willingness to obey the Lord without compromise. When the world demands that all applaud or even experiment with forms of immorality, the believer refuses. When the world demands that families compromise their schedule to the world’s values, the believer treasures gathered worship. When the world says that worship is forbidden, the believer worships anyway. Believers obey. Understand, Christian, that obedience is part of endurance.

But never should we have a legalistic existence. WE do not earn our spot in heaven by doing what is right. No, true endurance is founded in the gospel. We endure in faith. No matter how much the world wants to make us doubt, we believe. The follower of Christ is first and foremost a believer. We are believers before we are doers. We are believers, resting in the person and the perfectly finished work of Jesus. Our hope is never in ourselves or in our ability to obey. Our hope is in Christ and in Christ alone.

In the first centuries, Christians lived in a hard world. The Roman government, from time to time, would demand compromise. Believers had to rest in their faith and choose to obey God instead of Caesar. This required endurance, bearing up under pressure. In the days of the Reformation, when the church had been so corrupted as to lose its hold on Scripture, when the church had become so tied to political powers that one could not see a line between the word of the king and the word of the Lord, Christians had to endure in faith and in obedience to the recovered Holy Scripture. And today, in a world of cancel culture, sexual perversion, and mocking of morality, we are still to endure. We are to be the saints of God. We are to keep the faith, totally trusting in Jesus alone as our hope. And we are to endure in obedience, loving the Lord who saved us by obeying his holy commands.

Faith Overcomes the World

1 John 5:1-5

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Belief is easy, right? Isn’t this one of the objections that used to be raised against Christianity’s claim of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? But stop and think about what belief entails. Think about what happens in a lost world when one truly believes. I think you will see that belief is not easy. Salvation is free, but it is never cheap.

As John wraps up his epistle, he ties together multiple themes of the letter: faith in Christ, obedience to God’s commands, and love of the church. All through this letter we have seen a call to believe, a call to obey, a call to love. We have seen that the one who believes is saved. We have seen that one who is saved will love the brothers. WE have seen that the one who is saved will obey the commands of God and turn from sin.

In verse 1, John says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.” There is salvation by grace alone through faith alone. The one who is born of God is not defined by having earned that birth. Faith in Christ, faith alone, saves. There is no hint here that anything is added to faith to cause salvation.

Also in verse 1, John tells us, “and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” The saved love. Particularly, the saved love others who are born of God.

In verses 2 and 3, John points out to us that we know that we are born of God and love if we keep God’s commandments. In a beautiful addition, John reminds us, “And his commandments are not burdensome” (v. 3).

Then, in verses 4 and 5, John points out that our overcoming the world is made clear in our faith. Believing in Jesus overcomes the world. Faith, true faith, conquers.

Take away a couple of notes here. First, know that the saved are the ones who have true faith in Jesus. Are you saved? Do you believe? Have you believed in who Jesus claims to be and what Jesus has done? Have you rested the weight of your soul’s eternity on his finished work alone? Have you entrusted your soul to Jesus for salvation?

If you assume yourself to be saved, ask yourself some probing questions in the other two categories. Do you love other Christians? If your life has no connection to the local church and no love for other brothers and sisters in Christ, you should be concerned. Examine yourself in light of God’s commands. Is your life marked by obedience to the word of God? I am not saying that it must be marked by flawless obedience, but it is not hard to measure whether or not the word of God is your standard as opposed to the lusts of the flesh and the ways of the world. And if your life is not marked by love for Christians and obedience to Scripture, you should be concerned that perhaps your faith is not true.

Salvation is a free gift, but never cheap. Faith is simple, but never easy. This is why John can tell us that our faith overcomes the world. The world hates our faith. The world hates the idea that we would trust in Christ alone and allow for no other way for people to determine their own sort of salvation. The world hates that we would think that the body of believers is somehow different than the rest of the globe. The world demands that we applaud their disobedience to the commands of God and even join them in their evil practices. So, no, faith is not easy. But, faith, true faith and faith alone in Christ alone, saves.

Only Believe

Mark 5:35-36 – 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”

How do you respond when faced with the impossible? Jairus, a synagogue ruler, was in an impossible spot in Mark 5. His young daughter was sick. He tried to get Jesus to his home to heal her. But he was too late. While Jesus was on the way, Jairus received word that his daughter had died.

But what the Savior says to the religious leader is fascinating. Jesus commanded, “Do not fear, only believe.” In the face of all opposition, of heartbreaking loss, Jesus tells the man not to be afraid. Only believe.

What happens next? Jesus goes to the house, speaks to the girl, and brings her back from the grave. Jairus had his daughter back, well. The crisis was past.

When we read this, we know that we are reading a glorious story of the supernatural power of Jesus. WE are reading of the loving kindness of the Savior. And we are seeing the fact that Jesus has the power, the God-sized power, to push back the curse of original sin and to defeat death itself.

But we also should see here a call to our own faith. What do you face that you feel is impossible? Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

When we grab hold of that sentence, let us not try to take it and apply it to some sort of name it and claim it charismatic folly. Let us not assume that this applies to us if we fear our football team may not make a comeback when down in the 4th quarter. But let it apply as you think of ultimate and eternal things.

When you look at a broken world, do not fear, believe. When you feel like our government is beyond repair, do not fear, believe. When you think your own life is beyond hope, do not fear, believe. Believe in Jesus. Believe in his power to raise the dead. Believe in his ability to turn back the impact of the fall of mankind. Believe that Jesus rules right now. Believe that Jesus will return and rule forever. Believe that Jesus will never be defeated. Believe that the pains we face in the here-and-now will look tiny in the light of eternity. Yes, believe as well that Jesus can and will provide you with what you need, what he wants for you, every step of the way.

If you know Jesus, do not fear. If you have entrusted your soul to him for salvation, do not fear. If you have yielded yourself to his lordship, believe. Let your trust in the Savior calm your heart. Even in the face of the impossible, do not fear, only believe.

Two Directions in Faith

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

We know that living as a Christian is living by faith. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that we cannot please God without faith. But what is it? Even the definition given at the beginning of the “Hall of Faith” as some call it is something that requires a little thought.

Faith is having a sure trust in something. What makes faith work is not the amount of one’s faith but the object of one’s faith. If I trust in thin ice with all my heart, I still fall through when I step on it. If I am afraid when I step on thick ice, even without faith, I am held because the object is strong.

What I considered when reading this recently, however, which is something I had not thought much about, is the two directions of faith given to us in the definition at the beginning of chapter 1. Faith is about what we hope for. Faith is about what we have not seen. One is the future. One is the past. Both are necessary.

Faith in the past, in things that have happened but which we have not seen, is required for life. In order to have saving faith, you must believe in the person and work of Jesus. You must believe that the Son of God came, lived a perfect life, died to pay for your sins, and rose from the grave. You must believe that Jesus is both willing and able to rescue you from your sins. Without such faith, you have no salvation.

Similarly, those who trust in Jesus have a faith that is future focused. WE believe that Jesus will return. We believe that he will raise us from the dead even if our bodies die in this life. WE believe that he will reign eternally. We believe that all who have trusted in him will live forever, forgiven, and joyful in the presence of God.

Here are two quick quotes from Michael Kruger’s new book on Hebrews that I think help us see what I’m talking about in the two directions of faith:

“Faith is not just a feeling. It is not just saying, “I hope it’s true.” It means being certain about something. Notice the two key words in this first verse: “assurance” and “conviction.” Faith is rock-solid trust that when God makes a promise, it is true and right. It is absolute assurance and confidence that God’s word can be relied upon.”

“Verse 1 highlights the two types of things that we know by faith. “Things hoped for” are things in the future that have not yet happened. “Things not seen” are things in the past—events that we were not there to see. Or, put simply, our faith is in what God has done and in what God will do.”

Michael J. Kruger, Hebrews for You (Charlotte, NC: The Good Book Company, 2021), Chapter 10.

Faith Alone

H – Highlight

Genesis 15:6 – And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

E – Explain

Abram was uncertain as to how God would fulfill his promise to him early in chapter 15. God had said Abram would have a family that would grow into a nation, but Abram and his wife had no children. When Abram asked God how this would work, God told Abram again that he would have as many descendants as he can see stars in the sky.

Abram believed God. And when Abram believed God, the Lord credited Abram with righteousness. Instead of Abram living a righteous life, fully sinless and perfect, God took Abram’s faith and credited Abram with a record of righteousness.

A – Apply

This verse got my attention because it is one of the most significant verses in all of Scripture. It lays a foundation for us to see that we do not please God by being good. Instead, God sees our faith, a faith that is a gift from him (Eph. 2:8), and he grants to us a record of righteousness.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I’m so grateful that salvation is by your grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. I’m grateful that you give us our faith as a gift. Thus, I see that my salvation is completely of your doing, by your grace, and for your glory. I praise you for this gift. I acknowledge here and now that I have never been good enough to earn anything but your judgment. I thank you for Jesus.

Blessed Belief

H – Highlight

Luke 1:45 – “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

E – Explain

Elizabeth is rejoicing at Mary’s arrival and the news that the Christ has come. Contextually, there is something interesting. In 1-25, Elizabeth’s husband had not believed the message from the angel, and he had suffered the inability to speak because of it. Now, Elizabeth knows that Mary is carrying the Savior in her womb, and Mary believed the Lord.

A – Apply

The biblical principle I draw here is that belief leads to blessing. I know that the Lord must bring us to faith, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). At the same time, all through Scripture, the Lord has rewarded faith. God counted Abram’s faith to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).

What must I believe? What have I struggled to believe with my heart even when my head knows what to acknowledge?

R – Response

Prayer: Lord, I believe you and your word. I know this is a gift from you, and so I give you all the glory for any faith I have. I also know that, even as a believer, I have times when my own life would show that I only am believing with my head and not my heart. I pray that you would strengthen the faith you have given me. Help me to believe that you will fulfill all you have promised. And help me to find your blessing in faith.

Unbelief is Offensive

H – Highlight

Luke 1:18-20 – 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

E – Explain

In this passage, Zechariah asks for the angel to prove that his prediction will come true. Gabriel has promised Zechariah a son, and Zechariah cannot believe it. So the angel pronounces a small curse on the old priest. Zechariah will be unable to speak until the child is born.

A – Apply

What I learn here is a principle. Unbelief is offensive. Gabriel makes that clear. When Zechariah asks his question, asking for proof, the angel identifies himself and seems taken aback that this foolish man would not take his words as they have been delivered.

Of course there will be times when we struggle with doubt and confusion. And we should not pretend otherwise. But we also must not forget that for us to fail to believe the words of God is a big deal. Unbelief matters. The devil, in the garden, used a denial of the truth of God’s words to tempt the woman. A refusal to believe in Christ is a sin that leads to death. And for us to see God’s clear words, have no doubt that they come from God, and then for us not to believe them is a major problem.

R – Response

First I know that I am called to respond to this in humble confession. While I may believe the Lord with my mind, I know that, at times, my heart forgets to believe what the Lord has said. I must own this as a sin, confess it, and repent. Second, I should remember that all that the Lord has said is true and trustworthy, and it should impact how I live and how I think.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for your faithful word. Your Scripture, your holy word, is totally true and trustworthy. I pray that you will forgive me for any time in which I have failed to believe that you are who you claim to be or that you will do what you claim to do. Help me to believe you deep down and to see that unbelief is deadly.

You of Little Faith

I think many believers are familiar with the account of Jesus calling Peter to walk on water with him. It is found in Matthew 14. Jesus had walked on the sea to cross the lake and catch up with his disciples whom he had sent on ahead. The disciples were at first terrified when they saw Jesus, but then Jesus assured them all was fine.

Peter, when he heard Jesus’ words, calls out to Jesus, and Jesus tells Peter to come out onto the water to join him. Peter gets out of the boat, walks on the water, but then is frightened and begins to sink.

Matthew 14:30-31 — 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Peter walked. Peter doubted, Peter began to sink. Peter cried out to Jesus. Jesus saved Peter. Jesus rebuked Peter for his doubt. That is the story.

The funny thing is, if you listen to people teach this passage, so much weight is placed on Peter’s faith or lack thereof that an important key is missed. Some of our more charismatic friends will make this passage out to say that the solidity of one’s faith is directly connected to whether or not God can perform a particular kind of miracle in your life. So, they will use this text to say to you that Peter’s doubt led to his sinking, and your doubt will lead to your inability to experience the miraculous.

But, look more closely at the story. Yes, Peter’s doubt led to his sinking. That is true. But, Peter’s desperate cry to Jesus led to his being saved. Jesus was plenty powerful to reach out, catch Peter, and pull him back to the surface of the lake. Peter’s doubt did not limit Jesus.

Friends, in our Christian lives, we may have seasons of stronger faith and seasons of greater doubt. Without question, doubting God and his goodness and power is sinful. But such doubt is also a normal part of the human condition. It is a thing for us to confess to God and ask him to help us overcome. It is a thing for us to battle with time in the word, with worship, with fellowship, and with prayer.

What I want us to recognize from this story is that Peter’s doubt did not prevent Jesus from accomplishing his will. Jesus showed himself to be glorious. Jesus was easily able to rescue Peter and put him back on the surface of the lake. And Jesus was able to walk Peter back to the boat. Jesus did not say to Peter, “I wish I could help you, but your doubt prevents me.” Jesus just told Peter that his doubt showed how much more is faith needed to grow.

Is doubt natural? You bet. Is doubt a problem. Yes. Is doubt a thing that will keep God from accomplishing his will. No. Your imperfect faith is not tying the hands of God. Doubt is a thing for us to battle, to confess and repent of. And, God may choose to let us experience some sinking as Peter did because of our doubt. But God is God, and I do not add to his abilities with my faith or take from his abilities in my doubt.

Thinking about Being Saved Through Faith

Ephesians 2:8-9 – 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

When we say that a person is saved by grace through faith, we are attesting to what makes Christianity vastly different than any other religion in the world. We are saying that a person receives salvation, not because they do a thing, performing a ceremony, making an offering, but simply because God has changed them and allowed them to fully entrust themselves and their soul to him.

Just consider the difference. Other religions out there, man-made religions, tell people that they get into the favor of their deity by doing things. A person may believe that they will be in their god’s favor because they climb a particular mountain and drink from a sacred stream. Another might think that chanting a particular phrase is what makes them OK with the divine. Yet another says that if they do good deeds and do not do really bad things, they will be fine.

Only biblical Christianity tells us that we do nothing, we take no physical action at all, to gain the favor of our God. Instead, God does all the work. God takes all the action. God gives life to our dead and sinful hearts. And we respond to God by believing in Jesus. And God counts that faith as righteousness for us. God counts our belief as if we had lived perfectly before him. God grants us Jesus’ perfect record of righteousness when we entrust ourselves fully to him, believing him, having true faith.

Let me take this moment to say to you that, if you have never come to Jesus in faith, you need to do so in order to have the forgiveness of God. You are a sinner, just like me. Your only hope for salvation is to believe in Jesus. When you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sin and rose from the grave, when you believe that Jesus is willing to forgive you if you come to him, when you believe in Jesus in such a way that you fully rely on him and him alone for salvation, you are forgiven by God. If you are forgiven by God, he will change you and help you live to his glory. I urge you to turn from sin and believe in Jesus today.

Victory — Another Important Question of Faith

The Christian life is a life of faith. WE must believe the word of God. We must trust that what he has told us about himself, about what he has done, and about what he will do is true. The presence or lack of such belief is definitive for the follower of Jesus.

Often, when we talk about questions of faith, we talk about Jesus. WE talk about his life, death, and resurrection. Are you willing to believe in Jesus in such a way as to entrust your soul to him and his finished work? Are you willing to believe that he can and will save you? These are important questions of faith.

But there is another question of faith we ask less often. It has to do with the promises of God for the future we are still awaiting.

Revelation 15:2-5 – 2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

In this section of the book of Revelation, John looks and sees victorious saints of God. They have conquered the beast and his number. They have refused to be marked out as followers of the world’s system. They have refused to bow to the evils of the age for temporal success. And they stand as victors.

The victorious saints will sing the praise of the Lord. And look at that song. God is great and amazing. God’s ways are perfect and just. And, catch the promise, all peoples will fear the Lord. All nations will come and worship the Lord. God will have this world for his very own.

This question of faith is significant. Do you believe the song? Do you believe that the Lord will be victorious? Do you believe that the Lord will have people worshipping him from every corner of the globe? Do you believe that all people will fear the Lord? Do you take any time to rejoice in the certain victory of Jesus Christ?

Friends, we serve the conquering King. Jesus has been through death. He has come out the other side. He will not go through defeat again. Jesus will be victorious. HE will build his church. His gospel will spread over the globe. He will return in power and glory. He will be acknowledged globally as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Stop and think how important this is. How important is it to remember that our savior is not defeated and will not be defeated? How important is it to remember that all who love the Lord Jesus will reign with him eternally? How important is it to remember that, no matter how polarized the world appears, there is only one winning side? How important is it to remember that the God who made this world will have it as his own?

This is a question of faith. Christian, do you believe in the victory of Jesus?