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ARE YOU CONTINUING?
by Philip Owen

   One of the most arresting scriptures in the entire Word is found in Proverbs 24:10:  “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.”   Who would faint when everything is smooth sailing?  It’s easy to rest and to trust or, at least, not to fear then.  But the Word says that is not the measure of faith; the acid test of faith comes when we face trials, and if we falter then, we are weaklings.  The real proving of a saint’s character is his steadfastness when “suffering need” (Phil. 4:12b).  In fact, a major theme running throughout the Bible is that of perseverance, or continuance.  The Lord is grieved with saints who blow hot and cold, who are up one day and down the next, who serve the Lord one day and serve themselves the next.  But He is pleased when one of His children matures to the point of steadfast faithfulness despite the extremes of circumstance.  Note a partial list of the areas in which we are to “continue” for the Lord.

   1.  Continual faith.  “Women will be preserved . . . if they continue in faith and love . . . “ (I Tim. 2:15).  Not only is faith essential to salvation, it is the foundation of the believer’s life.  It is impossible to please God without faith (see Heb. 11:6).  And whatever is done apart from faith is sinful (see Rom. 14:23).  Indeed, Paul commended the Thessalonians for their “work of faith” (I Thess. 1:3b).

   2.  Continual love.  If faith is the foundation of a believer’s life, love is its hallmark.  In the same place Paul commended the Thessalonians for the “work of faith,” he praised them for their “labor of love.”  “Let love of the brethren continue,” commands the writer of Hebrews (13:1).  We are to manifest love when everything seems to be going wrong, when we are falsely accused, misunderstood, questioned, mocked, or worse.  We are to love the Lord when our prayers seem to be unanswered, our desires unfulfilled, our devotion unrequited.  And though we may fail love, “love [itself] never fails” (I Cor.l 13:8a).

   3.  Continual obedience.  “If you continue in My word,” the Lord said, “then you are truly disciples of mine” (John 8:31; also 15:9).  Obeying the Lord may be easy and pleasant when our way leads to green pastures and still waters.  What pleases the Lord, however, is the saint who obeys when his path leads through the valley of the shadow of death or when the bulls of Bashan beset him (Psa. 22:12).

   4.  Continual service.  God blesses believers “who by perseverance in doing good” seek to please God (Rom. 2:7).  King Darius respected Daniel and recognized his God because Daniel “constantly serve[d]” Him (Dan. 6:20b).  Service and obedience may represent two aspects of one virtue.  Obedience suggests willing submission and responsiveness to God’s commands; whereas service may imply additional initiative, that is, the enterprise generated by a loving heart.   

   5.  Continual worship.  Just as service is the external expression of faith and love, so worship is the internal spring from which it flows.  The early church is described as “day by day continuing with one mind in the temple” (Acts 2:42; also v. 46; 5:42).  Worship means literally “to kiss,” that is “to reverence, to adore.”  God’s glory is to be the beginning and end, the purpose and goal of all our thoughts, words, and actions.  Worship is not some formal activity restricted to a church service; it is the daily, vibrant attitude and activity of a life set apart to God (e.g., Psa. 29:2).

   6.  Continual praise.  As worship might be said to be the highest form of service, so praise is the quintessence of worship.  “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15; also, Psa. 34:1; 70:40; 71:6).  Nothing compares with genuine praise offered to the Lord—not giving, not preaching, not even petitioning prayer.  Although those activities serve an essential purpose, praise alone has God exclusively in view.  It most effectively distills a man’s spiritual energy of all but the Lord.  And only one whose heart has been regenerated by Christ and whose life has been energized by the realization that Jesus Christ is all in all, that God alone is worthy of praise and genuinely worthy of all the love, admiration, and adoration we can give Him—only he can praise the Lord.

   Scripture instructs us specifically to continue in other virtuous activities as well, such as prayer (Lk. 18:5; Acts 6:4; Rom. 12:12) and waiting (Hos. 12:6).  And it goes without saying, that believers must continue in every Christian virtue.  So may we remember that none of these leads down a dead-end street (activity that ends in nothing).  Eternal blessings await those who “continue in the things . . . [that they] have learned” (II Tim. 3:14b).

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