The Test Of Faith
A daily devotion for November 22nd
3Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 5Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. 6The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
11Here is a trustworthy saying:
If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
In God's sight, there is always a direct link between the difficulties we may have as believers here and the joy and glory that wait beyond.
If we endure, we will also reign with him. It is wrong to understand those verses as though they mean that by your suffering and your enduring hardship you win the right to a crown. That is never the case in the Scriptures. We do not win a reward; we do not merit anything from God ever; no faithful service puts God in our debt and obliges Him to give us a reward.
What these verses are saying is that this is a test of the reality of our faith. If we really are Christ's, if He has genuinely come to dwell within us, that fact will always manifest itself by our willingness to suffer with Him; to give up some things for Christ's sake; to resolutely set ourselves against the allurements and temptations of this age and live a different lifestyle. That is the manifestation of true Christian life. If we have these genuine desires to live for Christ, of course it is absolutely certain that we shall share with Him because we belong to Him.
But if we are not willing to suffer, if the moment our Christianity begins to pinch a little bit—if we are asked to give up something that we enjoy doing and live in a way that is not approved of—or may even be laughed at by the world around us—we have to wonder if that is not telling us that our Christianity is a fraud.
If we disown him, he will also disown us. He knows what is real and what is not real about us. If we are simply using Christianity to get God to do some nice things for us, this will be the test of it. When the moment of pressure comes, we will give Christianity up; we will fade back into the woodwork, as thousands are doing today, under the pressures arising in our time. If that is the case, then He who has always known the truth about us will say to us,
I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! when the secrets of all people's hearts are manifested (Matthew 7:23).
if we are faithless—there is Paul's recognition that even when we do have His life in us and we are willing to suffer, there are times when we give in. Often we are weak, and we fail and fumble and stumble. We are faithless like Peter when he denied his Lord yet
he will remain faithful, for he cannot deny himself. If He is in us, He will hold us safe until the end. He will restore us; He will bring us back. He will labor through abundant and wonderful ways to turn us away from that which has temporarily derailed us. He will bring us back at last to humility, to repentance, and confession of our evil, to a restoration, so that we walk on with Him by grace.
Lord, You know my heart. You know that my desire is to follow You even when it means I must suffer. Thank You that You are faithful to Your promise, and You will see me through to the end.
Life Application: Genuine faith is defined, as well as refined, by suffering. Do we stand up to temptation and ridicule as Christ's disciples, or do we compromise our faith?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.