Why should I go through the struggle of living faithfully? What makes the effort worth it? Sometimes, faithful Christians may look around and see the abuses in the name of Jesus, the hypocrisy demonstrated by too many who wear His name, and we wonder why we’re a part of this. Philippians 2:12 encourages us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Now, this is not indicating that we each figure out our own way to Jesus. Instead, Paul is warning us against attaching our faithfulness to what we see in others. Our journey to Heaven is a personal one. We may help others and be helped by others, but our faith cannot hinge upon them.
In I Corinthians 1:14, Paul deals with the issue of people hanging their faithfulness on those who converted them, and he calls this carnal thinking. Verse 29-31 says no flesh should glory before God but rather in the Lord. Chapter 2:4 records Paul saying his teachings are in the power of God rather than the wisdom of men. It makes no difference, he is explaining, who baptizes you. What matters is the adherence to God’s word.
In Genesis 3 & 4, Adam and Eve are blessed by God, living in an idyllic garden called Eden. They have but one condition, and they disobey. Then, in chapter 4, we read of Cain and Abel. What if Abel had been a defeatist due to the failings of his parents? Instead, he gives his best. Additionally, what if Seth had given up based on his parents and the actions of his brother Cain. Genesis 4:16, Seth and his family maintain worshipping the Lord.
I Samuel 20:30 records Saul growing angry with his son Jonathan due to his son’s friendship with Saul’s perceived rival David. Saul goes as far as attempting to kill Jonathan. Again, what if Jonathan had given up on David because of this? I Samuel 20:41-42 has David and Jonathan affirming their friendship in spite of these obstacles. Jonathan could have turned on David based on his father’s influence, but he does not. In I Samuel 8:1-6, we see a contrast. God’s prophet Samuel has sons who do not walk in his ways or God’s ways. Where Saul’s wickedness does not impact his child, Samuel’s children do not negate his faithfulness.
In Colossians 4:14, Paul is writing from house arrest. As he concludes his letter, sending greetings to specific saints, and he mentions one named Demas who is working with him. He is also recorded in Philemon verse 24. II Timothy 4:10 records a contrast, though, where Demas abandons Paul, loving this present world. All of the good he does for Paul is not negated by his actions. Likewise, Diotrephes in III John verse 9 has fallen, but any good he had accomplished before is not erased by this.
Men are fallible, and even our personal heroes fall. Noah, David, Peter – these and more are heroes of faith. However, even these struggled and fell short of God’s word. We remember the those involved in the incestuous relationship of I Corinthians, but II Corinthians 7 speaks of godly sorrow that brings repentance. Just because we see others, even those we admire, fall short, we have no reason to throw aside our faith.
The children of Israel carried into Babylon captivity were surrounded by the unrighteous, but some return as a righteous remnant who maintained hope despite many reasons to cast it aside. Onesimus obeys the gospel despite being in the wrong, and Philemon remains faithful despite being wronged by Onesimus. In Revelation 2, God speaks of righteous individuals, even in congregations full of those displeasing to Him.
While we draw strength from each other, and we can be discouraged by each other, our faith is ultimately between ourselves and God. Our hope and our salvation is in Him alone, and no man can take that from us.
lesson by Tim Smelser