Steadfast to the End

Posted on November 4, 2011 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

I never got used to the funerals. Becoming president of the International Mission Board, I envisioned being singularly focused on mission strategy. It was a leadership role to equip and send missionaries to reach a lost world and challenge churches to provide the resources and prayer support needed. But being a large organization of more than 5,000 personnel, the funerals came frequently.

I once conducted three funerals for active missionaries within two weeks. Sometimes it was ministering to staff who lost family and loved ones. I would often write as many as a dozen condolence letters a week. Now that we have retired, we find funerals come regularly in our community. Sometimes it is elderly church members; this week it was a high school classmate. (Yes, those two categories can be synonymous!)

We are reminded that life is fleeting. The Psalmist advises us “to number our days that we may have a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). The Apostle Paul reminds us of the inevitability of death in 1 Corinthians 15, but he characterizes death not in terms of finality but as a transition when that which is corruptible puts on incorruption and that which is mortal become immortal.

With a dramatic proclamation that has forever comforted Christians Paul declares:

“Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?…Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-56). That being our confidence and hope, how should we live the remainder of our days, whether few or many? The relevant truth and application of this passage is in the concluding verse that follows.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lordʼs work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). We may not see the fruit of our labors. We may not know in this life the extent of our influence. But faithful service for the Lord will not be in vain. A heavenly reward awaits those who have been faithful to the end.

The exhortation is threefold: be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lordʼs work. If one knew the future time of their death, most would make a diligent effort to clean up their life, treat others more kindly and fill the remaining days with good deeds. But none of us knows whether we have many more years in this earthly mortal body or whether a sudden debilitating illness or tragic accident may overcome us in a matter of days.

Thatʼs why it is imperative that we be about the Lordʼs work, living for Him, laying up treasures in heaven, not upon earth. We are not just to be passively going to church but should excel in using what time we have in witness and ministry. Steadfast and immovable seem to be synonymous, obviously for emphasis. Donʼt let the allure of the world and holding on to the things of this life divert us from the focus on things of eternal value. Hold firm to convictions of the faith. Donʼt be shaken by the nay-sayers and pessimists, but keep a victorious demeanor, firm to the end.

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