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FIGHT | Dont’ Quit

#storychanging

FIGHT | Dont’ Quit

MONDAY— Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3

Another worship leader renounces faith in Christ. A former pastor comes out as proudly gay. A promising evangelist becomes an atheist. What’s happening? They refused to endure suffering as a good soldier of Christ, as Paul exhorted Timothy to do. Each of those people revealed what had already been on the inside. Anyone can start well, but endurance is the test of authenticity. Endurance is God’s servant sent to collect the eggs from the henhouse. It separates the rotten eggs from the good ones by cracking them. Most eggs look the same on the outside but once cracked, the difference hits your nose like a bully’s fist. Rotten eggs reek when the shell is cracked. Good eggs are useful and only pressure reveals the difference.

Pressure does the same with us. Job layoffs. Deaths. Suffering. We all hate it, but those who are only masquerading will not endure through it. They give up, give in, or return to their old ways when the sparkle wears off their faith. Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” God uses pressure to refine His children and showcase those who are only pretending. Temptation, testing, and tough times reveal what is on the inside of us. Will we curse God and die? Or will we hunker down and endure until God’s character is seen in us? Our response to suffering reveals who we really are.

Final Thought: How are you responding to pressure? “Those who endure to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

Prayer: Lord God, when I face intense pressure I’m sometimes tempted to get mad at you and abandon my faith. But suffering is part of this life and you’ve promised to be with me in it. So grip me tighter. I’m staying with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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TUESDAY— If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. 2 Timothy 2:12

Hardship and suffering are guaranteed to be a part of our life on earth. Despite flowery promises from the toothy TV preacher, faith in Jesus and visualizing success do not make our problems go away. It’s just the opposite. Scripture promises that if we live godly lives for Jesus’ sake, we WILL suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said that in this life we will have many troubles (John 16:33). But He promised to be with us in those troubles. As our Coach and Encourager, He urges us on, reminding us that this world is not all there is. If we endure, He will reward us. But if we deny Him, He will deny us.

“I would never deny Jesus!” we might retort, but maybe we should rethink that. Terrorists may not hold us at gunpoint, but there are a zillion other ways we can deny Jesus and they’re usually revealed under pressure. When peer pressure intensifies, we give in to the crowd. When work pressure intensifies, we resort to temper tantrums or cursing. When sexual pressure intensifies, we abandon purity and pursue immoral relationships. When financial pressure intensifies, we justify shady deals, greed, and even embezzlement. We deny Jesus when we make lifestyle choices that directly conflict with His word. We deny Jesus when pressure drives us into the arms of another god: alcohol, drugs, sex, money, busyness, power, bitterness…

Final Thought: The way we handle hardship and temptation is a good indicator of whether or not we will endure to the end.

Prayer: Jesus, do I deny you by the way I live? Show me areas of my life where I am denying you. Please forgive me as I commit to changing. I renounce anything in my life that denies you. Give me strength to endure to the end. Amen.
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WEDNESDAY— I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

The apostle Paul was writing his own epitaph with these words. But what did he mean that he had fought the good fight? What does it mean to have finished the race and to have kept the faith? What does it take to be able to face impending death and make a statement like that? We’re all going to finish our time here on earth whether we want to or not. But death does not necessarily mean we have finished our races. A runner who drops out halfway through the marathon cannot be said to have finished the race. A boxer who ducks under the ropes and leaves during a match did not finish the race. And when we defy the lordship of Jesus, ignore God’s stated will for us in His word, or walk away from Him, we die without finishing our race.

So why don’t we finish well? Hardship. Temptation. Anger. Disappointment. Second Timothy 3:12 says that everyone who strives to live a godly life will suffer persecution. It’s a guarantee. In Paul’s day, persecution was physical and material. In our day, it may be psychological, emotional, or social. Fighting the good fight means we don’t give up when we’re scorned, rejected, or punished by people who don’t like what we stand for. Keeping the faith means that even when it hurts, we choose honesty instead of deception, purity instead of perversion, and honor instead of temporary thrills. We will suffer for it, but no one finishes their race wishing they had lived more selfishly. We write our own epitaphs by the way we live our lives.

Final Thought: How will God write your epitaph? Will it sound like Paul’s?

Prayer: Lord, I want to be remembered for noble things, not selfish, sinful things. I want people to remember me as a person of integrity, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness to you and your word. Help me write a good epitaph while I’m still here. Amen.
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THURSDAY— Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2:4

-“Of course I’m a Christian,” Rod said. “Grandpa baptized me when I was a kid. I’ve just never lived it.”
– “Sure I’m a Christian,” Diane said. “I write Jesus poetry and read it to my boyfriend when we’re in bed. He’s a Christian too.”
-“We’re all Christians here,” Bud announced. “In our swinger’s club, we don’t spouse-swap with just anybody, you know.”

The word “Christian” has lost all meaning in our culture. In its original context, “Christian” meant “little Christ.” The first disciples were called Christians as an insult because they acted so much like Jesus. Today, 75% of Americans claim some sort of faith in God. But according to a recent Barna poll, the percentage of Americans who are truly followers of Jesus according to scripture is a startling 9%. Did you get that? Less than 10% of your friends and neighbors are truly born again Christians, despite what they profess. The rest of those professing faith in Christ are actually in the audience Jesus addressed in Matthew 7:21-23. Look it up. It’s chilling. On any Sunday morning at churches around the world, hands are raised, eyes closed, ethereal expressions on faces of people to whom Jesus will say, “You are a liar and I never knew you.” Are you in that audience?

Final Thought: We will not endure to the end if we have never truly bowed in submission to the lordship of Jesus.

Prayer: Lord God, I need to be sure about this. Check my heart and my life. Do they line up with your word? Am I justifying disobedience and assuming I’m right with you? I don’t want to be a lair. I’m ready to be honest. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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FRIDAY— Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

We can’t turn on the TV these days without being bombarded by bad news. Fortunately for Jesus followers, God has given us some good news! The painful times we’re going through will be redeemed by God and turned into good if we endure (Romans 8:28). Troubles, challenges, and heartaches are tests, and tests must be passed in order to receive a reward. Your math teacher did not give you a big red A when you flunked your test. The state did not issue you a driver’s license after you rammed into a building on your driver’s test. Tests are for determining how much we really know. They also reveal our hearts. Military spouses are tested when their husbands or wives are deployed for months at a time. Will they be faithful to each other?

Trials and temptations are tests of allegiance. They weigh our level of commitment and show us where we need work. Wise people humble themselves and admit they need more of God; fools get angry and make things worse by rejecting God. Wise people erect safe boundaries around their lives so that such troubles won’t devastate them again; fools leap over the boundaries in a misguided attempt to get back at God for putting them there in the first place. That’s why God put verses like this one in the Bible. It’s meant to encourage us, cheer us on as we deny self and choose Him over and over again. We’re not sure what a crown of life is, but if God is personally awarding it to us, it’s safe to bet that we’ll want it. So, don’t quit!

Final Thought: A crown of life awaits you if you will stand strong during rough seasons and not give in to temptation.

Prayer: Father, you don’t have to reward us for anything. Heaven is enough. But you say there are rewards waiting for those who remain faithful to you and I want all you have in store for me. Hold on to me so I can persevere. In Jesus’ name, amen.