Attend the Basics
2 Corinthians 4:1-18
You and I find ourselves living in an age of instant conveniences, don’t we? And, I’ll confess... I like it that way!
Just think of all the instant conveniences we enjoy! I turn the tap, and PRESTO, water flows. I flip a switch, and WALLAH, the lights are on. Set a thermostat and there’s instant heat, or AC. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even have to get off the couch to change channels! We have instant oatmeal, and microwave popcorn, fast food... conveniences abound!
But, the truth is, such amenities tend to spoil us. And we begin (maybe even unconsciously) to see such “creature comforts”, as entitlements. We sometimes find ourselves expecting everything to be convenient: delivered to our doorstep, we want it to arrive on time, and we want it now - we don’t have much patience (overall)... and as a result...
We’re not very big on perseverance.
In such a world as ours, how do we, as followers of Christ, develop a faith that perseveres? A faith as God’s Word says, where “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.”
Of course before we can ever persevere, we need the severe. We need to go through test, trials, troubles in this life - and even in our faith - before we can persevere. The word persevere is derived from Latin, and it literally means “through severity.” Again it’s not possible to persevere without the severe.
The apostle Paul told his student Timothy… in second Timothy 3:12, that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ, will be persecuted.” Living a godly life will bring trial, it will bring trouble. It’s basically the same thing Jesus told his disciples, when he said “in this world you will have trouble.” He didn’t say you may have trouble, but that you will have trouble.
It’s a fact of life. It’s a fact of faith.
Again Paul had his share of troubles, his share of persecution and difficulty in life… multiple incarcerations; he wrote half the New Testament from prison. Paul shared some of his trials throughout his writings: including 2 Corinthians 11:27, where he confessed: “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have know hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I’ve been cold and naked...” But through it all - Paul persevered.
And through it all, Paul encouraged the church at Corinth by saying, “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed… Perplexed, but not in despair… Persecuted, but not abandoned… Struck down, but not destroyed.”
Of course, most of us will never face physical persecution on account of our faith. We may be called names, or made fun of... but we’ll seldom know the kind of persecution Paul and many others, experienced, and experience, even today in some parts of the world.
But then... I’m sure it goes without saying... but not all trials are external or physical... we do experience our share of internal trials: like placing pressure on ourselves by worrying... and setting unrealistic goals as we try to “keep up with the Jones’”. Jealousy, and anger, and hate carry a high price on our peace and happiness, too!
Paul went on to say, that despite troubles and hardships (of various kinds)... “we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us and eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Of course that all sounds nice and good. It all sounds very pious and faithful. It sounds holy. But it sounds like a mighty high calling for those of us who actually live in the real world. For those of us who struggle with trial and difficulty, and grief…
The question is always how? As in how do we practically, in the real world, in real life, develop perseverance in our faith? A perseverance that will see us through the trials and the anxieties the confusion in the heartache of this life?
I’ve always said and believed that, in order to persevere, you and I have to attend the basics. The foundation has to be firm. The foundational principles, the foundational activities, of our faith. Things like reading your Bible, and prayer, and worship, and giving, and offering your time talents and gifts, in service to Christ. These are not exceptional acts of faith, these are the basic bare minimum actions of faith.
If you went to college, which most of us probably did... did you start with your major courses? If you’re gonna be a music teacher did you start with advanced music theory? If you were going to be a nurse did you start your studies, did you begin, in a hospital room, or in a classroom?
Most colleges call the foundational courses (the basic courses), the core classes or core subjects. English 101. College Algebra 101. Biology 101. You must attend the core before you can ever get to the advanced, or the major. If you don’t attend the core... if you fail to address and learn the fundamentals, the foundational aspects… You’ll never make it to the majors.
And that’s why so many struggle with perseverance. We haven’t bothered to attend to the basics, the core, the foundational principles and duties of our faith, and we have no solid ground on which to stand.
And that’s why perseverance… That’s why growing in our faith, maturing as followers of Christ, requires us to attend the basics. We learn to worship by worshiping, we learn to pray but praying, we learn to trust God by trusting God… We learn to give by giving, and all of these things work together, in unison, in harmony, helping to lay the foundation of perseverance - as we serve Christ.
Of course, I think it’s necessary to say... that you and I will never, ever see anything through - in this life - that’s worthwhile - if we don’t believe in it! We won’t persevere without something to hold on to... without something to believe in.
That’s why so many times, teams (sports teams) will fall apart in the 4th quarter! They don’t have the ability to persevere - because they fail to believe in themselves; or their teammates; or their coaches.
It’s why we all leave projects unfinished... goals and dreams unrealized... why relationships fall apart... because we failed to believe. Belief gives us reason to persevere.
And that goes for our faith, too. If we truly believe that God is good... if we believe that God has our best interest at heart... if we believe that ALL things are somehow, someway, working together for our good... for our benefit... for a purpose... we will persevere to the end. We’ll know that our “light and momentary” troubles (as God’s Word reminds us) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” - as we fix our eyes on Jesus.