“Perseverance of the Saints” is the “P” in our TULIP acronym. From there springs forth some of our popular Christian concepts like, “Once Saved, Always Saved.”
Sometimes entwined around that “P” can be a whole bunch of emotional issues. I’m all about the emotional issues! A big one for me has been survivor’s guilt or perhaps Salvation guilt. It defies my sense of justice, it triggers my unfair button. If God is just than why are some saved and others are not? That’s not fair!
God so clearly made His presence known to me when I was very small and many times since. My brother also. But my baby sister and my mother were having nothing to do with the Lord and to this day kind of persist in that mindset. There is a really sharp and noticeable division in my family, those of us who are saved are doing reasonably well, those of us who are not, are clearly not.
I’ve spent a lifetime trying to rescue people I care about, pretty much to no avail. I know that wall very well, I’ve spent a great deal of time banging my head on it. After much frustration and confusion, I finally had to surrender to the fact that only God saves. I just don’t have that power.
There are a couple of bible verses that speak to this “P” truth too, Romans 8:39, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Or Ephesians 1:4, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Philippians 1:6 says, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Some people pride themselves on having made a wise decision to choose the Lord. It really is wise too, it is a rational decision. However, some of us get too caught up in the “pride” of our own good choices. We don’t like to consider the possibility that God may have chosen us, too. If God could choose us too, than God could also have the power not to choose us, and that can be a really scary thought to confront……
I have been really blessed by sticking with it however, by persevering through the emotional swamp. Do I trust God or am I leaning into my own understanding? Have I surrendered to the idea that He might have some control over our relationships with Him, too? Do I think I am more qualified to love people than He is? Do I accept that He is Holy and good or do I have to second guess Him to make sure He knows what He is doing?
These can be some tough words to swallow, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” Well then, why does He not just draw everyone? The answer to that question is not nearly as important as “why” we ask it. It is question filled with distrust, with doubt, with a false believe that we are more qualified to know what’s best then God is, with fear of His potential unfairness, with fear of our own potential rejection, with concern for our brothers and sisters, with divided loyalties, with human tribalism. I find it somewhat comical, once we have resolved all of our own issues, removed our thorns, taken away our deceptions, only then we can proceed to challenge God’s ways. Philosophically, I believe that question exists for that precise reason, to help us come to the realization that God is God and we are not.
There has also been a lot of petty human rubbish convoluting matters, like people declaring themselves qualified to know who is a member of “the elect” and who is not. That kind of mindset has done some incredible harm. We cannot see into people’s hearts fully, we do not know their future. That guy you’ve totally written off may well be one the Lord’s favorite sons. Maybe even more of a favorite then you are. Condemnation is dangerous because grace is reflective.
Another part of Perseverance of the Saints that I really like, is just that, perseverance. What do you do when your prayers aren’t being answered? How do you cope in the midst of suffering that does not stop? How do you keep the faith when you’re standing in the bottom of pit and there is just no end in sight? Well, in practical terms you simply put on Toby Mac’s Keep Walking Then you take a walk! I jest a bit here. Once in the midst of some real challenges the Lord kept telling me “walk,” go out the door right now and move. I honestly did not get it at first, so it’s a somewhat comical memory. I soon found myself literally standing in the corner banging my head on the wall saying, Lord, I hear you, I just don’t know what it means! Honestly, only I could get so totally lost in literal translations.
In my own words “perseverance” simply means, God leaves no man behind. You will not be challenged beyond your endurance in a way that cuts you off from faith. God will see you through. What you must endure, He will grant you the perseverance to endure.
Some of these ideas can create some confusion around the concept of “freewill.” Sola fide means “by faith alone.” Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Jesus also often points out, by your faith you are healed. By your faith you are saved.
Myself, I don’t see any contradiction or conflict going one, but it bothers some people. We have freewill, we have a choice, our faith really matters. But is your faith placed entirely in your own “faith?” Because we people can be kind of fickle and flaky sometimes. “Faith” itself should not become an idol. What happens when you have no faith? Does our relationship with the Lord now cease to exist? Of course not, because our relationship with the Lord is not exclusively in our own hands, it is not based only on our own feelings or the amount of faith we have at any given moment. A relationship is a two-way street. Our faith is not in our own capacity for “faith,” it is in the One whom we place our trust.
Faith is trust. If we are trusting in our own ability to trust, well there are a lot of reasons why that is shaky ground to try to stand on.
I’ve just been really blessed by chasing down some of these ideas, healed of some major strongholds and chains that really tied my spirit down. It’s an ongoing process for sure, but I really believe there is some major wisdom and healing to be found in the bible and in the words of those who have studied it. So I’m kind of clinging to my Solas and to my Bouquet of Tulips, mostly because they have been great tools for me personally.
Bless her heart, someone near and dear to me announced she was once a Christian but now she is not. The Holy Spirit led me to say, “Did God release you? Because if God didn’t release you, you are still a Christian.” That’s the problem with people who believe they have deconverted and even with some of us who have not, we seem to forget that relationships are actually a two-way street. If we believe we are exclusively in charge of our own faith then we are actually just practicing sologamy, which just amounts to a marriage of one.
My friend was annoyed so she said, “What is with your Perseverance of the Saints?” Yes exactly. How did you know? It totally baffles me too…..