Perseverance is the key virtue in the Christian Life because without it, one has no guarantee of a future inheritance with God in heaven. The Scriptures give us guarantees like, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Php 1:6) and at the same time they give us strong exhortations like, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Php. 2:12-13). In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches us that only one of the categories of hearers bears fruit and perseveres. All the others are eventually swallowed up and destroyed by malignant influences which militate against Christian perseverance. There are also many warnings in the New Testament about falling away (Cf. Hebrews 6:1-12, etc.). Does a person have a carte blanche (blank check) once he professes faith in Christ? Can he do anything he wants while maintaining blessed assurance in a secure salvation? In his book, The Christian Life, Sinclair Ferguson puts this in perspective,
“Perseverance and faith, therefore, or perseverance and the Christian’s duty to battle on in the fight of faith are never separated and polarized in the Bible. It is never a case of ‘either/or’ always one of ‘both/and.’ In fact we persevere through faith and never apart from it. The picture is one of a dynamic, living trust in a God who actively holds on to us so that we may persevere. There is no blanket guarantee of perseverance. There is no mere doctrine of ‘the security’ of the believer, as though God’s keeping of us took place irrespective of the lives we live. Indeed there is not such thing in the New Testament as a believer whose perseverance is so guaranteed that he can afford to ignore the warning notes which are sounded so frequently.”
While we remain in the fight of faith to persevere the Christian can take great comfort and courage from his Good Shepherd who says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
Have you seen the show on Discovery Channel, called Dirty Jobs? The show profiles the unsung American laborers who make their living in the most unthinkable — yet vital — ways. They highlight jobs such as Charcoal Maker, Disaster Clean-up Crew member, sewage plant worker, and bone black plant technician. It is interesting to note that in the Christmas Story, the birth of the Good Shepherd was first announced to a small group of Shepherds who had one of the dirtiest jobs of the time. The birth of the Perfect Lamb of God was announced to those who prepared lambs used for temple sacrifices during Passover.
When the King of Kings sent out his baby announcements, he started with those at the bottom of the social register and invited men from the despised class with a lowly job, a group of devout men who smelled like sheep dung and crusted animal blood under their fingernails. Because of this they remained unclean and were unfit to attend corporate worship. But in the Lord’s heavenly wisdom He determined to utilize the marketing network of this small lonely group of dirty shepherds to make known the birth of His Son. A group of men, who likely knew more sheep by name than they did people. He chose outsiders, men who didn’t get invited to anything so that even you and I could come to Him, no matter how much dirt, guilt or shame we have. With dirty shepherds at the party, we would never feel out of place.
“If then we desire to come to Christ, let us not be ashamed to follow those whom the Lord, in order to cast down the pride of the world, has taken, from among the dung of cattle, to be our instructors.” – John Calvin