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Resolve to persevere

By George O. Wood

In 1952 Florence Chadwick, a renowned long-distance swimmer, attempted to swim some 26 miles between Catalina Island and the California coast. She swam for 15 hours, then quit only 1/2 mile from her goal. The reason — fog prevented her from seeing how close she was to the coast. She became discouraged and gave up.

Believers making their way through life in a world that is hostile toward their Savior can also become discouraged and depressed. We defeat such discouragement by keeping the promised return of Jesus Christ in focus. The great expectation of the Lord’s soon return gladdens our hearts in the days of weariness and desert. It provides the resolve to continue.

Our hope
Paul reminded us we are not in this world without hope. (See Ephesians 2:12,13.) We are to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. (See Ephesians 1:18,19.)

We know that after the trial comes the crown of life; therefore, we can even now begin to rejoice. (See James 1:12.) Like the farmer waiting for his crop to ripen, we are called to patience since the Lord’s coming is near. (See James 5:7-9.) Because we will receive what has been promised us, we do not throw away our confidence as those who shrink back and are destroyed; rather, we are among those who persevere, believe and are saved. (See Hebrews 10:35-39.)

We take the Lord’s Word to the Philadelphia church as a personal message to our own hearts: “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:11, NIV).

In the Spirit we welcome the admonition to take hold of the hope offered to us and be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. (See Hebrews 6:18-20.)

Look where our anchor of hope is. Not in some watery depth holding fast to the ocean bottom. Our anchor is up, not down. It is not in the black deep but up in heaven’s heights, where Christ went into the Holy of Holies. Anchored there, a lifeline has gone down to steady us in our wild gales. We are being held steadfast and sure. And one day soon Christ himself is going to come from that very Holy of Holies, pull the rope and take us up. What a day that will be.

Setting our hope on Him (see 2 Corinthians 1:10) gives us the resolve to abide faithfully, to continue at our tasks. Our anticipation of Christ’s return does not make us escapists. Rather, we become strengthened and galvanized to action. The grand news of His coming invigorates our actions and thrills us with expectation.

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How accurately C.S. Lewis described such anticipation in Mere Christianity: “Hope … means … a continual looking forward to the next world. … It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present thought most of the next. … It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they are inefficient in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Have I resolved to endure to the end? Are my present trials even heavier because I have lost the shining hope of Christ’s return? Have I been looking down instead of up? Let’s resolve to persevere and fulfill the Great Commission until the Lord calls us to be with Him forever.

Sharing hope
My uncle, Victor Plymire, was a pioneer missionary to China and Tibet. He went to that part of the world in 1908 and served 16 years before he won his first Tibetan convert. In his 19th year of missionary service, his only son, 6 years of age, and his wife died within one week of each other from smallpox. The local cemetery refused him burial permission, so he bought a small plot of land on a Tibetan hillside overlooking a valley outside of town. It was the middle of winter in that bitter-cold part of the world. He had only enough strength to dig one grave through the frozen ground for the two of them.

What was his and their reward for all of this?

Especially in the West, we live in a period of instant gratification. We expect immediate reward for labor rendered, service given and investment made. But the Bible talks about delayed reward. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34,35).

There is no ecstasy for the saints in the treatment they receive at the hands of the world. They are not rewarded on earth with wealth and mansions, with luxury and leisure, with titles and accolades. Their reward is one deferred — until the coming of the Lord.

My Uncle Victor died without ever knowing what purpose the death of his wife and son filled in the economy of God. But about 65 years after that desolate moment on the Tibetan mountainside, and some 36 years after his death, God’s long-range purposes began to come into view.

In 1991 the church in Victor Plymire’s adopted town in China wanted to officially reopen. Permission was denied on the grounds the church had no proof the property purchased and buildings erected by my uncle had ever been used as a church. The officials, as did everyone else in the town, knew the true story. But games were being played with the pastor, the son of the martyred leader left in charge of the work when Victor Plymire left in 1949.

In desperation the Chinese pastor asked my missionary cousin, David Plymire, if any written evidence existed which could prove the buildings and property belonged to the church. David came back and searched the file of his father in Springfield, Mo. There he found a deed. But it was not the deed to the church property — no such legal instrument has ever been found. The deed was to the grave on the hillside.

For some reason known only to God, Victor Plymire had deeded that grave not in his own name, but the name of the church. When David Plymire returned to China and gave the deed to that pastor, the local authorities accepted it as incontrovertible evidence that the church had indeed existed. The property was returned, the buildings were repossessed, and the church was officially open again.

Had the town cemetery been available to Plymire, there would have been no deed for proof. In fact, years ago the town cemetery was leveled and apartments were built over it; but the Plymire grave still rests undisturbed on the edge of the sprawling town. God, who had not caused the deaths of Victor Plymire’s first wife and son, nevertheless intended to use that loss to anchor the church in that very town at the close of the century. Plymire died long before this twist in the story; but we now can see an earthly reward for this precious sacrifice.

There is an even greater day of reward coming. Someday the grave itself will open and the dead shall come forth. On that day Victor and Grace Plymire and their son John David are going to receive a reward from the hand of Jesus himself. That reward will eclipse all sorrow.

That hour will be one of vindication for the saints, when the unbelieving world is judged and God’s children receive their rewards.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

Knowing of that coming day fills us with wonderful assurance: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).

The people of God can take great comfort from the last message Jesus speaks in the Bible, the beginning words of which state: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12).

What will be my reward on that day? Have I voluntarily borne my cross daily, carried suffering in my own life for the gospel’s sake — not because I had to, but because of my own choice? Have I been faithful and true? Can Jesus really count on me today?

May the reality of our Lord’s soon return give us strength to continue to fulfill the Great Commission, knowing our reward in serving Him is coming.

George O. Wood, D.Th.P, is general secretary of the Assemblies of God.

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