Enduring to the End

Matt. 24:12,13.---' because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.'

In the course of life we meet some people who possess in a marked degree the quality of steadfastness. They are wonderfully impressive. They are always the same, not trivially elated one day only to be abjectly depressed the next. When others falter they go forward. Wherever they are, whatever they do, they raise the moral temperature. It was said of a great leader that "in the darkest perils of war, in the high places of the field, hope shone in him like a pillar of fire when it had gone out in others." Jesus felt the value of this quality. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' 'No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'

How often we find ourselves growing weary before the goal is reached! Jesus, who called men to a high and noble adventure, knew well the meaning of this spiritual peril in which we all stand today, however loud our protestations of allegiance. We think of His own life of steadfastness endurance and loyalty to the things in which he passionately believed; and how He went on, true to the principles that He had established for Himself at the beginning of His ministry, even when the whole nation turned against Him and vented on Him their hatred and their spite and brought Him to His cross. There even at Golgotha, broken by physical suffering, in the utter loneliness of His rejection, when one by one His friends had betrayed Him or left him, He stood fast and refused to compromise with the evil that sought His destruction. To such heights of loyal achievement we would give much to follow Him; and in all our weakness and frailty today it is only in His spirit and by His strength that we can hope to overcome.

In this path of high adventure there are three things we do well to notice. First, we should be quite clear at the beginning what we are being called upon to do. So often failure comes, because people have ignored or have not realized the difficulties at the outset. As we turn over the pages of the gospels, we cannot help seeing how time and again Jesus discouraged people from undertaking discipleship. He doesn't receive every one into the company of His friends on any terms. At first sight that may appear strange; for had he not come to be the Savior of all men, irrespective of rank or nation or gifts? we usually think of Him welcoming every one who turned towards Him, and spurring the proffered allegiance of none. But such a picture is entirely untrue to the facts. There is the man who comes to Him, feverishly shouting, 'Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest'; and Jesus reminds him quite frankly just what will be expected of him. 'Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.' Jesus, with that uncanny gift for reading character knew the type of man with which He was dealing, knew that he liked his comforts, and He is careful to forewarn him that in His company days of comfort and ease will be at an end. Then there is that other one who put his father's wishes before the leading of his conscience. 'He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.' Then again there is the Rich Young Ruler, whose heart was set on his private possessions; Jesus knew His man better than he did himself, and bade him first sell all that he had and give to the poor. Jesus receives none of these people with open arms. He makes perfectly clear to them the implications of the step that they are contemplating.

Following of Me is not like following of some other master. The wind sits always on My face, and the foaming rage of the sea of this world, and the proud and lofty waves thereof, do continually beat upon the sides of the bark that myself, My cause, and My followers are in: he therefore that will not run hazards, and that is afraid to venture a drowning, let him not set foot in this vessel.

Jesus knew, even while He listened to them, how valueless were the cheers of the crowd that thronged Him with their Hosannas. Have we entered upon this undertaking thoughtlessly, carelessly, or in the spirit of the gambler? For, if we have, then at this hour of national testing it will be in our soul that the weak link of the chain will be found. Wars have been paid for before by uncomfortable increases in taxation; by the sacrifice of members of the armed forces; by slight deviations from our normal routine. But that day has gone; the cost this time must be paid in rather a different coin. This is total war, and any day now we may be called upon to give everything. The French population learned that, but only when it was too late, and they broke under the strain. We must face that issue squarely and unflinchingly with clear eye and unclouded conscience, that, when the moment comes, whatever shape or form the demand may take, we may not fail.

Second, we must keep before us steadfastly the purpose of our solemn enterprise. We are bound to fail, if in the confusion and strain we lose sight of what we are trying to do. No man can plough his furrow who does not keep looking ahead. We see our Lord at the outset of His ministry wrestling in the secrecy of His soul in the wilderness, as He determines the principles of His divine mission on earth. And throughout all the coming months and years nothing could shake Him---hatred, calamity, utter rejection---nothing that came to Him in all the turmoil of His struggle could undermine His fixed purpose. The angry hostility of the world beat in vain against His invincible heart of love. The temptation will come very often to us in these times of suffering, when all the might of our enemies is flung against us, to lose sight of the high purpose that we are seeking to accomplish, and to put something meaner and grosser in its place. It is only by deliberately recalling ourselves to look fearlessly at our goal that we can prevent that happening; by pressing forward to the consummation of our dreams, and refusing to be blinded or deceived by the blows of experience or the plausible arguments of men.

Lastly, there is need for a deep consecration of soul. There can be no half-heartedness at any stage. Our aim is a high one; something towards which we must reach out with constant and never-relaxing effort. We shall meet much on this hard roadway that we have chosen that will persuade us to capitulate. Many an assault will be made on every resolution we have made. Do not let us then make the mistake of proudly trusting in our own strength. Braver and stronger men than we have already given way in this struggle; and we shall all need before long a strength that is greater than our own. Through all Christ's journey we see Him constantly relying on the divine resources of strength that came through perfect communion with His Heavenly Father. That was what brought him through the agony of His Gethsemane to the victory of Calvary. These resources are ours also, if we seek them. God in our generation has called us to the task; and God can give to us also grace to uphold us in the evil day. We dare not neglect that aspect of the fight. It there is shameful capitulation, it will be because, first, there has been spiritual surrender. Only God can keep us from that; and in His companionship we can go forward, not light-heartedly, not stupidly boastful, but knowing the calm of His peace in the very din of battle, and the strength of His arm, being made perfect in our human weakness, so that nothing can daunt us or unnerve us till His victory is won.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha