By: Gary L. Hutchens
Jesus encouraged us, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). The “crown of life” signifies eternal life in Heaven, eternal salvation. Eternal life is a gift offered to us by God through grace. Our responsibility in receiving this gift is to “be faithful until death.” We are not just to become faithful, we are to live in faithfulness until the day we die. We must even be willing to die for our faith, if necessary.
While this is certainly more easily said than done, it should not necessarily be all that difficult to do. God has promised that He will not let us be tempted by any temptation that is too powerful for us to overcome, with His help (1 Cor. 10:13). In the middle of that promise is the statement, “God is faithful...” So, we don’t have to wonder if the promise of the verse is as powerful as it reads. It is! God has made this promise, and God is faithful to keep His promises.
Why, then, does it seem that so many people have such difficulty staying faithful? One simple key is, they don’t stay focused. Paul portrayed the walk of faithfulness as being like a runner running a race. He said, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended...” As long as we are still alive, we have not claimed the prize of eternal life to the fullest degree. Only after this life is over can we actually be with God in Heaven. We may have moments in our life that are wonderfully encouraging, but we’re not there yet. So Paul says, “but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead...” We must stay focused. Paul goes on, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phlp. 3:12-14). Just as a runner running a race, we must keep our mind, as well as our eyes, on the finish line.
We need to let go of the failings of the past and look forward to the goal, eternal life! The Hebrews writer takes up this same theme. He cautions us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us,…” The point he makes is that we need to put away anything that might impede our living in faithfulness to our Lord. The writer goes on to instruct, “and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1). Don’t give up, don’t quit! In the next verse he portrays Jesus as standing at the finish line of our race through life: “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,…” Jesus is there with us, watching over us, ready to help us finish victorious. We need to always keep our focus on Him.
Jesus put it this way, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). A great many people begin the walk of faith but lose their focus. They get distracted by all kinds of things, including self-doubt. We must stay focused! When Peter became distracted by the storm and took his eyes off of Jesus, he sank into the water on which he had been walking (Matt. 14:28-31). If we let ourselves get distracted by the difficulties of life, or by the temptations of the devil, we can end up sinking into the depths of sin and end up condemned for eternity. Only if we stay focused, only if we keep our eyes on Jesus, only if we maintain our commitment will we stay on course and cross the threshold of Heaven. If we stay focused, God has already promised that we will cross the finish line and receive the prize (Rev. 2:10). The only question is whether or not we will stay focused. Are you focused?…
Gary L. Hutchens