At times perseverance can be a burdensome concept. We are called to remain faithful to the end and to hold fast to Christ; battling sin and exercising faith. And it is no small issue: our continued perseverance in the faith demonstrates that our salvation is real and God has been and is currently at work in our lives. But I am afraid that some of us (many of us?) mistake the call to perseverance as a call to muster up enough spiritual energy to make sure we make it to the finish line; perseverance is all up to us. This kind of thinking, however, can lead despair and spiritual frustration, especially for those who are well aware of their sin and weaknesses.
So the discovery that perseverance is primarily a matter of resting in the mercy and grace of Christ is both refreshing and empowering. The book of Hebrews, perhaps the one New Testament book that speaks the most about the essential need for perseverance also provides, more than any other book in the New Testament, the means to that perseverance. And the good news is that perseverance is not all up to us.
Throughout the book of Hebrews, we are given warnings to not drift away from Christ (2:1); to not let our hearts become hard to God’s Word (3:7-19); to hold fast to our confession (3:14); to grow into maturity (5:11-14) and to exercise sincere faith in God’s promises, (10:19-11:40). Daunting responsibilities, to be sure. And the mistake we can make upon realizing our responsibility to persevere, is to attempt to do it on our own. But thankfully, this is not what God expects us or calls us to do. Instead, he draws us to the throne of grace, where we have a merciful and faithful high priest who has sacrificed himself so that we might have full and unhindered fellowship with God. It is by this fellowship and enjoyment of God that we are enabled to hold fast to our confession of faith in Christ.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Any call to persevere in the faith that draws us away from trusting and resting in Christ to trusting in resting in our own efforts is doomed to failure. And reading the commands to persevere in the faith outside of the context of Christ’s merciful high priesthood will only serve to burden our souls and actually hinder our perseverance. Fortunately, God has designed salvation in such a way that we are enabled to persevere, not by determined will power, but by drawing near to him through Christ.