Rev. Michael Keith
I am a long distance runner. I run 5-6 times a week. I have run lots of half marathons and one full marathon (I am still trying to convince myself that I want to do that again!). To be a long distance runner you have to build up your endurance. This takes consistent training. You can't just wake up one day and decide to run 26.2 miles without stopping. You won't have the endurance. When I first started running I could barely run a mile, but I kept at it and slowly began to run further before thinking I was going to puke. I remember clearly when I finally ran my first 5 K without stopping-it seemed as if I had done the impossible. Now, after a few years of running and hundreds of miles behind me, a 5-K run is barely a warm up. My endurance has been built up. However, no matter how much I train, I eventually will need to stop. At some point, I will run out of energy. My endurance will fail.
Jesus says: "...the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). How do you endure to the end? It is not by your own strength or endurance, for if you try to endure on your own, you will fail. You will not endure. You don't have it in you. I don't have it in me. My faith is too weak and my trust is too wavering. I must confess: Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief (Mark 9:24).
The strength to endure comes not from inside of you, but from outside of you. It is Jesus, and only Jesus, who will give you the strength. "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). He promised you in your baptism to be with you always and He is faithful to His promise. Through hearing God's Word and receiving the Holy Supper Jesus gives you what you need to endure. So, let's not play games. Runners run and Christians go to church. If the last time I ran was in 1986, could I honestly call myself a runner today? Christians come to church. They come here because this is where Jesus has promised to be for them: to feed and strengthen them to endure and to grant them forgiveness and life. He has not promised to do so anywhere else. So let's stop pretending.
That is why the writer to the Hebrews says we should not neglect "to meet together, as is the habit of some" (Hebrews 10:25). Just as if you stop running you will lose your endurance and eventually cease to be a runner, so also if you stop receiving from Jesus you will lose your endurance of faith and run the very real risk of ceasing to be a Christian
Jesus, through His Church, continues to give out His gifts and His gifts He will keep you strong, He will give you the strength to endure to the end, for He is the One who endures. He is the One who endured the cross for you. He is the One who endured damnation to hell for you. He is the One who endured death for you. And because He endured to the end, He was victorious over sin, death, and the devil for you. And through your baptism, through His name being placed on you, you are in Christ. And because you are in Christ you will endure to the end and will be saved.
"...the one who endures to the end will be saved." Who is this? That's you. For you are in Christ Jesus. and He who has promised is faithful.
Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, AB Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Created: December 8th, 2015