Christians persevere in faith. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand, and which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you- unless you believed in vain.” Highlighting the past, present, and future, he reminds them, “You have received the gospel, taken your stand on Christ, and now you are being saved if you hold fast to him.” Vain belief will vanish but saving faith will cling to Christ and reach the goal.

To Timothy, he says, “Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). By quitting the work of watching our life and watching the gospel, we shipwreck our faith and disqualify ourselves (1 Tim 1:19, 1 Cor 9:24-27). Persisting in watchfulness is essential to persevere in the faith. For this reason, Paul is constant in his exhortation for watchfulness and self-control.

The certainty of God’s work upholds our persistence in a Christian’s life. “And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). God carries believers across the finish line. What he begins in you by his grace, he finishes for his glory (Philippians 1:6). 

These are two lanes on the same highway. The New Testament writers use the certainty of God’s work as the rationale for watching our life and doctrine closely. Jesus’s promise not to lose his sheep provokes them to fight to stay close to him. 1 Timothy 6:11-16 is a good example of these two truths coming together.

Perseverance According to Promise

Timothy, like every Christian, had hardships because of his faith. He endured people opposing his teaching and looking down on him. Some people in his church would rather be rich than godly. He needed to keep the faith and press on through the hardship.

After wading through those weeds, Paul calls him to press on and “take hold of eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim 6:12). Notice the language of promise. Timothy has been called to eternal life. A few verses later, Paul says, “God will bring this about in his own time” (1 Tim 6:15). The certainty of Timothy’s eternal life is fundamentally about God bringing his work to completion. ​​God seals believers with the Holy Spirit, who “is the down payment of our inheritance,” enabling them to stay in the race and cross the finish line (Eph 1:14). 

The best medicine for anxiety – specifically pastoral anxiety in Timothy’s case – may be to meditate on these words: “But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). God will not withhold that which he has promised. The Holy Spirit seals and guarantees that God will keep his promise. No one can pry open God’s hand and steal his precious possession. The first step of perseverance is trusting the God who promises. But it is not the last step. 

Perseverance Accompanied by Sweat 

Far from being carefree and breezy, Paul paints a picture of perseverance soaking in sweat. The certainty of God’s promise creates urgency and tenacity in action. Paul uses five strong verbs, commanding Timothy to do what he is called to do. “But you, man of God, flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of eternal life to which you were called… I charge you to keep this command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 6:11-12, 13-14). Faith puts God’s promise into action. Joshua led Israel to fight the Canaanites because God had given them the land. Christians, likewise, put God’s promise to work by fighting to keep the faith. 

Persevere by Looking to Christ

What you aim at is crucial. While we were golfing once, my brother and I were messing around on the green as my Dad moved on to hit his next tee shot. He hit his best shot of the day, down the center of the fairway. With a big smile on his face, he looked at us expecting applause. But instead, we were laughing. He was on the right tee box but hitting toward the wrong hole. His incredible shot didn’t matter. The wrong target makes the best effort to a vapor in the wind. 

Trusting God’s promise and sweating in pursuit of righteousness, godliness, and eternal life requires aiming for the right target. We must fix our eyes on Jesus. That is why Paul closes this section in praise, “He is the blessed and only sovereign, the king of kings, and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, who no one has seen or can see, to him be honor and eternal power. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16). As we constantly behold the glory of Christ, we are transformed into his likeness, and we hold on to the eternal life to which we were called. Charles Simeon puts it beautifully:

“If our eyes were only fixed habitually on the glory of heaven, we should prove as victorious as Moses himself, when ‘he refused to become the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; and chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, because he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.’”[1]

We will run the race of the Christian life well when we fix our eyes on Christ. If he is not our aim, we will fall. If Christ is not enough for us, our so-called faith will vanish. But when Christ is our reward, like Paul, we shall persevere to “know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).


[1] Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae: Philippians to 1 Timothy, vol. 18 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), 545.

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