I wandered into my local bookstore and came across “The History of the Church,” a translation of the seminal work by Eusebius of Caesarea, written in the 300’s.
The early arc of church history chronicled by Eusebius is a tour de force of early Christian perseverance in their allegiance to Christ while facing a barrage of brutal persecution and destructive heresies.
But Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18) What powerfully struck me as I read Eusebius’ account was the truth that Jesus builds his church through his persevering saints.
The Christian faith is all about “pressing on.” No perseverance yesterday. No church today. No gospel witness tomorrow. No future Christian leaders. Even no Corpath.
So, imagine that you are one of a small group of persecuted Christians in 201, witnessing this incident during the reign of Roman emperor Severus. Eusebius records:
“When Severus set in motion a persecution against the churches, the athletes competing on behalf of piety offered brilliant martyrdoms in every location but were especially abundant in Alexandria. God’s athletes were sent there from throughout Egypt and the whole Thebaid, as to a great stadium, and through their patient endurance of various kinds of torture and death, came to wear the crowns of victory that are given by God. Among them was Leonidas, the man said to be the father of Origen, who was beheaded, leaving behind his child who was very young. How intense was Origen’s resolve for the Divine Logos (Christ) after this.”
Leonidas could have disavowed Christ. He could have saved his skin and repudiated the truth that Christ, not Caesar, was Lord; and thereafter enjoying a long life with his son and family.
But he chose to persevere, to “patiently endure,” in full devotion to Christ. Leonidas chose to press on, come what may. And so, must we.
One of the hallmarks of mature Christian discipleship is the power to endure the “slings and arrows” that mark our pathway on the journey home…whether persecution, illness, financial reversal, abandonment, unexpected tragedy, or reputational wrongs.
Failure to persevere, to not give up, to not press on to the end is not in the DNA of any dedicated Christ-follower. Persevering to the end is what it means for Corpath members to “pursue excellence,” not just in business and in life, but “in spirit.”
Pressing on is about continuing to live a life of goodness, day in and day out.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
Persevering is about not being side-tracked by the siren call of worldly pleasures, or pressures or accolades, and letting our ministry commitments go, as Paul’s colleague sadly did.
“But Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me.” (2 Timothy 4:10)
Enduring means guarding intimacy with our heavenly Father through daily prayer.
“Then Jesus told them a parable that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)
Let’s be frank…it’s not easy to press on in devotion to Christ and service to others when the gods and values of this world are increasingly hostile to Christian life and witness.
Of course, Jesus knew this. That why he reminded his disciples, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20)
That is why he has given us his Holy Spirit, because, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.” (Romans 8:26)
And that is why each one of us can, “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
Martha Reid is one of my 21st century heroic examples of a Christ-follower who ran the race with perseverance.
In her 9th decade, although disfigured by rheumatoid arthritis, she did not stop doing good. She did not give up. Her love of Christ compelled her to carry on. And so, weighing less than 90 pounds, unable to feed and care for herself, bent over in a wheelchair and wracked with persistent pain, she led a Bible study in her seniors’ home, each week slowly turning the Bible pages with her misshapen finger…pressing on!
What would you like your life epitaph to read? Why not, “perseverance finished its work?” (James 1:4)
But this one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead, I press on. (Philippians 3:13)
Blessings for a good week of faithfully pressing on, with Leonidas and Martha.
Blessings for a good week,