Be Steadfast Pt. 2
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NAS) Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast (“stand firm” in NIV), immovable, always abounding in the work of the LORD – give yourselves fully to the work of the LORD – knowing that your labor in the LORD is not in vain.
Last week, be began to take a look at the word “steadfast” and the importance of our being steadfast as Christians. This is a word you don’t hear very much; especially outside of the church. It refers to a person who is firmly established and unwavering in a resolve or a commitment that's been made – either to a cause or to another person. It carries the ideas of enduring commitment and loyalty and faithfulness – enduring commitment and loyalty and faithfulness that is solid, and dependable, and doesn't waver/change.
The way Paul uses the word here in 1 Corinthians 15 – To be steadfast means to be firmly established in faith; firmly established in commitment and loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus. I believe that one of God’s goals for us – one of the things that we are to be growing and making progress towards – is that of being steadfast. A big part of God's will for you and your life is that you have this kind of witness/reputation.
Last time, we looked at some Scriptures that deal with the quality of steadfastness: First, we looked first at 2 Tim. 4:5 – the testimony of the Apostle Paul at the close of his life. We emphasized that the words that he speaks, “I have fought a good fight; I have finished the course/race, I have kept the faith”, are NOT words that only someone like Paul could say. You and I can also have the witness/reputation of being steadfast. Again – This is God's desire/will for ALL of us.
We spent some time looking at how tremendously important this quality is. There isn’t any area of life where steadfastness isn’t needed, or where it doesn’t bring benefits. This is especially true when it comes to adversity – the difficulties and hardships of life. We looked at Jeremiah 12:5, where, after Jeremiah complained how hard his life was, the LORD says to His prophet (NLT): "If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall when you’re on open, level ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan [where the terrain is far worse]?”
God says, “Jeremiah – If you’re overwhelmed by what you’re going through now, what are you going to do when the BIG things come? If you’re all bent out of shape over things now, what will you do when the real serious, real bad stuff comes?” The lesson or reality check that God was trying to teach Jeremiah was this: “Bigger problems and challenges and trials than what you're facing now are coming. Stop praying for an easier life – Instead, pray to be a stronger or STEADFAST person.” I believe the LORD may want to give that very same message to quite a few of His children today.
We looked at Joshua 24:14-ff, where Joshua calls on the people to be steadfast and unwavering in their devotion and obedience to God. And I believe that this is how this quality of steadfastness begins in our lives – We make this resolve, we make this commitment to be solid and unwaveringly faithful to the LORD.
And this is not something we do just ONCE – it is not a 'once and done' thing. Maintaining a healthy relationship with God and being steadfast requires covenant/relationship renewal on a regular basis. Why? Because if we don’t renew our commitment, then the fire of devotion inside begins to die, and our heart grows cold, and we forget, and start to wander away from God.
You may have made a commitment to believe and follow Jesus Christ 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years or more ago. BUT...the question IS: Did you do that this morning? Did you renew that commitment? You see, we have to renew our commitment to/our relationship with Christ regularly in order to be steadfast. It’s not a once and done thing.
Now, this morning, we're going to continue our study. And there’s a very important truth that I want to start with this morning: Just as courage can only be defined in the context of fear, so steadfastness can only be defined in the context of testing/opposition. REPEAT.
Let me explain: You won’t know what courage is unless you first know what fear is, because courage is the overcoming of fear; the rising above your fear(s), and doing what needs to be done. And in the same way, you won’t know what being steadfast is, unless you first know testing/opposition; because being steadfast means enduring and/or overcoming those things. With that in mind, let’s look at some Scriptures:
First of all, turn to Acts 14. Acts 14 shows us an example of the steadfastness of the Apostle Paul. Acts 14:20. Let me set this up: Paul and Barnabas had healed a man who had been lame from birth. And the people in the town (Lystra) were, at first, acclaiming them as gods come to earth. But then, in verse 19, we read that things turned against them, and Paul was stoned, and dragged out of the city and left for dead. Verse 20 says that, “But, as the disciples gathered around him, Paul got up and went back into the city.”
Now...I need you to think about that. Let me ask you – If the people of a town had turned against you, and had abused and stoned you, and dragged you out of town and left you for dead, would YOU have gotten up and gone back in? I'll be honest – If it were me, I'd be wanting to be like the prophet Elijah and call down fire from heaven. But Paul doesn't do that.
Further on in the text, Acts 14:21 speaks of Paul RETURNING back into that town of Lystra for a THIRD time. Me, I'd have gone 30 miles outside of my way to avoid that place, but Paul went right back in. And look at what he says, in verse 22: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” He’s not deterred by what happened to him.
Now…To be honest, I doubt very much that any of us have ever or will likely ever experience opposition and hardship to the degree the Apostle Paul did. But I still want you to understand this: Steadfastness can only manifest itself IF there is testing/opposition. Do you see that? If we never have any tests or hardships or trials, if there’s never any temptation to compromise/sell out, then there's no need to be steadfast, and we won't know what it means to be steadfast or how important it is. It may sound a bit crazy, but – One of the requirements for steadfastness to be manifested in our lives is that we have to experience testing/opposition/hardship/temptation.
Another story – Turn to Daniel 3. In Daniel 3, we have the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. When they were confronted by the king, and told to worship his idol or be thrown into the fire, they said, “If we are thrown into the fire, our God is able to deliver us. But, even if He does not, we will still not bow down and worship your false gods.” That's being steadfast.
In Daniel 6, we have the story of Daniel and the lion's den. After Daniel was delivered, the king issued a decree that read like this: “I decree that people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. He is the living God, and He endures forever. His kingdom will not be destroyed; His dominion and rule will never end.”
Okay – Question: How did the king know that God's kingdom is secure and forever and is unshakable? He knew it because Daniel was. And the same is true for US: The way that people of the world will know that God's kingdom is established and secure and forever and unshakable is if WE are secure and established and unshakable.
Listen – In Hebrews 12:28, the Bible says that you and I are part of a kingdom that is “unshakable” – that’s the word that’s used. We're part of something that is established for eternity; it's forever. And, as representatives of that kingdom, WE should be unshakable too; we should be steadfast. There should be a sense or quality of establishment and security in God that other people can see/sense in our lives.
All right – Turn to Acts 2. I want to go back to the question we asked last week: How is the quality of steadfastness developed – How do we become firmly established in our loyalty and commitment to the LORD? Last week, we said that this begins with an initial commitment to Christ. It’s when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and commit ourselves to Him as Lord. I want us to see how people in the early Church became established in Christ after this happened. Acts 2:42.
Vs. 41 describes for us what happened initially – The people heard the word of God, and they responded to His word. They heard the gospel, repented of their sins, received Christ as Savior, made a commitment to Him as LORD, they were baptized, and became part of the church, the body of Christ. So…They received the word of God and they responded. And then, it says (vs. 42) that they (NKJV) “continued steadfastly” in a number of things:
Vs. 42 – “They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s teaching.” The people came together to learn and grow. They wanted to know everything Jesus said and taught. They wanted to know Him better, and understand His purpose and will for them more completely. They came together to learn and grow.
Again, Vs. 42 – “They continued steadfastly in fellowship.” The people came together for fellowship. They enjoyed being together; they wanted to be with each other and develop relationships/friendships; they went through life together and were a church family – encouraging each other, helping each other, ministering to each other, serving each other – you see a description of that in Vs. 44-46. They came together for fellowship.
Again, Vs. 42 – “The continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread.” The people came together to “break bread.” This is probably a reference to Communion/the Lord’s Supper. These people never lost sight of Christ and His work on the Cross for them. They didn’t take it for granted or neglect it. They came together to break bread, and fulfill Christ’s command to, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”
Again, Vs. 42 – “They continued steadfastly in prayer.” The people came together for prayer. They prayed for and with each other. There was a high priority on prayer – individual and corporate.
Being steadfast begins with a personal, internal commitment that’s like the words to some of the old hymns we sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back.” “Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee!” That’s how it begins. But, along with this internal commitment, I believe that being part of a local church family is absolutely imperative if we are going to be steadfast. I believe that one of the basic reasons God created the church was to provide an environment where people can become established and grow strong and become steadfast in faith.
Would you bow your heads? I want to go back to the initial Scripture for this study – 1 Corinthians 15:58 – And I want to pray this for all of us:
“Lord Jesus, I ask that, by Your Spirit, You would establish us and would enable us to be steadfast and to stand firm in our faith. I pray that we would be immovable and unwavering in our commitment to You. Lord, make us strong! I ask that others might see the strength and security we have in You. I ask that we would be always abounding in Your work – that we would give ourselves fully, not halfheartedly, to follow Your purposes for us and to do your will. I ask that we would understand that what we do for You is not a waste of time and energy. Lord, you said that even something a simple as giving a cup of cold water to someone who’s thirsty is something You notice and are pleased with. I pray that You would be pleased with us and with our lives. Amen.