One time during a long plane trip, I watched a car race across the cabin’s main movie screen. It was exciting and nerve-wracking to see these daring race car drivers risking every bone in their body, pushing speed, skill and chance to extreme limits, just to be the first to cross the finish line. Soon, I picked one who would surely be the winner. He was ahead of everyone else and seemed to cleverly outmaneuver anyone who tried to steal his lead. But to my greatest surprise, he didn’t get the trophy. In fact, he didn’t even complete the race. With just a few laps to go, a tire suddenly came off and his car slammed into the barricades on the sidelines. Another driver came from far behind and used the moment of confusion to overtake everyone else and win the prize.
The whole thing made me think about the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:30 and 24:13: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” and “he who endures to the end shall be saved.” These words are quite sobering if we take them to heart.
Some believers start out extremely well. They are so excited to share the love of God with everyone around them. Their faces are glowing and it seems like they have an extra measure of faith and boldness. This is wonderful, and I am grateful for these brothers and sisters. However, only time will tell if they will endure until the end. Sadly, the track record shows that many believers who have had such a good start do not actually finish the race.
Then there are others who have a very rough beginning. They are clumsy, fumble around and seem to take forever to make a few steps forward.
However, according to Jesus, it is not how we start the race that matters, but how we end it.
Let’s suppose that we’ve all made it out of the starting blocks and now we are running successfully, one lap after another. We work hard, pray faithfully, keep our doctrines straight, pay our tithes, attend our churches and suffer hardship for Christ. Everything looks good. Now, if we can only keep it up until the end, we’re in good shape and we will surely win the prize, right? Wrong!
This is exactly what the older brother of the prodigal son thought (see Luke 15:11-32). He believed that his father expected him to endure in all the hard work he was doing and in all the activity and service on the farm. But he was the one who ended up standing outside his father’s house, grumbling, while his younger brother, who had wasted everything he had, was inside enjoying his father’s love.
If it is not work we are supposed to endure in until the end, what is it then? Jesus gives the answer in Matthew 24:12-13: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
It’s love that we must endure in. That’s the key to everything else. If our love endures, then our works will automatically endure, because love is the driving force for all that happens in God’s kingdom.
Our concern must be to never allow outside circumstances, such as increasing wickedness in the society we live in, or things that happen to us, such as personal suffering, to cause our hearts to become cold.
The love Jesus wants enduring in our hearts is the love of Calvary, which caused Him to die for us while we were still sinners and enemies of God. If that same love is truly living in us, it will not only manifest itself toward God, but also toward the weakest of our brothers and sisters and toward those who have yet to know of Christ.
Amy Carmichael said, “If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and sins of any . . . then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
How many times have I fallen short in this area in my own life, especially when I was younger! I would compare my commitment to Christ and my hard work with that of other Christians, and condemn them and cut down those who fell short in these areas.
The problem was not maintaining high standards, but with my lack of love. I tried to make people better by criticizing and fighting with them instead of pouring out unceasing love and tears, and being broken on their behalf.
The true love of Calvary will help us lift up a struggling brother when he stumbles, carry him when he is too weak to walk and weep and intercede for him when he fails. Instead of being frustrated when it feels like he’s the weakest link in the chain, we will seek to lighten his burden lest he break.
I remember talking with several people in leadership during one particular season who wondered what to do with people who didn’t measure up in one area or another. My advice was this: “Brother, the answer is love, which will produce fasting and prayer and care for them on your part.”
May the Lord give us grace to endure in love until the end. This is what Jesus is looking for in all of us who run the race and desire to win the prize.
Click here to listen to messages by KP Yohannan, Metropolitan.