What will it take for you to ‘make it’ to the end? What is your plan to stay faithful, to keep going until you are 60, 70, even 80 years old? I am one year away from 70. I remember when I was young, I really couldn’t imagine how I was going to stay faithful until I was an old man. I honestly didn’t even think I would live to be an old man! I know now that I only made it because of my relationships.
First and foremost, is my relationship with God. The first scripture of the first study, Psalm 119:1-2, is the key to longevity. Seeking God is the only way to stay faithful for the long haul. I can also testify that God seeks us. (John 4:23) He has never let go of me, even when I let go of Him. I left Him twice. The first time, when Jeanne and I were very young, and we had just given birth to our second child, I stopped coming. I just announced to Jeanne one Sunday morning that I was going fishing instead of going to church. Fortunately, she and the children went without me and left me to come home to an empty house.
The next week I did the same thing. Then our Bible Talk leader at that time, got with me and gently instructed me, 2 Timothy 2:25, through carefully chosen words and scriptures. I came back to the fellowship but then 20 years later, when the church we were attending began to struggle, and our teen boys pulled away from us, I fell away in my heart. I continued to attend with a bitter, resentful heart. It would only have been a matter of time before I would have left but Jeanne and I visited the new movement of God that had begun in Portland, and I immediately knew that I had to make a radical change to revive my relationship with God.
Within a couple of months, we moved to LA. At that time, my heart still had a lot of anger and bitterness. I remember saying to Jeanne: “I hope someone ‘makes my day’ by trying to tell me what to do; I will let them have it!” Fortunately, God continued to chip away at the hardness of my heart and as I saw His movement come to life again, I became open to discipling. At this time, God allowed Carlos Mejia to come into my life. Little did I realize, what a profound impact this young Latino man would have on my life. Our relationship was lifechanging for me. Although he is more than 20 years younger than me, he discipled my heart like few men have ever done.
I have really only had a couple of relationships over the years that were as transforming as my relationship with Carlos, but I have learned many lessons from conversations ‘seasoned with salt’ and sermons that set my hair on fire! I remember one sermon that Kip McKean preached in Gainesville, FL at a conference in 1985; his words inspired Jeanne and me to visit the Boston conference that same fall. I felt like scales were lifted off my eyes at that conference. It changed the course of our lives and we longed to be part of a ‘totally committed’ church as they were called back then.
Fast forward 20 years, and once again, it was a recorded sermon that we listened to, by none other than Kip, that prompted us to visit the new movement. Never underestimate the power of words spoken from the pulpit or in a spiritual conversation. I was brought back to the fellowship by my Bible talk leader back in 1982 and called out of lukewarmness by a sermon in 1985, and then motivated to give up everything and move across country in 2006 because of a sermon. Then, while living in LA, I was patiently restored by those who discipled my heart with the word and called me to repent of my bitterness. We are changed by relationships.
Finally, we are changed by God’s word as we study it for ourselves and we allow others to disciple our hearts with it. Peter said in his second letter that we have to add to our faith, goodness, and to goodness, knowledge. Where does the only real knowledge come from? The Word. In that same passage, 2 Peter 1:5 – 9, he says that adding knowledge then allows us to add perseverance. Without perseverance, you will NOT make it to the end. I recommend you read or re-read the disciplined life to get conviction that self-control and perseverance go handin-hand.
You really have no idea what God will call you to persevere through; you just have to be determined to persevere. If you seek God throughout your life, and you allow relationships with people to change you as you strengthen yourself through the word, you will be writing an article like this in 50 years to encourage other young disciples to stay in it for the long haul! – Jack McGee