The New Testament calls us to a different kind of ethic – it’s a new kind of obedience. It’s not one measured in adherence to a code, but an obedience that’s through and through – not just doing right, but being right. Not just acting with love, but truly loving. Not just willingly acting but feeling it as well. But in the middle of all of these demands, there is one that isn’t quite as exciting:
Don’t give up.
Persevere to the end.
Or, as Journey might put it, don’t stop believin’:
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us…” Hebrews 12:1
“If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us…” 2 Timothy 2:12
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24:13
During those days, these verses were read largely in the context of persecuted believers, or in the prediction of persecution to come. Faith was or would be challenged with loss, and in light of the cost, many would abandon their confession. They would reject what they believed. They would give up and stop running the race of faith.
But I don’t currently live in a persecuted state, and I’m not often tempted to give up my beliefs based on threats of property seizure, social loss, or outright violence. Likely, if you’re reading this, you might not either. But the exhortations to remain in the faith are still there. It seems like a good time, then, for me (and others who live in relative freedom like me) to ask the question of our own selves:
If not persecution, what will make us give up our faith?
You could probably point to many things, so here’s one more to throw into the mix: materialism. Greed. Prosperity. This is what might make us give up our faith. To understand why, though, you have to dig in a bit to the basis of Christianity, and then how prosperity puts a challenge to it.
Christianity is, from the beginning, a humiliating religion. To come to Christ, you can be full of all kinds of sin. But the one thing that you cannot be full of is pride. That’s because the message of the Christianity is a self-debasing one – you are dead in your sin, and you can’t ultimately help yourself out of that condition. You are a person in the worst kind of need.
Understanding that helps us see why prosperity might be the thing in prosperous nations of the world that might most make us abandon our faith. With money comes misplaced security. With money comes misplaced confidence. With money comes the altered sense of self that makes us forget or neglect why we came to the cross in the first place.
Money makes us forget our need of God, and with that forgetfulness comes the abandonment of the gospel.
So be careful, all of us who are rich. Be careful that your money does not replace your God. Be careful that your money does not keep you from believing.