by Bob Wilkin
My wife and I changed churches in 1992. We had been in a large Bible church. We moved to a small Plymouth Brethren church.
Zane Hodges was one of the preachers at the church. I remember hearing teaching from him on perseverance that challenged my thinking.
Before I went to the PB assembly, I thought that God more or less graded based on your life score. For example, let’s say you came to faith in Christ at age 15 and served him faithfully for 49 years. Then in the last year you stopped all service for Christ. No giving, no praying, no church attendance, no evangelism, and no identifying of yourself as a Christian. You just dropped out, not because of health issues, but because you took your eyes off the Lord’s soon return and you decided to do nothing.
I used to think that 49 out of 50 years would be 98% and that’s an A in anyone’s grading system. But no. At my new church I was taught that if you did not endure until death or the Rapture in your confession of your faith in Christ, you would not rule with Christ in the life to come even if your overall pattern of life as outstanding.
God’s grading system is different. You must finish the race if you want to win the prize (2 Tim 4:6-8).
I remember learning that 2 Tim 2:12 says precisely that, “If we endure, we shall reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will deny us.” Also the Parable of the Just and the Unjust Servant covers this very situation. A servant is doing well. If his Lord were to return at that moment, he would be made a ruler over the Lord’s good (Matt 24:47). But then the man thinks, “My master is delaying his coming” (Matt 24:48). And thus he begins to beat his fellow servants and to drink with the drunkards. The result is that forfeits the right to rule and he is instead “cut in two,” a figure of speech for a verbal rebuke.
God cares how we finish. Indeed, He requires that we finish in fellowship with Him if we wish to rule with Him in the life to come. Serve Christ faithfully for 49 years and you will have laid up a lot of treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-21). You can’t and won’t lose what you laid up. But if you cease confessing Christ (by fellowshipping with other believers and being an open Christian), then you will miss out on ruling with the Lord when He returns.
At first this bugged me. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be terrible to serve Christ for a lifetime and then miss out on His approval and praise because I fell away at the end?” Yes, it would. That was the point. That lesson actually became dear to me. Since I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17), I want to finish well. I know the issue is not my eternal destiny. But having the Lord’s approval and ruling with Him in His kingdom is what I live for. I don’t want to miss that. Nor do you.
The free gift of everlasting life produces gratitude as we reflect on Jesus’ finished work on the cross and on the wonderful everlasting life He has given us. That gratitude moves us to want to please Him and thus to finish well.
I’m nearing 65. I’ve put in over 40 years of service, having gone on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ in 1974. But my labors are far from over. If the Lord tarries and if He gives me health, I aim to keep on serving Him for decades to come. My hope for all of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is that we finish well and hear, “Well done, good servant.”