Evangelicals & Endurance

We all know someone who began strong and bold but waned over time.  We all have met someone and they seemed to be “the one” only to quickly (and unfortunately sometimes not quick enough) find out they were not the one.  I have experienced several times while teaching JROTC cadets who started out like gangbusters. Unwisely, I became excited only to be disappointed as they failed to “endure to the end.”

            As a society we want it and we want it now. I will be the first to admit I am guilty as the next person. When I look at a YouTube or any other video medium I find myself getting impatient really quickly.  Just last week I “Googled” how to reshape a felt hat.  I found a video which was less than 2 minutes long, but after only 20 seconds or so I started getting aggravated.  Most times when you look at a YouTube video the person doing the video will spend time at the beginning of the video asking you to subscribe and hit their like button.  Now, I totally understand why they are doing it.  The problem is I just want the information so I can move on to the next “most important thing to get done” in my ever-increasing busy life.

            Theologically, the Bible speaks of individual reaction to the seed being sown (Parable of the Sower found in Matthew13).  Some respond quickly and enthusiastically yet their fidelity is not long lasting.  The cares and the trials and tribulations of life “choke” out their passion and commitment.  I am convinced that is why close to 60% of all marriage (to include Evangelical marriage) fail.  Despite consciously signing up for “better or worse,” “sickness or health,” “good times or bad times,” when worse shows up the majority split.

            My pastor has recently preached a sermon on Joshua’ erroneous decision to make a pact with the Gibeonites and the ramifications of that unwise decision.  For those who are not familiar I invite you to pursue Joshua Chapter 9. A quick sketch: The citizens of Gibeonites come to understand all of these neighbors are being wiped out (killed) by the Nation of Israel.  The leaders of Gibeon decide to use deception to get Joshua to believe they were from a far country, not eligible to fall under God’s condemnation and subsequent command to be destroyed by Israel.  They pledged their willingness to serve as slaves to Joshua and Israel in return for Israel’s protection.  While Joshua is suspicious he nonetheless agrees to the covenant.

            Very shortly thereafter Joshua becomes aware of the Gibeonite deception.  Yet, because of Joshua’s agreement to enter into a covenant (think binding contract) Joshua realizes he is ethically and morally obligated to uphold his part of the covenant. Unlike most people in today’s society Joshua understood the long-term implication of words like persistence and endurance.

One of the wondrous Bible verses, at least for me, is found in Matthew 24:13, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” One must keep the context in mind if one is to rightly divide the Word of God so let’s do that quickly. 

This passage is part of end-time prophecy.  It deals with the Seven-Year Tribulation that will take place that immediately precedes Jesus Christ’s Second Advent (Jesus’ 2nd visit to Planet Earth).  Jesus Christ is directly answering the following question, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)?”

Just for clarification I do not believe this passage is directed to the Church.  I am Dispensational in my Eschatology (theological understanding of the events take place at the end of time).  I am what is called a Premillennial Pre-Tribulation Dispensationalist. That simply means I believe Jesus Christ will come and gather all Christians who are alive at the time of His return in the air (Jesus Christ does not return to Planet Earth at this time) and take them back to heaven with Him.  This will happen in a twinkling of an eye (pretty quick).  If you have watched or read the Left Behind series you will remember this refers to a time in history where all genuine Christians who are alive at the time disappear from the face of Earth. (Those Christians who preceded by death the Christians alive are included in this gathering of saints being taken back to heaven with Jesus Christ).

A short time later will begin a Seven-Year period of unleashed mayhem upon the Earth, aka, “The Tribulation.  Jesus Christ returns at the end of this Seven-Year period and begins His 1000-year rule & reign upon the Earth.  As a result, those who “endure to the end” are those who survive the Seven-Year Tribulation period.  It is important to understand they do so not through any sense of self-effort or human ingenuity.  They survive like all people of God survive: by possessing and displaying faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, hopefully I have given you enough to have a rough sketch of the major moving parts.  I would encourage you to avail yourself of the many excellent resources on the market to learn more about the end-times.  The point I want to highlight is the need to endurance.  Evangelicals must be in it for the long haul.  If one is to survive the odyssey of marriage one will only be able to do so if they are in for the long haul.  Evangelicals will only be successful in ministry if they are in for the long haul.  Ministry is messy and ministers are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate due to a lack of understanding upfront they must be committed for the long haul.  The Apostle Paul even proclaims, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16)!”

You might ask why I believe I am duly authorized to make such a bold declaration.  I believe I can do so because if one comes to understand they are truly called to a task by God they will come to understand God is in it for, wait for it, God is in it for long haul. Let me demonstrate:

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Philippians 1:6

For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore, you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Malachi 3:6

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Number 23:19

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

            Hopefully, I have successfully driven home the point Evangelicals need to be in for the long haul.  Simply due to the inescapable reality that God is in it for the long haul.  Joshua understood once he gave his word he was in it for the long haul.  Joshua obligated himself and the entire Nation of Israel to defend the people of Gibeon who were under threat of assault from five local kings in the southern portion of the land God promised to the Nation of Israel.

            I am in for the long haul with my marriage. Come good times or bad times, when it is better, and even more, when it is worse.  Why?  Because I understand my quest for endurance honors the intent of God. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:9).”

            Let me attempt to make the connection to my thesis. My thesis is Evangelicals must recognize the virtue of eschewing the need for short-term gratification and instead embrace and delight in the long-term promise.  Unfortunately, the long-term promise MAY NOT realized in the person’s lifetime but by faith Evangelical will still take the plunge. Abraham longed for a city (Hebrews 11:10) that he eventually did not see but WILL see one day. Verse 13 of that same chapter, ” These (Abraham and a whole host of others) all died in faith, not being having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

            I am advocating no faithful Evangelical should ever vote for the lesser of two evils in a political race. Yesterday, I was confronted with the question of what to do in such a case.  I replied there are always more than two options in our current national politics.  While we typically have a Republican and a Democratic candidate Evangelicals need to understand we ALWAYS have more than only two options available to us:

Option #1: Vote for the Democratic Candidate

Option# 2: Vote for the Presidential Candidate

Option #3: Vote for a 3rd party candidate or enter a write-in candidate

Option #4: Make a conscientious decision to not vote

            I concede options 3 & 4 are NOT the most appealing options, but we live in a fallen world where sometimes we are faced with difficult decisions.  Yet, the Evangelical should NEVER compromise their integrity (that is sin whatever is not done by faith per Romans 14:23) by aligning themselves with political candidates they regard as seriously morally and/ or ethically flawed

For full disclosure ALL candidates will possess some level of sin so the issue is NEVER whether someone must be impeccable but just as potential Elders in the church will be sinners- through and through Elders still must meet the biblical qualifications of being above approach. We will all have a line where too much becomes too much.  My issue is if too much was too much for William Jefferson Clinton why was it not too much for Donald J. Trump.  This is the question I will keep pressing Caucasian Evangelicals. What was good for the goose must necessarily be good for the geese.  I keep coming back to, “I am a simple country boy from Mississippi” so things are pretty simple for me.

            The person I was engaging with remarked, “How do Evangelicals avoid the practical consequence of actually casting a vote for one of the lesser of two evil candidates from the two major parties when we choose options 3-4. Frankly, in the final analysis, we will not be able to avoid that practical consequence but that is playing the SHORT game and I am advocating Evangelicals understand we must learn to play the LONG game (ENDURANCE).

            The past two days three profound events have taken place politically affected primarily by the A-A community.

  1. Pete Buttigieg was forced to withdrawn from the Democratic Primary, due to poor support (2%) from the A-A community, even after winning the Iowa caucus
  2. Joseph Biden staved off certain departure from the Democratic Primary by winning convincingly in South Carolina, primarily due to A-A support
  3. Amy Klobuchar terminated her presidential campaign the very next day AFTER being confronted by angry A-A voters in her home state of Minnesota over their displeasure of her treatment of an A-A when she served as the prosecutor in a controversial case (I am not implying that was the ONLY reason but it certainly played “A” role)

I have many family and friends (mostly of A-A descent) who continue to vote for Democratic candidates.  They do so for a variety of reasons.  None of them that I find convincing but let me entertain one for the sake of argument: they vote Democratic because they believe the Democrats do more for social economic issues. Let’s, for the sake of argument, believe that to be a justifiable reason.  What leverage could A-A Evangelicals employ to get the leadership of the Democratic Party to modify their platform on issues like abortion, marriage and gender so a A-A Evangelical could in good conscience vote for a Democratic Candidate?

            A-A Evangelicals could realize the tremendous leverage they hold only if they have the LONG game in mind.  They must be willing to ENDURE the short term “baggage” until they get the attention of the leaders within the Democratic Party.  The short-term baggage is there would be elections in the short-term where the legitimate options will be slim pickings but you best believe the powers to be in the Democratic Party would quickly get the message.

            I work for the Edgewood Independent School District and I could radically change the conduct and academic performance of student in a relatively short time.  It will be MESSY in the short-term but just like turning the Titanic you cannot change an educational institution overnight.  I would implement demanding standards.  Disrespect and aberrant behavior would not be tolerated.  Students who systemically demonstrate there were not present to learn would be summarily dismissed.  Students with habitual absences and tardiness would be tossed (after a diligent inquiry to prevent genuine cases from being lumped erroneously into the fray).

            African Americans have in just two short days torpedoed three major political candidates.  African Americans make up a whooping 13% of the U.S. population and yet this relatively small political demographic possesses enough political juice to dispatch three candidates.

            The same leverage is available to Evangelicals in the Republican Party.  I am influenced by the late theologian R.C. Sproul.  His influence governs the working title of a book I am seeking to write. Dr. Sproul coined the phrase, “Pox on their head” as the orthodox attitude Evangelicals should have for political parties that do not advance candidates that Evangelicals can in good conscience vote for in any election.

In the presidential election of 2016 I conscientiously said, “Pox on the heads of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.  I could not and would not vote, with proper Evangelical convictions, for HRC or DJT.  If enough Evangelicals were willing to ENDURE for the LONG term then I am confident both political parties would have no choice but to defer to Evangelical wishes and demands. Yes, there would be short-term carnage. but this Earth is not our home and under ALL conditions God is in control so what do Evangelical have to fear by holding unflinchingly to Evangelical convictions.

            Evangelicals are imbedding from the well of pragmatism.  Pragmatism is based on the paradigm of choosing the option you believe has the best chance of working.  Up until recently that concept was alien and hostile to the Evangelical worldview.  Evangelicals were ONLY concerned with what was “TRUE.”  That is, Evangelicals only question was “Does it line up with Holy Scripture?”  Is it built on a sound moral and biblical basis?”

            It was not built upon “this guy gives us the best chance of getting the right judge on the Supreme Court” or “I believe he will make American great again.”  Principles like virtue, temperament and character were the basis of our political determination as they provided the best indicator of future behavior. Nothing is a guarantee, but this approach provides a more reliable source of confident we are properly aligned with the Will of God.

            I advocate Evangelicals not capitulate to political expediency.  Short-term gratitude is wholly overrated.  There are countless wives who married the wrong guy simply because they did not have the LONG game in mind.  They went for the tall, dark and handsome all the while overlooking the sure and the steady.

            To come back to my sister’s legitimate inquiry about voting for 3rd party candidates or not voting actually helping one of the lesser of the two evils.  Yes, my vote for that third-party candidate could have adversely influenced the race between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.  It could have provided the margin to shift the election to HRC but my push-back remains what is the basis of our stewardship?  Is it our actions or is it the results?  I would submit it is ONLY our actions, results belong to God.

            Frankly, I believe America is experiencing the judgment of God.  In the 2016 Presidential Election there was two severely flawed moral and ethical candidates from the two major political parties.  Short-term, Evangelicals could have chosen the lesser of the two evils but that choice placed Evangelicals in direct conflict with the Holy Writ.  We are commanded, “Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

            I am convinced if Evangelicals, of whatever political persuasion, would play the LONG game their respective party leaders would have no choice but to respond accordingly.  Look at what happened with how A-A influence negatively impacted three candidates in the Democratic Party, all in JUST two days.

            Do you think for one minute that reality IS NOT being processed in the Democratic Party by the powers to be literally as we speak?  Just imagine if A-A Evangelicals demanded Pro-Life and Traditional Marriage be given a place in the Democratic Party?  That would only happen if A-A Evangelicals were willing commit to the LONG game.

            Let me know what you think?  Until then keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve for an Audience of One.

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