An ESPN sportscaster was diagnosed with cancer. He was given 3 to 6 months to live. A year later he received an award, and in the last part of his acceptance speech, he said, "I will never give up, I will never give in, and I will continue to keep on fighting."
[Kent Foraker] You know, Craig Sager was a sideline reporter for TNT's broadcast of NBA basketball games for 20 years. He was well-known. He was respected by the players, the coaches, the peers. But in March of 2015, he was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctors gave him three to six months to live. The next year, July 2016, Craig was a recipient of the Jim Valvano Award and it's an award for perseverance. And that was at the ESPN ESPY awards. I like to read just a few excerpts from his acceptance speech. Craig Sager said, "When you're diagnosed with a terminal disease like cancer, leukemia, your perception of time changes… You know, time is something that cannot be bought, it cannot be wagered with God. There's not an endless supply of it. Time is simply how you live your life."
He went on to say, "I'm not an expert on time or on cancer or life itself… but if I've learned anything through all this, is that each day is a canvas waiting to be painted. An opportunity for love, an opportunity for fun, an opportunity for living and learning." He concluded by saying, "Whatever I might have imagined this terminal diagnosis would do to my spirit, is summoned quite the opposite — it gave me the greatest appreciation for life. So I will never give up. I will never give in and I will continue to keep on fighting."
You know, I found that very interesting, some of the things that he spoke about, a perspective of time. You know, when you're faced with very limited time, you have a different outlook on your life. That each day should be lived to the full. That each day has hope. Each day has something to be learned. But what I really want to zero in on for this message today is how he finished his speech. He finished the speech by saying, "I will never give up. And I will never give in." You know, none of us, and I especially don't know what decisions I would make if I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that would threaten my physical life, but I do know that in the spiritual life that God has called us to, that we must never give up. We must never give in.
Are we willing to fight that hard for our spiritual lives? Do we have that attitude of never give up, never give in? You know, we've had the opportunity to celebrate the Feast these past seven days. We've had a wonderful Feast here, a time of rejoicing, a time of spiritual feasting as well. But the question I have for you today, will you be at the Feast next year? Will you be at the Feast of Tabernacles? And most importantly, will you be living God's life when either God's Kingdom comes or when your physical life is over? Will you still be living God's way of life?
You know, today for this sermon, I want to talk and examine two areas of the Bible that I think that you need to have if you're never going to give up and you're never going to give in. And those two attributes are perseverance and endurance. Perseverance and endurance. You know, before I get too far along with this message, the endurance, and perseverance I'm talking about, it's not just hanging on to God's truth, but doing something with it. It's very important to hang on to God's truth that we've been given, but it's more important to put it into practice in our lives. You know, Revelation 3:12 tells us that we must overcome. We must overcome to be a part of God's family and part of His Kingdom. And if we're going to be overcomers, we need to be transformed, transformed into the very character of God. It's not easy, but it will take perseverance and it will take endurance.
You know, God wants us to be growing in His godly love. He wants us to be growing in peace and in mercy and in faithfulness. The fruits of God's Spirit is outlined in Galatians 5. But how much are we willing to never give in and to always persevere? You know, it's much like the talents, talked about the talents in the Bible. You know, God expects us to do much more with our lives and just hang on to His truth. He wants us to be transformed. He wants us to emulate His Son, Jesus Christ every day in how we live. And that will take perseverance and it will take endurance. The definition for perseverance is “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition… despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” In other words, not to give in.
If you turn over to Romans 5. Romans 5, I'll read verses 1 to 4. These are some very inspiring Scriptures or verses to me. Romans 5, starting in verse 1, it says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, rejoice in the hope and glory of God." You know, Paul's telling us that we have access to grace, that we're justified by faith, and that we should glory in God. Those are great things. But in verse 3 he goes on to tell us, "Not only that, that you glory in your tribulations, knowing that tribulations produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope."
You know, none of us really like to go through trials. But here Paul tells us that they'll produce godly character and godly character is what each of us need to be a part of God's family. You know, the definition for endurance is “the ability to sustain prolonged stressful effort or activity.” And the root of that is endure. And endure means “to undergo hardship without giving in.” Undergo hardship without giving in. You turn over to James 5:7. It talks about things that we need to learn in this life, something that's kind of hard for us to do. James 5:7-8, it says, "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how a farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain?" Verse 8 says, "And you also be patient. Establishing your heart, for the coming of the Lord is at hand."
You know, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, he explains it like this. It says, "As a farmer in due time expects the return of the rain, so you may anticipate deliverance from your trials. Let your purpose and your faith be firm and unwavering. Do not become weary or fretful. But bear consistently all that's laid upon you until the time of your deliverance comes." You know, Jesus Christ told us in Matthew 10:22, He says, "But he who endures to the end will be saved." So for the rest of this message, I have five short points on how we can develop spiritual perseverance and endurance and so we can successfully complete the journey that God called each of us to.
The first point is spiritual perseverance and endurance requires having a goal. Just put down it requires having a goal. You know, anything that's going to take effort, that's going to take difficulties, that we may have failures at time or opposition at time, any real goal we're striving for has to be an important goal in our lives. And, brethren, we have a very important goal in our lives. You don't need to turn there, but I want to quote a scripture that all of us are very familiar with. That's Matthew 13:44-46. Please don't turn there. I'll just read this out the New Living. It says, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. And when a man found it, he hid it again and then he went in his joy and sold all that he had and bought that field."
Verse 46 says “Again, the Kingdom of God is like a merchant looking for pearls. And when he found that one of great value, he sold everything he had and he bought it!” Brethren, we have a great goal if we'll keep it in mind. You know, in this physical life I think we sometimes get excited about trivial things. I know in my life, I'm sure… I'm not going to ask for a show of hands, but how many times have you found something on sale? Maybe, say, $10 or $20, something that you wanted or something that was on clearance. You come home all excited about it. And that's just our physical lives that we do this. I'm sure I'm not the only one that's ever done that. How much more important is God's Kingdom? How much more important is being able to be a part of God's family?
Just as we read, it's of great value. It's of great, great value. We need to keep that goal in mind because it will help us to persevere. It'll help us to endure. It'll help us to have endurance till the end of our race. You know, Matthew 6:33 tells us to put God's Kingdom first in how we live our lives. Put God's Kingdom first. That's the goal that each of us should have. Each of us should have that goal every day in how we live our lives, in anything that we do that day.
The second point I want to bring out is you must be prepared spiritually. If you're going to endure and persevere, you must be prepared spiritually. If you turn over to Matthew 24. Matthew 24, we'll read verses 43 through 46. We must be spiritually prepared. Matthew 24 starting in verse 43, it says, "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming in an hour you do not expect. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whose master made ruler over his house, and give food in due season? Blessed is the servant whose master, when he comes finds so doing."
You know, Matthew 25 tells us more about being prepared spiritually, talks about the parable of the five foolish virgins and the five wise virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come. You know, we need to be preparing spiritually. We need to study our Bibles. We need to be praying to maintain our spiritual health. You know, I've talked to different people. Sometimes when you tell people, "You need to be studying more, you need to be studying something," they say, "Well, you know, I don't really like to study." Well, something I've been doing over the last few years is the One Year Online Bible. I know I've talked to several people here at the Feast that use that reading program and it's something that you can use every day. It's something that you can use every day. The one I read has part of the Old Testament, part of the New Testament. It has Psalms and a couple of Proverbs every day. It helps keep me focused.
It's not the only study that I do. There's always things I'm always studying, you know, preparing for messages and stuff. But if you read something that day that you don't quite understand, it gives you the opportunity to learn, to study even more. If you turn to Ephesians 6. Ephesians 6, we'll read verses 11 through 13. If we're going to be equipped spiritually to persevere and endure, these are some very important verses to read. Ephesians 6:11 tells us, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
You know, Paul goes on to detail what we're supposed to be equipped with. He talks about the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit. Do we have our spiritual armor on when we go out every day? Or is your spiritual armor may be sitting in the closet, maybe sitting… maybe your Bible sits on the bookshelf? You know, we always need to be prepared spiritually because Satan is out there. As we're told, he's a roaring lion. He's out there to try to defeat us. He's out there to wear us down. But God has handpicked each and every one of us here today, those of who are at home, those who are listening. He's chosen us.
We need to be prepared spiritually. We need to be prepared spiritually. We need to continue to use the Holy Spirit that God gives us. We need to be prepared that way, but it takes action. It's going to take effort on our part. So we need to be sure that we're spiritually prepared so that we can persevere and endure.
The third point I want to bring out is you need to be able to handle setbacks and discouragement. Setbacks and discouragement. If you're going to persevere and endure spiritually, there'll be setbacks. There'll be discouragement along the way. You know, many things in our lives don't work out as we have planned. But that doesn't mean God's not still in control. So what do we do when our plans don't work out? Do we blame God? Do we try to take matters into our own hands? Or are we patient? Are we willing to wait on God? Do we put our faith and our trust in God? Do we use those times to draw us closer? Do we use those times to pray for His will to be done?
You know, the Bible is full of examples, if you want to study them, of those who have gone before us that persevered, that endured throughout their whole lives. You know, we live in a world that doesn't have much patience, doesn't want to wait on anybody. But, you know, there's times that we need to wait. There are times that we need to wait on God. It's not to wait on God to do something that we can do ourselves. It's just to wait on God and wait for answers. Wait for answers in those trials, in those tests that we run into spiritually or physically. We need to have patience. You know, Jesus Christ, the author and the finisher of our salvation, will finish what He started within us. We just need to put our faith and our trust in Him. He'll never let us down. He'll never leave us or forsake us. And in those trying times that happen to all of us, those are times we need to draw closer to God. And there'll be difficult times. There are difficult times in everybody's life. But we need to make sure that we are able to endure and persevere through those.
If you turn over to 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 11, we'll read verses 24 through 28. Speaking of trials of those in the Bible, Paul went through a lot of trials in his life. I want to just read a few of these to you today. 2 Corinthians 11, we'll start in verse 24. It says, "From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; and once was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day in the deep; journeys often, perils of waters, perils of robbers, perils of my own countrymen, perils of the Gentiles, perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, and in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — beside other things, that have come upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches."
You know, this is a list of trials that's almost hard to believe. I'm not discounting any trials that we go through. But he has talked about being shipwrecked, about being beaten, perils of robbers, hunger and thirst. Those are some serious trials that Paul was able to endure, that he was able to persevere through. You know, when we're facing a life-threatening disease that I talked about in the intro, or when we're watching a loved one battle a life-threatening disease, those are some of the most difficult times in our lives. We need perseverance to be strong through those times.
If you turn to 1 Peter, 1 Peter 1, we'll read verses 6 and 7. 1 Peter 1 and starting in verse 6 says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials. That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory the revelation of Jesus Christ." You know, God's going to test every one of us that's going to be in His Kingdom. He's going to test our character. He's going to test to see what we're made out of and He's going to refine us just like gold. And He's refining us to be useful servants in His Kingdom. When we're called out of this world, God can't use us like we are. We're not much good to God at that point in time. But when we grow in His godly character, and when we grow in how He wants us to be in His fruits of His Spirit, we become precious to Him and we'll be useful to Him.
When we talk about persevering and enduring, the best part is we don't have to do it on our own. You know, God blesses us with His Holy Spirit to guide us, to strengthen us. And as I spoke about earlier, we have the great plan of God in our minds and in our hearts that give us the encouragement to go on each day, to give us hope. We understand that this physical life is just temporary and that our real-life will begin when we become part of God's family in His Kingdom. You know, Satan's always there to discourage us. He wants to make us think that God's way of life is too hard. But nothing can be further from the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can be a part of God's family if we continue to live this way of life. We need to be on guard that we don't become discouraged to where we want to give up. God will never give up on us.
If you turn over to Philippians 1. Philippians 1, we'll read verses 3 through 6. Philippians 1 starting verse 3, it says, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making a request for you with all joy, for with the fellowship in the gospel from this last day until now, being confident of this thing, that He who began a good work… he who has begun a good work in you will be able to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." God is more than able to complete the work that He started in us. And as I was saying earlier, we just need to make sure that we do our part, that we don't give up. You know, spiritual endurance requires strength and stamina. And I've already started talking a little bit about that strength and stamina, where that comes from. It requires strength and stamina.
If you'll turn over to the Psalms 28. Psalms 28, we'll read verse 7 through 29. We have strength and stamina that comes not from ourselves but from God, and it's a wonderful thing what God gives us. Psalms 28 starting verse 7 says, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, in my song I will praise Him. The Lord is their strength, He's a saving refuge of His anointed. Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance; shepherd them, and bear them up forever." Do we pray for that strength and stamina? God's willing to give it to us if we ask Him for it if we ask Him for help. We have His promise. He promises He'll never leave us or forsake us, but He does want us to ask for that help. To persevere and to endure will take God's help. It'll take God's Spirit. And that's the real strength and where our stamina should come from.
The last point I want to bring out today is spiritual perseverance and endurance requires optimism. It requires optimism. Are you an optimist in your life or are you a pessimist? "God's not hearing my prayers. I keep praying, is God up there? Is God hearing them?" God's up there hearing them. Trust me. Maybe you have thoughts of, "I'll never overcome this sin," or "I'll never escape this trial." Do we sometimes let those thoughts creep into our mind? If you turn over to Philippians, Philippians 4, we'll read verses 10 through 13. And we'll read this out of the NIV. Philippians 4 and starting in verse 10. Starting in verse 10, it says, "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but had no opportunity to show it. I'm not saying this because I'm in need, for I've learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know what it's like to be in need, I know what it is to have plenty. I've learned the secret of content to be content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
And that was coming from Paul. It's coming from the same apostle that prayed earnestly that God would take a thorn out of his flesh, and God answered him… the answer God gave him was, “No.” You know, Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 prayed three times that that flesh… that thorn in the flesh should be taken away. But it wasn't. And God told him that his grace was sufficient for him. You know, sometimes we receive the answer no in our lives, and we have to be willing to accept that answer. We have to be willing to be content when God allows those circumstances to happen to us. You know, none of us can change the past. None of us can change things that we've done in the past. We can only change what happens in the future. We need to make sure that we're not stuck in the past, but we're looking forward. Keep looking forward in this life that we live.
If you turn to 2 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, we'll read in chapter 1 and we'll read verses 2 through 6. And I'll read this out the New Living Translation, talking about being optimistic, talking about going through trials. 2 Corinthians 1 starting in verse 2 says, and this is how the New Living Translation says, God can give us comfort because we have His promise that He will help us. “May God our Father the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. And all praise to God, the Father and Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in our troubles so we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with comfort through Christ. And even though we are weighed down with troubles, it is your comfort and salvation! For we ourselves are comforted, and we certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer."
You know God's Holy Spirit is a comfort not only to us but the opportunity to comfort others. We need to make sure that we do those things. We can pray for that comfort and we can look for the opportunity to comfort others. And we need to live our lives being optimistic in all that we do. You know, as I wrap up this message today, I want to talk to the various groups that we have here. I want to talk to the young among us. You know, I was seven years old when I started attending the Feast of Tabernacles. I started out young and now I'm old. Please believe me when I tell you, those among us who are young, there's nothing of real value in this world. It's not just your parents' church. God's way can be your way and God has given you a great opportunity, a great opportunity to choose to live your way of life.
Hang on to God's truth and God's way of life. If you feel like you're missing out on life, trust me when I tell you that you're not. You'll find out that God's way, the only thing that you're missing out, is the world's heartache, the world's trouble, living a life of no hope, of no real hope and really no real meaning. What God has in store for you is more than you can imagine. Choose your friends wisely. Let those that influence you, choose those wisely as well. Remember that the easy way has very little reward in this physical life. God's given you a wonderful opportunity. Take a hold of it. God is offering it to you. Never let go of it. Never give in to the ways of this world.
You know, for those of us going back to our jobs, back to our everyday lives, don't be overcome by the world. Don't be overcome by the world. We live in a world of distractions. We live in a world that tries to take all of our time just to make a living. It wears us out at times, both physically and mentally just to make ends meet. Make sure you take the time for God. Make sure you take the time for your family. Make sure you take time for your spiritual family. Stay focused on what's truly important.
There may be those out among us who are struggling with an addiction or a sin that you can't seem to get past. Please reach out for help from your pastor or for professional help. You know, I was struck by a statistic that said one in seven people will face a substance addiction sometime in their life. You know, that statistic would be even higher when you look at other types of addictions that people are subject to. If you're struggling with one of those things, don't give up. Don't give in. Seek help. God will help you overcome it.
For the seniors among us, you already know about persevering. You also already know about enduring. You've kept the faith, and like Paul, your race may be getting close to being finished. Getting old is not for the faint of heart. Continue to help mentor those at church. Encourage those that you're able to. Pray for God's people and God's church. Continue to be strong. Finish the race that God started in you.
I want to conclude in Romans 8. Romans 8, we'll read verses 37 through 39. You know, Paul wrote these words of encouragement and I want to finish this message reading them. Romans 8 starting in verse 37 says, "Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is Jesus Christ our Lord." You know, God is there to help us if we don't give up. If we stay committed to Him and His calling. Enduring spiritually will take perseverance. Getting back up when you're knocked down, either spiritually or physically, will be hard. God will never give up on us. We need to make sure that we never give up, that we never give in when it comes to living God's way of life.