Jesus Christ promised salvation only to those who "endure unto the end" (Matt. 24:13). Will you endure? Or will you be overcome by this life's trials and simply give up?
"Never give in!" So declared Winston Churchill in his famous address at Harrow School on Oct. 29, 1941. "Never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." Powerful words, those. And it was those words and words like them, spoken by one of the great leaders of modern times, Winston Churchill, which helped inspire the British people to survive the torturous rigors of World War II. While bombers crisscrossed over London, dropping their payloads on the capital city of what was then the world's greatest empire, and while mothers huddled with their babies in the 20 bomb shelters and cellars, it was this attitude of never giving in that buoyed the hearts of a war-weary people and gave them the resolve to endure. Winston Churchill's warning to "Never give in" was good advice 40 years ago during World War II, and it still is good advice today. And it should have even more meaning for us as true Christians as we daily fight the Christian fight against unseen spiritual powers — as we struggle toward God's Kingdom without chance of flight or furlough, knowing no spiritual rest until Christ's return.
No room for quitters
Clearly, Jesus Christ left no room for quitters in this Christian struggle for God's Kingdom when He said, in Matthew 24:13, "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." In this one verse Christ made plain that almost making it isn't enough. He shows that enduring is not merely one step in the salvation process — it is, in a sense, the only step. For without enduring — that is, without remaining faithful to Jesus Christ through all our trials and problems, to the very end — we simply will not be in God's Kingdom. Near misses don't count. It is easy to misread Matthew 24:13, where Christ says we must endure to the end. It is easy to assume that we will endure, and therefore interpret Christ's words as meaning we must merely be patient or good till the end. But the history of God's Church shows that Christ knew exactly what He was saying. Over the years, many who were seemingly converted and who joined the fellowship of God's Church have, for various reasons, gone back into this world. Surprising? Does a person's failure to endure show that his pastor or the Church in general somehow failed to do its part? No. The Church has not failed; the person himself did. He neglected to endure. Christ knew that this would happen and designed the trials of this end time for the very purpose of sifting the quitters from among us. So be careful! There is no room for self-righteousness in our quest to endure to the end. Just because you are reading this article and have endured till now does not mean that you have made it or that you are safe. You have not yet endured to the end because the end has not come yet. Yes, we all have endured until now, by God's mercy and patience, but we have not endured to the end. We have not yet faced the future and the trials it will surely bring our way. We cannot assume we have endured much at all, for we may not yet have been tried severely. True, the Church in general has faced numerous heavy trials, but not every person in God's Church has been heavily tried. Something which may try one may not try another, and vice versa. It may be a trial for a starving man to miss one more meal, but for a well-fed American to miss breakfast or supper is only a minor inconvenience. The well-fed American and the starving man may have both missed the same meal, but it can hardly be said that both really endured. So don't sit in judgment or pompously presume to know how well you'll fare in the future. Even the apostle Paul knew he himself could miss out on salvation, even after preaching it to others: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (I Cor. 9:27).
How to endure
Christ's admonition that we should endure unto the end is in itself a solemn prophecy that Christians will have difficult times, for enduring implies the presence of trials. And trials will surely come upon each of us at one time or another: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you" (I Pet. 4:12). No, it is not strange. It is, indeed, God's very planned method for dealing with us to build character. And because it is God's plan and method for building character and preparing us for His Kingdom, it is absolutely necessary that we should endure all such trials. It is not good enough that we almost or nearly endure, or that we endure even for a little while. No, we simply must "endure unto the end." But how? How can we make sure that we will endure throughout the future, when we do not even know what the future will bring to us as individuals? How can we be sure that we will "never give in"? The answer can be found in the character of the same man, Winston Churchill, who admonished his nation to never give in, in the famous speech cited earlier. In another speech, this one on Dunkirk in the House of Commons, June 4, 1940, he displayed the quality of character that would catapult the British people through the darkest hours of the empire. He said: "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender." More than any other quality, that statement oozes the ingredient that will insure that we will endure to the end of whatever trials or troubles we may face. That quality is resolve. Resolve is the determination to reach the goal no matter what. Resolve helped bring the British through World War II. Resolve helped David slay Goliath, Daniel face the lions, Christ face His tormentors and Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong face the severe trials that have come upon him in bringing God's truth to you and me. And resolve will see us to the end of our Christian struggle. But we are not born with resolve. No, it must be built into our character. Here is a process that, if followed, can help us walk in the paths of men who finished their course and kept the faith, like Abraham, David, Daniel and Jesus Christ.
Concentrate on the goal
The first step in building resolve is revealed in the examples of faithful servants of God like Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens" and faced numerous other trials and temptations (Heb. 11:32-34). How did these men and women gain the resolve to face these trials — the determination to endure until the end? Verse 13 tells us: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them." In other words, they saw clearly the goal of the Kingdom of God and they desperately wanted it above all else. "For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country" [that they seek the Kingdom of God] (verse 14). We can endure to the end if we plant the goal of God's Kingdom in our minds with burning desire. If someone wants something badly enough, he will get it. God will not withhold the Kingdom from us if it is truly our main goal.
Refuse to accept the possibility of failure
But even seeing the goal clearly and wanting it is not enough. After clearly seeing the goal, a person must consciously reject, as simply unthinkable, the failure to reach that goal. To learn to reject failure as unthinkable, we must clearly look failure in the eye. We must admit to ourselves that failure is possible if we allow it, but then we must shudder at its prospect and simply reject it once and for all as a path we will not follow. If we do this, our trials simply become hurdles to overcome rather than dead-end brick walls to stop our progress. Paul displayed this attitude when he wrote of his own trials, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (II Cor. 4:8-9). Realize this: One who refuses to accept failure must succeed. Winston Churchill refused to accept failure by saying and believing: "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end.... We shall never surrender." He succeeded. So can — so must — we!
Willingness to pay any price
To these two steps a person must add yet another ingredient: the willingness to pay any price to be in God's Kingdom — no matter what the cost. This means a willingness to face any trial, no matter how severe or anxious. Jesus Christ expressed this willingness in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He prayed that the cup of His crucifixion might pass but reaffirmed that He would drink the cup if it were God's will. And Winston Churchill reaffirmed his attitude of paying any price when he said: "We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air... We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be." Have you ever found yourself saying, " I could never go through such and such a trial if it were to happen to me"? If you have, you have not yet made the commitment to pay any price no matter what. In the hidden recesses of your mind, you doubt whether you could face — or would be willing to face — some horrible trial that may come upon you, whether through your own fault or not. Yet if we are not sure we could face any trial, how can God be sure — unless He perhaps brings that very trial upon us? No, we should not hope that severe trials come upon us, but we should resolve in advance to accept whatever trial may come and be willing to pay the price if need be. God promises that no trial will come upon us that we cannot bear (I Cor. 10:13), but He does not promise that no trials will come upon us that we think we are not able to bear. We must make up our minds now that no trial of any type will be too great. If we fear any trial, we are admitting that something exists that could stop us from enduring unto the end.
Seek help from man and God
The final key for gaining the resolve necessary to endure to the end is to seek help from both man and God. As true Christians we should help each other endure our trials and tribulations. Ecclesiastes 4:9- 10 shows the value of a friend when it says, "Two are better than one... For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up." All of us at one time or another need the help of a brother or a friend. We should all be willing to give help when needed, but we should also all be willing to receive help when needed. Lest any of us think ourselves too independent to receive help from another, we should reread the story of Elijah. Even Elijah, who had been fed miraculously by a raven, needed the help and provisions of a poor widow (I Kings 17). And when the discouraged Elijah felt that he must have been the only person on earth trying to serve God, it inspired him to find that he was not alone — that others were remaining faithful to God (I Kings 19:9-18). Read how Jesus Christ endured: "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2). Notice that although Christ is credited with having endured the cross, even He — Jesus, the Savior, the Son of God and the Messiah — received help from a mere human in the person of Simon of Cyrene, who bore the cross for Him (Matt. 27:32). If Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, endured the cross with the help of a physical man who bore it for Him, how much more should you or I accept the well intentioned, helping hand of a brother or sister in Christ, or the hand of a minister who extends himself to us in our time of need? Of course, our greatest help comes not from man but from God, to whom we turn in prayer and humble supplication in our time of need. With God's help we can endure all things and make it into God's Kingdom.
Face events with hope
If we implement these points, we shall follow in the footsteps of the great people of the Bible. And, as Job boldly faced his trials and, through spiritual ups and downs, saw it through to the end, so also shall we face prophesied events with hope and determination. The apostle James spoke of Job's determination and said: "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" (Jas. 5:11). The Lord who was pitiful and of tender mercy toward Job because Job endured will be pitiful and of tender mercy toward us if we resolve to endure. For, as Christ so clearly said, "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24:13). Salvation is the greatest show of "tender mercy" God can give a human! Remember Winston Churchill's advice: "Never give in, never, never, never, NEVER!"