We frequently refer to the “Perseverance of the Saints” as a central doctrine of the Christian faith, but perhaps it could be more accurately called “Preservation of the Saints.” We persevere in the Lord only because the Lord graciously strives in us (Psalm 31:23-24, John 15:5, I Corinthians 15:10, Philippians 2:12-13, 4:13, cf. WCF 17.2).
At the same time, the word “preservation” conjures up images of mortuaries and formaldehyde. Though God preserves his own, “preservation” lacks the movement and outworking that “perseverance” expresses. Indeed, in a sense, Christians are dead — dead to sin once and for all, yet at the same time dying daily to sin — but the true Christian is a vital Christian. God is always working in and through him. He is never sedentary, never lifeless — he is keeping in step with the Spirit, increasing in righteousness and good works, ever being conformed to the image of Christ. Perseverance in obedience and faithfulness is never the ground of our right standing before God, but perseverance is the indication that the internal heart-change that only God can give, really is present.
I received the wisdom of a friend once that the Christian life is all about moving forward. This is a theme found throughout the New Testament. Apostle Paul said, (Philippians 3:12-16) “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Also, Jesus said, (Luke 9:62) “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” and (Luke 9:60) “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said, (Matthew 5:11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account,” and (John 16:33) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
In my own life, I have known this to be true. If trouble is absent, then we’re not doing it right.