“I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
SAVING FAITH INVOLVES THREE THINGS: CREDENCE IN THE TRUTH, CONFIDENCE IN GOD, AND CONSTANCY IN OUR COMMITMENT. We must finish what we started when we confessed our faith and were baptized into Christ, and we will be lost if we can’t say what Paul said at the end of his life: I have kept the faith.
Reaching forward is an important idea, and most people would say it’s a good thing to do. But I hear some folks talking about it as if it were optional. It is, however, anything but optional. When we obeyed the gospel, we committed ourselves to reaching forward. We made what amounted to a public promise to strive for heaven the rest of our lives. And if we ever quit doing that, we’ve broken the most important promise we ever made.
But the promise to keep the faith and to keep reaching forward is like other promises in that it often ends up being harder to keep than we thought it would be at the time we made it. Even if we carefully “count the cost,” we can’t know all of what the future may entail. So our commitment to keep the faith is the signing of an open-ended contract: we must keep the faith . . . no matter what.
In the Scriptures, there is a steady emphasis on what we would call “following through.” Hear Paul, for example, urging the Corinthians to do as they said they would about the contribution for the needy saints in Jerusalem: “You also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have” (2 Corinthians 8:11).
If we take God seriously, keeping our commitment to Him is going to involve some surprises. Some of these may be pleasant, but others will be difficult. (Imagine Abraham’s surprise the morning he got up and heard the Lord say, “I want you to sacrifice your son.”) But if the only promises we keep are the easy ones, what kind of character is that? When David asked, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?” (Psalm 15:1), one of the answers was: “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (v.4). If you don’t know what that means, then try this translation: “He who stands by his pledge at any cost” (Jerusalem Bible).
“Dependability: fulfilling what I agreed to do even though it requires unexpected sacrifices” (Bill Gothard).