Just surviving? Its OK
I can't remember how many times I have told congregations and our students at Moore that the Christian life is one in which we should thrive, rather than just survive.
I now repent of this.
I used to say “thriving is normal” because the Scriptures speak of the gospel advancing, the Kingdom growing, God's people being changed from one degree of glory into another as we behold the face of God in Christ. The Scriptures say God, who has begun a good work in you, will bring it to completion on the day of Christ.
Persevering not thriving
But then, what about Hebrews 11?
In that great chapter on the heroes of faith, the writer concludes with a commendation from God not for thriving, but for persevering in the midst of difficulties. This echoes the apostle Paul's words in 2 Corinthians.
I am convinced that the lasting character of the Christian life is perseverance. All else can be 'faked' except for this. It is perseverance we are called to. Not success.
This has massive pastoral implications. For those who are confident in their abilities, we need to ensure they see that perseverance is the work of God in them. For the many who struggle, wondering if God has deserted them, or whether they are worthy to own the name of Jesus, we need to remind them that the great work of God in them, in the midst of suffering, is that they are sticking with Jesus.
Every year I have dozens of conversations with lovely, tender-hearted believers, concerned that they are not truly Christian because all they manage to do is survive from day to day.
As I hear the stories, I am amazed at how God has held them in very difficult circumstances, and rejoice that they have clung to Jesus. I try to turn their thinking to how God has carried them, and supported them, and how honourable they have been in times of hardship. The day of thriving will come when some of the present situations will be past history.
The old categories I held of “surviving” and “thriving” are wrong, and can cause real pastoral damage.
I am not sure if there is an equally catchy alternative. But the Bible speaks of persevering and living appropriate to the circumstances, aware of the care of our loving God.