In a few weeks, chosen delegates from around the northeast United States will be converging on South Lancaster, Massachusetts, to participate in the 30th Quinquennial Session of the Atlantic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Missional reports will be shared. Officers and departmental leaders, along with an executive committee, will be elected. Statistical growth and financial reports will be given. All will be done amid a spiritual environment of praise and thanks to God for what has been accomplished over the past five years.
I’d like to focus my thoughts for this editorial around the theme chosen for this session: “Faithful to the End.” In Scripture, the Christian life is compared to a race—the race of life. We are instructed to run in such a way as to win the prize. In other words, we need to give our best efforts. There will be experiences which may challenge you and may tempt you to quit the race or divert you to a different course; but we must press on.
My encouragement to everyone today is that we might make a commitment to be faithful until the end. Baptisms and weddings have much in common. First, they’re both sacred. But also, the vows we make at our baptism are very similar to wedding vows. In both cases, we promise to love and to cherish and to remain faithful, no matter what external circumstances might come our
way. Unfortunately, for some people, the wedding vows are just glittery words, not any more valuable than the paper on which they’re written.
In Hebrews 12:1-3, however, the author reminds us that there’s a cloud of witnesses who remained faithful to the end and whose lives witness to us today. In Chapter 11, they are often referred to by many authors as the “hall of faithful witnesses.” These are men and women of faith who triumphed in their own lifetimes and left their sinful baggage behind in order to run the race with perseverance. They did this while their eyes were fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
The fact is, we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s will for our lives. Even the faithful worthies of all ages made mistakes and committed sins, but by faith, they confessed and repented of their sins and remained faithful to the end. Even though the Bible says they all died in faith without receiving the promise (see Hebrews 11:39), by faith they saw the promise from a distance. “God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection
without us”—Hebrews 11:40, NLT.
So then, we also who are surrounded by this “cloud of faithful witnesses,” are encouraged to lay down the excess baggage of life “that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT), and to finish this marathon race of life by being faithful to the end.
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ”—Hebrews 3:14.
An often quoted statement from Ellen G. White is appropriate here: “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 31.
In his book, Fan the Flame, author Joseph Stowell writes: “The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.” Indeed, the race is not just for the swift, but for those who perseveringly and enduringly are committed to the end of the race of life.
The lights of the New Jerusalem are within our imaginary view. We’re almost home. Don’t give up! Just get up! Don’t give an alibi! Give another try! We’re almost home! Hang in there! Hold on to the cross of Jesus Christ! The cross will take us home if we choose to be faithful to the end.
Donald G. King is president of the Atlantic Union Conference and chairman of the Atlantic Union College Board of Trustees.