In a race, it's not the one who starts well, but the one who finishes well who wins the prize. The Christian life is like that. It's not the one who starts well, but the one who keeps on going to the end of the road who gains the reward.
There are difficulties, there are distractions, there are temptations. But there are plenty of encouragements. Isn't it remarkable how many dozens of times the Bible tells us to "fear not"? Have you noticed how many times we are instructed to "stand fast"?
Christians are promised God's love, God's protection, God's provision, God's power and God's presence. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" we are asked. "Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord," the Bible says.
"He will not leave you nor forsake you," we are promised. "Be steadfast, immovable." "Let not your heart be troubled," said Jesus. "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
"Let us hold fast our confession," says Hebrews. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering." "Do not cast away your confidence." "Let us run with endurance that race that is set before us."
I love the story of Polycarp, the Christian in the 2nd century who had been a disciple of the apostle John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. In his old age, Polycarp was the well known and well loved leader of the church in Smyrna, in present day Turkey. It was a time of Roman persecution, and Polycarp was going to be in trouble because he was not willing to burn incense to Caesar. His friends urged him to flee, but Polycarp refused. He eventually agreed to move to a small estate outside of town.
When the Romans found him there, they escorted him to the local proconsul. Told to curse Christ and offer a pinch of incense to Caesar, Polycarp replied: "Eighty-and-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?"
It cost him his life. He was sentenced to be burned at the stake in the arena.
More than 50 years ago, I came to Christ and He took me in. I know my sins are forgiven. I know my future is secure. I have a home in heaven which He has gone to prepare for me. I have friends and relatives there waiting for me. Over the years I have failed Him, often. But He has never once failed me. So why should I believe He is going to start now?