At LightHouse on Sunday night I was asked how we spot those at risk of not enduring, or spot it in ourselves? Here are some suggestions:
1. A gradual drift away from God's people. This can be in terms of sporadic or decreasing attendance, not because attendance is mandatory but because meeting with God's people is one way of keeping our heart warm to the gospel. But this drift can be more subtle - it can be in terms of attendance at but increasing disengaging with God's people - someone can be at church (the event) but not be in church (committed and involved in gospelling and being gospelled). Hebrews 10v25 - this is one of the warnings that is given to this church.
2. A prioritising of other things. Idolatry is not just the replacement of God with something else but when we allow good things he has given us to rival him as the ultimate priority. This can begin in our hearts and subtly in our thinking, it can be pride or comfort or ease (e.g. its hard to deal with the children at church, or I'm so embarrassed by how they behave), or simply be that we would rather be doing something else we love. Our actions reveal our priorities and our real loves.
3. A gradual hardening of the heart. Outward symptoms are often discernible but if it is a slow freeze they can be hard to detect. I think the key one is a loss of joy and a gradual preoccupation with 'why me?' or 'if only...' thinking instead of remembering and rejoicing in what God has done and is doing. (Hebs 3:15)
3. A failure to thrive. As Christians we are not just meant to make it through, we are meant to thrive. Yes we are in battle, yes we will face hardship and persecution because of the suffering, yes the no suffering, no guts, not glory, yes Christ is our model, yes we carry our cross. But we do so not out of a grudging sense of duty, not out of joyless drudgery, or legalistic necessity but out of an ever growing awareness and wonder and rejoicing in the love of God revealed in Christ. Not only are we meant to thrive but we are equipped to thrive even in suffering - the Apostle Paul is not a freak in rejoicing in suffering, he can do so because he is aware of the wonder of his salvation and the call to live as God's ambassador empowered by the Spirit entrusted with the gospel.
Each of these is rarely an on/off thing. We don't wake up one morning and think I'm not thriving, or I've lost my joy. It is the gradual drip, drip, drip, the gradual slip of focus, the slow long term erosion of joy in the gospel. And that is why it is so dangerous because it can happen and we are unaware of it. What is the remedy? It is to grow in our understanding and amazement of what God has done for us in Christ as we see God's plan of salvation in its full biblical, eternal, cosmological scope and scale.