Stacie and I are grieved every month over yet someone else from our youth or young-adult life abandoning the faith. Old small group members, youth group friends, school friends, roommates, leaders, close friends, best friends, fellow evangelists(!), and those of our own family or relatives. Not to mention professing Christian authors, singers, celebrities. “They are dropping like flies.” There isn’t any automatic guarantee that those who seem to start the race will finish it.
I think I will spend the rest of my life grieving over those that “went out from us, but they were not of us” (1 John 2:19), and rejoicing over brothers that endure, over the “proven genuineness of [their] faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire” (1 Peter 1:7). Survival is underrated and enduring to the end is miraculous gift from God. “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
Brothers that start the race and endure, and actually finish, are sooooo much more encouraging than I ever imagined. Like strong, old, familiar, trustworthy trees still there on a playground from your childhood. Still giving shade and support.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
“He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” (Colossians 1:22-23)