Life is full of lessons. As we grow older we continue to learn. It seems to be constant as long as we are open and receptive to the lessons being taught. God challenges us to grow and learn in every aspect of our lives. Some lessons are received better than others. Some are never fully realized. The lesson that anything worth doing, anything that has lasting value will not come easy is a hard one. Promises of easy money, easy fitness, worry free relationships, or knowledge without work, will almost always prove false. We will most certainly have obstacles to overcome but when we have come to grips with the lesson that persistence and hard work will see us through the goals and worthwhile aspects of life we gain much. We begin to understand the value that God has given to our lives.
In our house we are trying to teach our daughter about persistence and work. These seem to be hard concepts for her to grasp but slowly but surely she is starting to understand. With chores that will some day lead to a goal she wishes to reach we hope that the lesson will stick with her throughout life. It’s likely a lesson that she will have to relearn repeatedly over her lifetime, but isn’t that true with us all?
The life of the apostle John is a beautiful portrait of persistence and hard work. He was the only one of the apostles who was not martyred. He lived until old age. He witnessed the growth of the church while watching his brothers and fellow believers persecuted and oppressed by the world around them. He saw men try to distort the gospel of Christ but he knew that it was worth protecting. He was tormented by his oppressors, suffering for what he knew was of the greatest value in the world. His persistence and hard work helped John spread the good news of Jesus throughout the world and does so to this very day and on into eternity.
The letter of 3 John is addressed to Gaius, a leader within the church. John’s tone is one of praise for the good that Gaius is achieving in his service to other believers. It is full of encouragement. With John, as well as the other writers of the New Testament, we see a thread of constant encouragement to church leaders and those who serve the purpose of furthering and growing the church. The encouragement needed to let others know they were doing the right thing. Encouragement needed to spur on the oppressed and battered because they knew the great value of what they were doing. This encouragement is persistent throughout the New Testament. I can only imagine the strength needed by the apostles to persistently care for the leaders of the church. I’m sure the encouragement and guidance seemed never-ending, but every word furthered the purpose of God.
John also warns Gaius of Diotrephes, someone who was set on working against the progress of God’s kingdom. The apostles dealt with many detractors throughout their ministries. During the time of the early church, as well as today, there was a great threat from false teachers. In the case of Diotrephes, as with others, the deception was perpetuated because of selfish ambitions. The apostles worked tirelessly at correcting the damage caused by individuals whose aim was to promote themselves rather than the kingdom of God. I can imagine that as soon as one controversy or false teacher was handled another would take his place. We witness this again and again within Paul’s writings. The apostles knew the purity of the Gospel was worthy of their persistent hard work.
John bookends the warning about Diotrephes with more encouragement. His words are ones to live by.
“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.
Whoever does good is from God;
whoever does evil has not seen God.” – 3 John 1:11
The apostles faced obstacles that would cause most to abandon the path they had chosen. From mentoring new believers within the church to correcting errant or false teaching they dealt with situations that, without the unfailing guidance of God, would bring about the fall of the young church. Their incredible persistence and amazing hard work ensured that the Gospel and Christ’s church progressed to bring about God’s kingdom. We would do well to imitate them.