In his book Life as a Vapor, John Piper writes: “I am glad for adrenaline; I suspect it gets me through lots of Sundays. But it doesn’t do much for Mondays. I am even more thankful for my heart. It just keeps on being a humble, quiet servant – during good days and bad days, happy and sad, high and low, appreciated and unappreciated. It never lets me down. It never says, ‘I don’t like your attitude, Piper, I’m taking a day off.’ It just keeps humbly “lubb-dubbing” along. Coronary Christians are like the heart in the causes they serve. Adrenal Christians are like adrenaline – a spurt of energy and then fatigue. What the church and the world need today are marathoners, not just sprinters. People who find the pace to finish the [lifelong] race. Oh, for Coronary Christians! Christians committed to great causes, not great comforts.”
I love this call to coronary Christianity! Grit, focus, determination, fixedness, resoluteness, perseverance - these are the words that mark spiritual champions. But life is unyielding, ministry is tough, success is hard won, and the Devil is a fierce adversary. So, when the going gets tough and the enemy gets rough, how do we find the heart to go on?
In 2 Timothy Paul calls for an expression of coronary Christianity. In the face of Timothy’s natural timidity (2 Tim. 1:7), the cultural hostility (2 Tim. 3:1-7), and an increased apostasy within the church (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:3), Paul calls for fixedness in the gospel from his young son in the faith (2 Tim. 2:1, 3, 5-6, 10, 12). Thankfully, with this call to perseverance, Paul offers four motivations, “spiritual smelling salts”, to keep on keeping on (2 Tim. 2:8-13).
First, Timothy must live the empowering reality of the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8). Jesus is alive and Timothy must be alive to that fact. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in him (Eph. 1:19-20; Col. 1:11). Second, Timothy must believe in the unstoppable power of the gospel (2 Tim. 2:9). Although Paul was a prisoner of the Romans, he wanted Timothy to know that the gospel cannot be chained (2 Tim. 4:16-17). The gospel will advance with irresistible divine energy (Isa. 55:10-11). Third, Timothy must value the glorious work of evangelism. Through Paul’s suffering and steadfastness, the elect were being saved (2 Tim 2:10). Likewise, Timothy must not dam up the stream of truth by which people are saved through unfaithfulness or cowardice on his part. Fourth, Timothy must value the promise of eternal reward (2 Timothy 2:11-13). The cross-bearing Christian will someday be the crown-wearing Christian. Therefore, the servant of God, no matter how hard the times or task, must not become a victim of self-pity since they have an enduring hope in Christ (1 Cor. 15:58). The imminent return of Christ reminds God’s servants that it is always too soon to quit.
William Carey, a missionary to India, and the father of modern missions, said that he owed everything to his ability to plod. That was his genius.
May God raise up a generation of Coronary Christians whose plodding is alive to the risen Christ, the unstoppable power of the gospel, the glory of evangelism, and the hope of heaven.