Moving Toward PERSEVERANCE
"But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance..."
There is no short cut to become a mature believer in Christ. Maturity always takes time because it is the culmination of obedience and humble dependance on God over time. Perseverance is what we call the patient endurance that shows when you do not lose heart or give up no matter how hard things may seem. In fact, you really don't know what a person is made of until they are tested to see if they can endure the trials and troubles of life when their faith is truly tested. The trials of life reveal the genuineness of our faith and this is why perseverance is always needed.
Jesus taught the parable for the four soils or conditions of the heart, which is commonly referred to as the Parable of the Sower. One of the soils of the heart was "the stony ground", where the seed did not get sown into the depths of a person's heart. Jesus explained that the problem with this kind of shallow ground or short lasting receptivity to God's truth when He said, "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles" (Matt. 13:20-21).
This is true for many people today who have professed their faith and even did well for a season or a time but their hearts have not gone through the necessary test of time where deep transformation takes place when the Holy Spirit is truly having His way in a person's life. We will only gain ground spiritually when we can learn to trust and follow God on the path of righteousness that He has prepared for us over the course of our life.
Consider the children of Israel when they crossed the River Jordan. Their first battle came with the divine instruction to march around the walls of Jericho over a period of a week without them raising a hand or weapon to fight. The one thing that was needed was obedience combined with perseverance. In the end, the result included the walls of Jericho crashing down and persevering faith holding the ground among God's people.
The half brother of Jesus, James, would later write after witnessing and believing in the resurrection of Christ about perseverance as a key to our walk with God. He taught, "knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:3-4).
One of the great illustrations of perseverance is what we see in the life of Job. In the openings pages of the book with his name, Job was tested at the deepest level on all fronts, losing his children, his health, and the prosperity that came through his occupation. He lost what was most precious and valuable to him, but he held onto the values that he learned from his faith and eventually became a man who would experientially know the God he first trusted in. He declared that the Lord knew the way that he would take and after he was tested, he would come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).
Perseverance is the faithful resolve to endure hardship and it comes when we mix self control with godliness until the right goal is accomplished. It requires hard work being done over and over again without seeing any immediate results and almost always comes with a combination of sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears.
This is the stuff good movies are made of. We all love hearing a story of inspiration that tells of an athlete that overcame all kinds of odds to achieve his personal goals or help his team win a championship. We love the person who wins the heart of the one he loves by persevering against all obstacles that seem to separate the couple. But all of these have a temporal life span to them. Eventually, the glory fades away and the relationship is a memory of the past. But in the spiritual life, perseverance has to do with giving glory to God and is shown by the reward that awaits all those who endure temptation and trial when everything moves from the present into eternity.
What is needed to be able to persevere when we are tempted to give up or quit is:
A constant communion with God (in PRAYER)
A strong conviction to be hopeful (in FAITH)
A firm commitment to do good (in OBEDIENCE)
A close connection with brethren (in COMMUNITY)
When all of these things are in place, we are in the best position to persevere through all the afflictions and pressures of life. Paul adds, "Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Rom. 8:23-25).
HEART WORK to grow in PERSEVERANCE...
Jesus told the faithful church in Philadelphia, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Rev. 3:10). Consider these questions:
Are you willing to wait on God for His timing?
Will you resolve to be thankful and obedient while in the midst of trial and hardship?
What will it take to finish your race with joy?
One thing is for certain, you will not persevere in this life without the persevering Christ!