I really don’t like that word. Wouldn’t it be nice if the important things in life were easy? The definition of persevere is to remain constant to a purpose, idea, or task in the face of obstacles or discouragement.
Obstacles? Discouragement? If the purpose, idea or task is worth pursuing for the common good of all; why would anyone place obstacles in the way? Why would anyone discourage the effort?
Apparently the need to persevere is not new. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is found in the book of James. My study Bible gives this book the theme “Practical Christian Living.” Keep that word “practical” in mind as you read this statement from James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Do you want to be mature and complete? Then we must remain constant in the face of obstacles and discouragement. It’s the practical (useful) thing to do.
Maybe you are more like Peter Pan and you don’t care about being mature and complete – or at least that’s what you say. You want to just enjoy life: do as little as possible and only do that which is not met with resistance. Doesn’t sound so bad. Right?
Hang on, you “life is for enjoyment” minded folks. In 2 Thessalonians 3:5-6, Paul prays that those who profess to know Christ would be directed by God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. He goes on to command, with the authority of Christ, to “stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn't follow the tradition of hard work.” Oh, bummer.
So not only is it God’s desire that we persevere, it is God’s command through Paul that those who persevere through hard work should abandoned those Christ followers who sit idle and take the path of leisure. That doesn’t sound very nice. There must be more.
Like James, Romans 5:3 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings. What emotionally stable person would rejoice in sufferings?
According to this passage in Romans, suffering produces perseverance. Well, that makes sense. We can’t call it perseverance if there are no obstacles to suffer through. Stop there and I think we could avoid perseverance by avoiding suffering.
Let’s read on. Perseverance produces character. Well, character is good but if we don’t care what others think, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Must be more. Digging a little further we find that character produces hope. Now that is worth something.
Hope, the confident expectation of the fulfillment of a desire. Without hope, why live at all?
The desires God has placed in my heart are just past the obstacles. It can be discouraging trying to make my way through what seems to be failures or simple unexpected resistance. Spider webs are easy to get through but when I go through them unexpectedly, they gross me out and slow me down.
Sometimes, it’s just the sense of being alone on an unfamiliar, unmarked path. I’m really not alone. It just seems that way because I’m having to give attention to the obstacles I might trip over. The path is quiet at times because others on this journey are doing the same thing.
It’s ok that the path is unfamiliar to me. That satisfies my desire for adventure. But the path is not unmarked. Jesus Christ blazed the trail. I suffer with Christ by staying on the path he made for us.
Many have been lured into making their own trail or taking easier paths made by others. The truth is they don’t really know where those paths lead. They have no hope because they have no confidence in the fulfillment of their desires. They don’t have a relationship with those who have been to the end of that path. It’s a dead end and it takes an eternity to get there. Their desires are never fulfilled. Even along the path, they are constantly changing their direction seeking for something better, easier. Something that feels good.
I’ve been on that path. It was fun for a while. But the sense of not getting anywhere – no hope – proved meaningless.
Some give up on the path because of the obstacles. Maybe they just sit down where they are and visit with those who are traveling on. They have lost the desire to see the view on the other side of the obstacles. Maybe they think it will be something that someone can bring back to them. Or that someone will pick them up and carry them on. Maybe they will tag along close behind someone else until the path becomes too difficult for their lack of determination.
I’m way too familiar with that type of traveler. You can find my butt print at various places along my journey. Fortunately, I’ve had friends come along and help me up as Ecclesiastes 4:10 suggests. They don’t usually allow me to follow behind them. They walk beside me. Some have even pushed me ahead so they could encourage me from behind.
Others accept the defeat of discouragement and return to a place that is familiar and comfortable. They give up on their desires. They decide they were foolish to attempt the path. They convince themselves that life is about being content right where you are. They may even convince themselves and others that dreams are bad because they fuel discontentment. They strive to just be good to those around them. Peaceful living becomes more valuable than hope.
I’ve been known to fall into that category also. It seems so easy to say “just be content.” Oh, my flesh is willing but my spirit isn’t content to stop at any point for very long.
I’m struggling with perseverance right now. I don’t doubt God’s existence anymore but sometimes I wish I did. [laughing] Growing up in Christ is a lot like becoming an adult.
My kids asked me recently at what age do you become a grown up. I told them it’s not about age. It’s about willingness to accept responsibility.
So why grow up? Why be responsible? Why persevere? Why work? Why labor?
I like the way 1 Thessalonians 1:3 puts it. The work is produced by faith, labor prompted by love and endurance is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perseverance simply requires remaining focused on Christ. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells me that Jesus is the author and perfector of my faith. He endured the cross for the joy set before him. He has blazed the trail through all the obstacles. This path is not a disappointing dead end. I am confident that the desires God has placed in me will be fulfilled. How can I be confident of that? Because I have an interactive relationship with the trailblazer.
Do you live with a sense of hope? Are you sitting waiting for a friend to pick you up? I suggest that you pick up your love letter from God – the Bible. Get in relationship with the one who has made it to the other side. His perseverance and love will guide you through.
Hebrews 12:3 (NIV) Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.