At my Bible study group, I shared about having a word for the year as a guide and encouragement.
One gal had never done it before, and as we talked, she perked up with, “I have my word!”
She was excited to have received a word from God.
“What is it?”
Hmm. Interesting, I thought. Be prepared.
The next week she said, “I want a new word! It’s been a rough week.”
When we pray for a word, the Lord gives us what we need.
With so much changing around us in our culture, a word for all of us is persevere.
Perseverance is one of the traits in the Christian life that we struggle with. Sometimes we think things will be easy, but turns out living the Christian life is harder than we anticipate.
Jesus spoke these words that prepare us for difficulties in John 16:33:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Everyone will face struggles, but how are we to deal with them?
Where do we look for the strength to persevere?
Perseverance is matter of choice. We can choose to quit or keep on going.
When we get news that stops us in our tracks, we can choose to stay discouraged or look up to the Lord.
When we get weary from a never improving situation, we can choose to give up or look to God for extra strength to carry on.
When we are overwhelmed with too much too do, we can be stuck or we can look to the Lord to empower us.
God knows that we’re going through and has promised to be with us. This gives us hope.
The Bible teaches us about perseverance.
The biblical definition of persevere connotes steadfastness under pressure and endurance in the face of trials.
In James 1: 2-5 we read,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
In other words, we grow toward maturity in our faith through perseverance in the difficult times.
Truthfully, I wish there was an easier way to grow toward maturity!
Through perseverance, we learn to trust the Lord in deeper ways.
In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul gives us insight on how to press on to maturity in our faith.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Paul explains perseverance through considering the past, present, and future.
We are to forget about things in the past and use them as a springboard to go forward with greater understanding. We can learn from past experiences, yet God doesn’t want us to stay there. We can’t live life looking in a rear view mirror, either wallowing in the pain of failure or remembering the “good old days.”
In our successes we are can easily think the race of faith is over. But God has more for us to do.
In our failures, we can get stuck in shame or blame. At those times, God gives us grace and forgiveness when we give the burden to Him.
What do you need to leave behind to go forward? Pray about it. Persevere.
Paul uses athletic races as an example. If runners focus on running their best race for victory, their eyes are straight ahead with the goal of crossing the finish line. The runners who glance over their shoulder are likely to stumble, losing speed and hindering their race.
Straining toward what is ahead describes the image of the runner leaning into the finish line. There is determination runner to press on through the weariness to win.
The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. The pace of runners in a marathon is different from the pace of sprinters. Marathoners train for the power of endurance with a steady pace. Sprinters train for power of speed in a short race. In the long haul, we are called to not give up. God empowers us with a second wind to finish the race.
As we press on and press through struggles, it is helpful to look heavenward.
Scriptures promises reward for persevering in faith.
James 1:12 reads,
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Perseverance involves looking back and leaving the past behind, straining toward the goal of living for Christ, with an eye toward heaven.
God strengthens us through perseverance in hard times. The benefits of perseverance encourage us to go forward in our faith.
- We continue growing in Christ-like character.
Romans 5:3-5 says
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
- We gain endurance for our faith journey. Steady growth is a process.
2 Peter 1:3-5 reads,
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
- We develop a mindset of holy determination, continuing in faith for the long haul.
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 encourages us to press on.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Perseverance in faith brings God glory.
When people watch how you handle hardships, they will notice your faith. The light of Christ will shine through you in your sphere of influence. I recall the times I felt like withdrawing from writing when things got tough after a cancer diagnosis. But God nudged me to continue. When I feel discouraged, God’s grace sustains me to persevere for him.
The spiritual darkness in the culture is increasing. Instead of pulling back, now is the time to persevere in faith.
What will you do to persevere in everyday life?