Tag Archives: perseverance

The Journey

It’s been a long, hard morning and the afternoon looks just as rough.  Your legs hurt, your back is stiff, and your mind is screaming at you to quit.  “Just give up; it’s not worth it.”  You are tempted, but you think about what’s coming.  A hot meal, a warm shower, a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed.  And then…  and then,  an extended vacation at your favorite place on earth, your own little slice of heaven.  Perhaps you can relate.  

Life here can make us weary, make us feel like quitting.  Sometimes, more so when we are following Jesus.  It helps to look ahead to remember what’s coming.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  (1 Peter 1:13)

Nobody knows exactly what the “grace that will be brought to you” will be like.  But we can be sure of this:  No matter what trials we have endured, what tragedy or heartache have been ours along the way, the journey will be more than worth it.  So, if you have caught your breath, let’s get back to it.  There’s a few more miles to go….

Practice Makes Perfect

Dad installed a chinup bar in a doorway and used it everyday.  He challenged me to a contest when I was visiting.  I was amazed at his stamina but still beat him – hey, I was 30 years younger.  But now, at the age he was, there’s no way I could measure up to what he did then.  Unless I practiced.  The training regimen of olympic athletes is scary intense.  They punish themselves with every greater challenges til they know they can push through them.

In a similar way, we are encouraged to accept the various trials of life as opportunities to train our faith and develop our capacity to patiently push through.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

To test a diving board, you jump on it, tentatively at first but then with greater and greater force.  If you can’t break it then you know it will hold you.  You trust it  Same thing with faith; you jump on it to know if it will hold.  You test faith with trials.  As you learn your faith will hold, you become more able to endure life’s trials with steadfastness.  You become “perfect and complete,” in the sense that you are “good to go” in the faith department.  The faith is not in your own toughness but in Jesus’ ability to hold you safe, no matter what.  Like this:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

Firm in What?

Wars and rumours of war aren’t indicators of Jesus’ return.  Neither are famines and earthquakes.  Jesus called those things “the beginning of birth pains.”  First labor pains ordinarily indicate the start of an unstoppable progression of events but not the imminent conclusion of them.  So what indicators did Jesus say would tip us off the time was drawing close?   Among other signs, Jesus included this troubling thought:

 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  (Matthew 24:12)

The more we encounter wickedness, the more  tempted we are to respond in kind.  The recent sniping murder of Dallas policemen is a sad case in point.  Somebody thought, “Enough is enough; I’m going to make someone pay.”  That’s an extreme example.  Maybe you would never go that far.  But Jesus taught us to actually respond in the opposite way:

27 “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”  (Luke 6:27b-28)

When most people find it too tough to respond to wickedness with love, that is a sign the end times are drawing to a close, that Jesus is coming soon.  What do you think?  Are we there yet?  Has the love of most grown cold?  If you had to make the call, based on your own attitudes, what would you say?  For me, that is a sobering question.

But don’t give up!  No matter what, don’t abandon love.  That first quote above is only the beginning of Jesus’ sentence.  Here’s the whole thing:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Stands firm in love.

Don’t Quit

When I read a novel, I tend to skip those little quotes and  poem thingies at the beginning of the chapters.  Most of the time I don’t understand them; they leave me confused and feeling ignorant.  I want to say, “Enough with these inscrutable quotes! Let’s get on with the story, already.”  There are sections of the Bible that make me restless, too. In the final paragraphs of Colossians (Colossians 4:7 ff), Paul gives final greetings and instructions to specific people that don’t seem to mean much to me, 2000 years later. 

But this morning, as I read those verses, I was struck by how passionate and unstoppable Paul was.  His last few sentences are filled with words like “struggle,” “encourage,” “fellow workers,” sending,” etc.  The last verse reads:

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.  –  (Colossians 4:18)

Very likely, Paul dictated most of his letters because he had a physical handicap with his eyes.  Also, he was chained up as a prisoner. He had two good excuses to give it a rest.  But he was absolutely consumed with the urgency of telling people about Jesus.  As he wrote earlier in the letter,

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  (Colossians 1:29)

What’s the deal?  Why was Paul so passionate?  My guess is it had a lot to do with his being personally visited by Jesus as he traveled to Damascus (see Acts 9:1 ff).  Jesus showed up, blew his mind and changed his whole outlook.  So Paul had first–hand proof Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing.

Well, so what?  What’s that have to do with us? There is a good chance that Jesus has personally visited you with proof of Who He is and has changed your whole outlook, too.  Maybe He didn’t blind you with intense light, but if you reflect on what He did do, the circumstances that led to your personal conversion, you will probably see they were arranged for you. Your Savior knew where you were and what you needed.  He still does.  He also knows what He has equipped you to do. Let the truth of that motivate you. Tell others how wonderful it is to know and follow Jesus.

But, maybe you have not experienced such a personal “visit” from Jesus.  If so, and if you are open to it, let down your defenses and pay close attention.  Jesus will show up in a way that will rock your world.  You can count on it because He knows you, loves you, and knows what you need.

The Suffering Paradox

Tough times are good times.  That’s because tough times make us tougher. That truth, known by farmers, construction workers, soldiers and athletes, has been largely ignored in a culture in which obesity is a growing threat (no pun intended).  But it’s not just about building muscles.  It’s more about building steadfastness, the willingness to keep going in the midst of suffering.  Here’s how Jesus’ brother James said it:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, 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.” (James 1:2-4)

Notice that this spiritual toughness is developed by “trials of many kinds,” as a result of the “testing of your faith.”  When everything is going smoothly, much of our faith is theoretical.  Tough times are opportunities to check out what you really believe, to put faith to the test and see if it holds.

Elmer’s glue used to run a commercial in which the ends of two planks were overlapped and glued together to form a diving board.  It took faith for the guy who first went out on the end of that thing to bounce up and down on it.  You can imagine that his first moves were rather tentative.  But as he discovered its strength, as his faith in the glue increased, he became more willing to put some weight into it.  As we face trials in life and are forced to “bounce up and down” on what we have been taught to believe about God.  As we do so, we discover for ourselves that He is faithful.  The tougher our trials, the tougher our faith.

James says this increased faith-toughness builds perseverance and maturity.  Perhaps the example of this truth that is gaining the most attention right now is the story of Louis Zamperini, in the film, “Unbroken.”  But, as inspiring as that story may be, people won’t develop perseverance from watching the movie.  They develop perseverance by testing their faith in tough times.

That’s why tough times are good times.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Keep the Faith – Part 3

We’ve been tearing off chunks of Hebrews 12:1-3, chewing on advice it gives for people struggling to stay strong in faith, in the face of intense opposition.  The next morsel says this:

…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  (Heb 12:1c). 

A simple trick for keeping the faith is to treat your life as a race.  Not a sprint; you’re not going as fast as you can, but more of a marathon.  People who are running a marathon adopt a mindset that gives them increased endurance.  They expect the race to be tough – that’s the idea of it.  Runners in a race stay within the prescribed boundaries of the course, and don’t wander aimlessly.  They have a finish line in their mental sights.

Runners don’t make up their own course, they learn the course that has been set and follow it.  One of the mysterious and exciting things about following Jesus by faith is discovering what course has been “marked out for you.”  God has no problem showing the course for those who are truly interested and willing.

Remember at the end of the Boston Marathon, as exhausted runners approached the finish line?  The bombs?  Several of those runners who were able to do so, picked themselves up and made their way to the finish line.  That is a picture of the attitude being encouraged for us, as we follow Jesus.

Here’s the list so far:

  1. Remember those on our team who have set a powerful standard.
  2. Pull up your socks and tie your shoes (Get rid of anything that would hinder your progress or trip you up.)
  3. Treat your life as a marathon, with a course marked out for you.