By H. Lynn Gardner
In the struggle to live for God in this fallen world, who hasn’t asked, “What’s the use? Is it worth it all?” Peter highlights the need for perseverance (2 Peter 1:6).
William Barclay called the Greek word for perseverance “one of the noblest of New Testament words.” The word literally means “remaining under.” It described a plant’s ability to survive under unfavorable circumstances, and in Jewish sources mveant “spiritual staying power,” enabling one to die for God.
CHARACTER OF PERSEVERANCE
Perseverance is not a passive resignation grimly facing the inevitable, but the ability to endure with hope. It is that bulldog determination to hang on and not quit. Firm in conviction, consistent in holding to principle, those who endure keep on keeping on under favorable or unfavorable circumstances.
When the situation grows difficult, perseverance is choosing to live by our convictions, stand our ground, and refuse to quit. Endurance comes from the heart and is expressed in the will’s refusal to give up. Love “always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6, 7). God’s love for us and our love for God motivates us to persevere (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
We are not saved by our talent or our good works. We are saved by faith, a faith that perseveres. We can endure when we trust God as our strength, not our own ability. We continue because inner conviction directs us, not outward circumstances. There is know-ability, do-ability, and stick-ability, and the greatest of these is stick.
Colonel Sanders had his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe rejected more than 1,000 times before a restaurant accepted it. James Dyson tried more than 5,000 prototypes before he perfected his bagless vacuum cleaner on his way to becoming the world’s first billionaire inventor. In spiritual matters, as well as business, persistence marks the difference between failure and success.
A man told me that he rejected the church 50 years ago because a church leader lied to his father. How sad. We need to come alongside others when they face disappointments in church leaders, death of loved ones, life-threatening illnesses, financial struggles, or other burdens in order to help them remain faithful. Perseverance requires commitment, and we can commit ourselves to demonstrating perseverance for others to imitate.
CHALLENGES TO PERSEVERANCE
Both hardships and successes present challenges to perseverance. Rudyard Kipling advised his son “to treat Triumph and Disaster . . . those two imposters just the same.” Either can be a stumbling block.
Hard times challenge our faithfulness. Days can seem so dark, drained of hope by pain, tragedy, or seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Prayer requests seemingly unanswered by God tempt some to give up on God and quit.
Determine not to allow trials to make you bitter, leading to quitting. Trials make or break us. Learning from difficulties can make us wiser and stronger. Pray not to be spared hardships; pray that God will give you the strength to conquer them. Missteps and failures handled properly can be stepping stones to success.
Difficulties can produce endurance (James 1:3-5; Romans 5:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4). Babe Ruth said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” We must not consider a setback as a final defeat. Thomas Edison saw his hundreds of failed attempts to invent an incandescent light bulb as lessons on what didn’t work.
When one loses his or her temper with a family member, tells a lie to save face, sleeps in instead of attending the worship assembly, or falls into some other sin, repentance is first and then determination to learn from the experience and go forward.
Paradoxically, good times can also hinder spiritual faithfulness. When things are going well we can begin trusting ourselves and ignoring God. Possession of power reveals the character of a person. Money, popularity, influence, and material comforts make us feel powerful and proud. Affluence can lead us to see God as unnecessary and irrelevant.
Most of us know God has blessed us with the good things of life, and we give thanks to God. Reminding ourselves of that is always good. A spirit of continual thankfulness to God helps us overcome temptations to quit. Giving up on God is a sure way to fail in this life.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO PERSEVERANCE
Cultivating the following can strengthen one’s spiritual steadfastness.
Develop a strong basis for your faith. The elders and minister of a Missouri church prayerfully worked to reclaim persons who had dropped out of church. Each person was asked if he or she believed in God, Christ, and the Bible and then asked to state the reason why or why not. Most fell away because they did not have a solid faith. Knowing why we believe Christianity is true fortifies us for endurance.
Depend on God and his Word. We are most apt to fall away when we feel we don’t need God’s help. A daily dependence on God’s help and direction in our lives in prayer and Bible reading provides strength and spiritual equipment enabling us to stand strong in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10-18). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV) reminds us to stay in open communication with God. We are strong when we admit our weakness before God. When we insist we can live by our own strength, we set ourselves up for a fall.
Seek inner strength from God’s Holy Spirit. Paul prays for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16). We can do the same for ourselves and others. “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God being strengthened with the power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:9-11, NIV).
Meet together regularly to worship. Group dynamics promote achievement in human activities. It is no less true in spiritual matters. Often the road to forsaking the Lord begins with missing the assembly with believers on the Lord’s Day. Vince Lombardi said, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” Worship of God is necessary for living a God-conscious life. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25).
Maintain fellowship and companionship. Human nature being what it is, we need accountability and encouragement. When people feel anonymous, they are more susceptible to selfish, sinful behavior. Isolation and loneliness often contribute to feeling estranged from God. Strong Christian friendships provide a check against falling away.
CONSEQUENCES OF PERSEVERANCE
What is our reward for not giving up? Our perseverance:
• Perfects faith. James tells us to rejoice in trials because “the testing of your faith produces perseverance . . . so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3, 4). Enduring trials purifies our motives and solidifies and matures our faith.
• Brings joy. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Anticipating the joy of fellowship with God, as Jesus did, can keep us from growing weary and losing heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
• Increases hope. We can glory in our sufferings because “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4). Hope in Christ inspires our endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3).
• Results in a heavenly reward. God’s promised salvation also involves our perseverance: “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36). “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:l0, ESV).
During an international crisis Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give in.” In the battle for your eternal destiny, never, never, never give up.
H. Lynn Gardner is a freelance writer in Carl Junction, Missouri.