98. Perseverance

            My wife called on the phone last week to see how I was doing.  “I want to come home,” I whimpered.  She was at home, but I was over two hundred miles away in an empty Indiana house by myself.  Around me wafted the smell of fresh paint, along with  what seemed like miles of green painters’ tape and carefully placed drop clothes.

            The house belongs to my in-laws and needed to be sold yesterday since they’ve both recently been transferred into nursing home facilities. It was already late in the selling season.  I’d volunteered to take off a week from my work to do the job, mostly by myself.  Sometimes it’s good not to know what we’re getting ourselves into. It was only mid-week and I’d already run out of adrenaline with much painting left to do. I’m not as young as I once was. Fortunately, by God’s grace, and with the help of others, by the end of the week the house was painted and ready to show. Painful perseverance paid off.

            Of all the spiritual traits needed to live a God-glorifying life, I would rank perseverance at the top. It sets the stage for everything fine in our spiritual lives.

Why is perseverance in our walk with Christ so crucial?

1.     Perseverance in our walk with Christ is crucial because without it our spiritual growth will be hindered and even halted

The HS is capable of filling us with His wonderful fruit; attributes like love, joy, and peace, and of using us to draw others to Christ, but He’ll only do this if we cooperate with Him.  We’re free-will agents and if we refuse to keep on seeking Him, or only seek Him spasmodically, He’s limited what He will do. He won’t force us to grow.

2.    Perseverance in our walk with Christ is crucial because without it our spiritual depth is limited

We can learn fairly quickly to act like a committed Christian; to look good outwardly.  But Christ’s spiritual beauty is meant to penetrate beyond the surface – past outward skin into spiritual bone. This means that we not only act loving, but that we become loving to our core.  Love develops more and more into a spiritual instinct.  This sort of deep spiritual transformation, however, takes time, usually years of continuous effort and openness to the Spirit. Only perseverance keeps us in place long enough for that to happen

3.    Perseverance in our walk with Christ is crucial because it honors God

When we slip in and out of our “good Christian” mode, this shows disloyalty to God.  He sent His Son to die on the cross for us.  He’s saved us and given us everything. A fair-weather walk is like a slap in His face.  On the other hand, perseverance is a way of saying “Thank you” and “You are worthy of following”.

4.    Perseverance in our walk with Christ is crucial because it provides an example for others

Paul says, in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us, and of the Lord.”  So much of our ministry lies not in our words, but in our actual lives.  Others are always watching, whether they ever admit it or not. Everyone has good moments, but what catches the attention of others are patterns – godliness which seldom wavers.

5.    Perseverance in our walk with Christ is crucial because the spiritual life can be demanding and wearying

Paul tells us, in Galatians 6:9 to “not become weary in doing good”. The godly life, with all its joys, is often a walk uphill against the wind. We have to push against sin within and without, often serve without seeing obvious results, and deal with an invisible God who periodically seems to go silent, and whose ways are not always easy to figure out. It’s a good life, totally worth it, but it’s also easy to lose heart and back off.  We’re not in Heaven yet.

How can I grow in perseverance?

1.     I grow in spiritual perseverance by making a firm commitment of the will to hang on

Don’t start half-heartedly. Jump in with both feet. As the old gospel song says: “I have decided to follow Jesus. . .no turning back.”  This doesn’t mean, of course, that you’ll always live up to that intention – you will fail at times, but you’ll have a clear commitment to return to. Which leads to the next point:

2.    I grow in perseverance by minimizing my downtimes

As James says, “We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). Part of spiritual development inevitably involves mistakes and failures. It’s not all or nothing. The difference between those who fail and those who persevere lies in how quickly they get back up when they fall. Don’t wallow in your missteps or let discouragement conquer you.  Doing that only gives the Devil a tool to use to further dishearten you.  Confess that sin or mistake, take God’s hand, get up and start again.

3.    I grow in spiritual perseverance when I regularly prepare my soul

Good runners train.  They strengthen themselves through proper exercise, nutrition, rest and learning wise strategy.  Consistent godliness is no accident. Those who persevere in Christ practice spiritual disciplines to enhance their spiritual endurance. They regularly read Scripture, pray, confess sins, worship, and so on.  This is not done haphazardly, but is built into their daily schedule. In doing so, they not only enhance their endurance, they also constantly reinforce their godly goals.

4.    I grow in spiritual perseverance when I find godly people to train with

Want to run well?  Find other strong, committed runners to train alongside. We’re in this race together as believers. When you’re ready to give up, they’ll cheer you on.  When you’re confused, they’ll give you tips. They may even annoy you at times by challenging you.  And you’ll do the same for them – which reinforces your own faith. On the flip-side, while it’s good to love the spiritually half-hearted and help them, be careful not to give them too much influence in your life.

5.    I grow in spiritual perseverance by reminding myself frequently of the big picture

I know it seems like we’ll be here on earth running this challenging race forever, but we won’t.  Life is short.  And when it’s over, this particular window of opportunity closes. Now is when we can lead others to Christ. Now is when we can “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven”(Matt. 6:19).  Heaven, of course, will be far better, but who wants to enter it, with unnecessary regrets, “as one escaping through the flames”(1 Cor. 3:15).

6.    I grow in spiritual perseverance when I accept the cost of pain

Paul tells Timothy “endure hardness with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). Our capacity to accept necessary pain will directly affect our ability to persevere.  This is especially true of those in more persecuted countries. But it’s also true for all of us. Following Christ faithfully forces us, at times, to face ridicule, misunderstanding, weariness and confusion. Read the Bible and you’ll see that this was true for many saints.  Hang on, though.  The cost is small compared to the benefits both here and in Heaven.