One of the great challenges of the Chrsitian life is understanding that it is a marathon, not a sprint. There are moments where we can attain spiritual heights that we wish would last our lifetime. However, the ebb and flow of life means that not only will those spiritual heights not last, but may be followed by great spiritual challenges. After His baptism and the heavenly proclamation of a Father’s pride for His beloved Son, Jesus went to the trial of the wilderness to be tested by Satan for 40 days. After the glorious defeat of Baal’s prophets by the mighty hand of God, Elijah was on the run wondering if he was the only one who remained faithful among God’s people. When you are soaring spiritually, enjoy the feel of peace and joy but do not be disappointed when a great challenge converges onto your path. Likewise, when you are in the depths of struggle and despair, know that you will be able to stand on the higher ground of spiritual delight again.
Various translations render this word perseverance, patience, and steadfastness. It is the ability to not give up despite the obstacles in your path or the voice within that calls for you to quit. I’m not surprised that this characteristic is listed after self-control since changes in our lives based on the knowledge of God’s word require us to be patient with ourselves as we break bad habits or try to develop consistent good behaviors like daily prayer and study. We must be patient with ourselves as we grow spiritually. It will take a lifetime for us to develop all of these characteristics and it may take much time before we see the maturity in our own lives. More often, though, others will see great progress in our lives faster than we will see it in ourselves.
You will also need this perseverance to remain holy when your friends are indulging in sexual immorality, partying, and following the passions of this world. It may be tough when they appear to be having fun and you feel you are needlessly denying yourself pleasure. If those who claim to be Christians and doing these things it can be tougher not to join in. It takes perseverance to trust God (to “wait on the Lord” as the Psalmist says) and His way knowing that if you follow His guidance you will be much happier and avoid needless guilt, shame, and often physical consequences associated with these destructive behaviors. I have lost count of the number of people who I’ve talked with who had carried the burden of a life given to sin into adulthood and created avoidable difficulties in their marriages and sense of spiritual wholeness. God is merciful and will forgive but as the old proverb teaches, you can choose your actions but you cannot choose your consequences. Let patience develop within you and choose actions that avoid a sinful life that you may enjoy the positive consequences of your actions. 1 Peter 4:1-11 should be a passage that will encourage you to remain holy when tempted by so many people living a foolish life.
We must have the perseverance to continue faithful until death, especially if persecution for your faith might result in death. In 1 Peter 4:12-19, Peter acknowledges that Christians will have to endure trials and persecutions. However, he describes this as a blessed condition because one is sharing in the suffering of Christ. We will strengthen our patience by enduring trials and overcoming temptation according to James. As with trusting God’s path to avoid immorality, we can endure persecution if we will entrust our lives to God’s loving care. This trust gave Paul confidence as his life was about to come to a violent end. Those who patiently trust God can endure suffering and persecution for they know a crown of life awaits.
When developing patience, understand that you do not have to develop it alone. We have a family of God for support in our time weakness and to encourage us to remain faithful when tempted and tested. Perhaps our perseverance would improve greatly if we made ourselves accountable to a fellow brother or sister in Christ to overcome a particular weakness or strengthen a virtue. Faithful brethren should rally one another in the face of the enemy and watch for those who are growing fainthearted. Build relationships with those who will help you develop perseverance.
Above all, perseverance helps us to endure when we fall. It doesn’t matter if you fall a thousand times as long as you get up each time you fall. Many years ago I read a thought that over time has helped me greatly in developing patience with myself. Essentially the author said that our great frustration is that we can’t live always like we can live sometimes. I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t live every days with the zeal, service, and passion that I enjoyed on certain days. Then I realized that no one is able to always live every day like they do on some special days. However, I can still live one day at a time to the best that I can for that day and look forward to those special days when it seems like everything is in perfect order. Perseverance helps me keep that focus.
Perseverance or steadfastness is necessary because sometimes we must hold on when there appears no reason to do so because we trust in God to make everything work out for the good, Romans 8:28. It reminds me of the encouragement of Rudyard Kipling in his poem “If” to hold on, sometimes, only for the sake of holding on:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
Those who wait on the Lord and persevere will enjoy a better life on this earth and a joyful eternity with God.
BONUS: My pump up video when I feel like giving up: Warhawk Matt Scott