You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. —2 Timothy 3:10-11
I wrote one word as I was reading Paul’s itinerary of personal examples: encouragement. I can persevere because Paul did. Both the passage above and 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 offer stunning overviews of what Paul survived as he delivered the Gospel message around the Mediterranean. In Acts (for example 16:16-24) we read individual events in slow and gruesome motion. But how many people who know something about Paul’s career and various trials would be thinking to themselves, “That is nothing! I have been through way worse things than that!?”
Okay, well because I can’t imagine anyone being able to think that, I am pretty sure we could all agree that Paul sets a good example of perseverance. No matter how difficult my week has been or how many painful relationships or circumstances or uncertainties about the future I am going through, I have not had to go through anything worse than what Paul went through. The same God who helped him and strengthened him and turbo-ed his victory is available to me. Because they persevered, I can persevere. That’s good news. No matter what I'm going through—it doesn’t matter how hard it’s been, God will help me.
But let’s admit the fact that knowing God will help doesn’t stop us from wishing we could avoid the hardship altogether! So why didn’t God prevent Paul from being stoned? Why didn’t He keep some of those attacks from happening? I don’t know why. But Paul’s testimony was that the Lord rescued him out of it all. Now that’s good news.
Those who have been at Harvest for a while know that Kathy and I prayed when we were in seminary, “God, we will go anywhere You want us to go, but we want to stay there. We want to go and be in one church.” And if God would allow us, we want to serve God with the same people and grow old together. Sometimes it will be easy; sometimes it will be hard. Sometimes we’ll get along; sometimes we’ll have to work things out. Either way, we want to persevere. And we know we can only do that in the company of other believers under the guidance of God’s Word and His Spirit. —James MacDonald
· What other Christians have served as my best examples of perseverance under fire?
· What have I learned from them?
Father, You have filled Your Word with encouraging examples of people who were able to persevere through hardships because they depended on You. Thank You for also bringing people into my life who serve the same purpose. Help me to persevere myself, that others may take encouragement as I point to You as my reason for endurance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.