3 Types of Perseverance to Keep You Motivated
- Doug Gehman President Globe International
- 2020 10 Feb
Editor-in-Chief of WORLD magazine Marvin Olasky compares courage and perseverance in difficulty with cargo-laden ships that have “bottom.” Bottom is an 18th-century mariner term for ballast, the stones or chunks of steel that were placed in a ship’s hull to keep it low and steady during storms. Olasky says that having bottom is a necessity in today’s morally ambiguous and politically tenuous environment. The sad truth is we now battle on two fronts: our internal struggles and the external influences of culture. Both pressure us to abandon the moorings of faith, to cast off ballast, and sail recklessly into dangerous waters.
Difficulty has a way of revealing our preparedness for the challenges of life. Difficulty uncovers weaknesses, strips away the veneer of confidence, and reveals the substance of our core. We may think we are strong, but trouble always reveals the truth about strength. We may think we are prepared, but in a season of difficulty, our core is the true indicator of preparation.
In a storm, a ship’s captain is more concerned about staying afloat than staying on course. The short-term urgency to secure the ship’s integrity supersedes every other priority. But ships have sails too. When the seas are calm and winds blow favorably, sails propel a ship forward toward its destination. That we must haul them in during a storm does not mean we abandon our goals. After the storm passes, the sails are hoisted up the masts again. But if a ship sinks in a storm, the vision is lost.
The Bible narrative remembers heroes of the faith by their ability to persevere in difficulty. These great men and women of Scripture, like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Daniel, are honored as people “for whom the world is not worthy.” Through their faith they “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness… some were tortured… Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.” (Heb. 11:33-38) They did all of these things because they trusted God and were committed to do what He had called them to do.
Every difficulty reveals what we want and how much we believe in something. When difficulty confronts us, we have two choices: forsake the vision or fight well until the goal is reached. To quit is to abandon the God-assigned future. To persevere is to embrace pain, look disappointment in the face, and press courageously forward until the storm passes. Nobody ever ascended Mount Everest who didn’t want to climb to the top. Nobody ran 26.2 miles who didn’t want to finish a marathon. Nobody ever built a successful business who didn’t want prosperity, and no one has ever conquered alcoholism who didn’t want to be sober.
The great tragedy of Western culture is the fact that a great good— the life of ease, comfort, and safety with which we have become so accustomed—has stolen from us familiarity with difficulty. We simply do not know how to handle disappointment and pain, and therefore struggle when it comes near. Even Christians, who rely on God’s sovereignty and acknowledge man’s sinfulness, are influenced by our culture’s self-assurance. We expect things to go well for us, and we place an inordinate amount of confidence in science, technology, and human wisdom to solve humanity’s problems.
But trouble comes to us, and it is always an unwelcome imposition that lays pain and uncertainty at our feet. Most of the time we experience loss in terms of our time, our treasure, in fun and fulfillment, or a relationship. Difficulty robs us of something we want, and we either react to the circumstances or choose to endure. When pilots are training to fly, they are taught to anticipate emergencies. In addition to mastering a specific airplane’s flight controls and aerodynamic limits, they learn to control their emotional responses under pressure. Reactive emotions such as denial, over-confidence, resignation, and panic are countered with memorized response statements. For example, the corrective response for panic is, “Not everything is hopeless. I still have choices.” In every scenario, a pilot learns to fly the airplane!
3 Types of Perseverance That Will Help Us Keep Flying the Airplane!
Everyday Endurance is the response to difficulties that we all face in our day-to-day lives. Lines at the supermarket, traffic jams, delayed flights, and broken-down automobiles are a frustrating part of normal life for everyone. How we respond to such things is, in part, a litmus test of our ability to handle greater levels of difficulty. It can also reveal where our heart is in terms of demanding our own way or surrendering to Jesus. In everyday endurance, sometimes we must push, and at other times we must be patient. Humility and clarity about God’s purposes help us to grow in wisdom to learn the difference.
Aspirations for Greatness are voluntary pursuits that involve difficulty. We engage these quests because of a hoped-for end. Sometimes that quest is personal, sometimes it is altruistic. For Christians, aspirations for greatness should be motivated by our desire to accomplish great things for His glory. When we aspire to greatness, we pursue a goal that is greater than ourselves—at least the self that we currently are. Whether it is a physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual, philanthropic, financial, or creative goal, the aspiration to be or do something great requires us to focus, to work, and persevere.
Moral Courage is something else entirely. It is almost always involuntary. Our response is to have courage, to be strong, to faithfully obey. Moral courage requires us to accept unwanted circumstances and walk through them to an uncertain end. It is bravely facing personal grief or life-threatening circumstances. It is the most difficult kind of endurance because the challenge may seem to have no foreseeable outcome or offer no clear purpose. For those who embrace such challenges, and keep their faith in God, this kind of perseverance is also the most noble. Why? Because there is no guarantee that life will improve or even continue after I have endured. The only guarantee is that, in our perseverance, God will be glorified, and we will become more like Christ!
Oh, that more of us would have courage when we face difficult challenges! To trust God and to allow Him to work in us through tough times. Oh, that more of us would have courage in daily life, to aspire to be a person of great faith, especially that God will be glorified by our obedience! All of us can grow in our determination to keep a commitment we have made, to complete a task that is set before us, and to stick to a vision God has assigned to us. God wants to so saturate our souls with vision, and so infuse us with determination for what could be, that we will dream the impossible, reach for the unreachable, and refuse to quit no matter what obstacles are thrown in our way or how long the battle rages. To endure every challenge until that day when His eternal purposes are made complete in and through us!
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Photo_Concepts
Adapted from Before You Quit: Everyday Endurance, Moral Courage, and the Quest for Purpose by Doug Gehman. (©2020). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
Doug Gehman is the President/Executive Director of Globe International, a mission sending agency based in Pensacola, Florida. Doug and his wife Beth are lifelong globally-engaged people. They were married in 1976 and served for fifteen years in South East Asia with their family. Doug and Beth have four married children and eleven grandchildren. They have ministered in over fifty nations. Doug loves to coach emerging leaders and help them discover their giftings and life direction. He is the author of four books. The most recent, Before You Quit – Everyday Endurance, Moral Courage, and the Quest for Purpose.