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Intersection of Life and Faith

You Can Persevere

  • 2002 24 Apr
You Can Persevere
Perseverance has many faces. We tend to think only in terms of the big problems, the really difficult tasks, or massive suffering.

When we work out with weights in the gym, we know we must begin with small weights, gradually strengthening our muscles and increasing weight with time. We build perseverance in the same way. We learn to persevere in small matters and we are strengthened for future challenges.

Let's look at some synonyms to help us understand perseverance:

Endurance is the ability to last, to continue, to remain in whatever we are doing. Endurance in athletics paints a good picture. In my passion for handball, I need strength to hit the ball hard. I need energy from good nutrition to keep going. I have a bad habit of skipping breakfast or lunch, and sometimes both. Then at 4:15 p.m., I go into a handball court and become exhausted after fifteen minutes of hard play. I wonder why?! I also need "wind" - the ability to keep oxygen coming into my system through my heart, lungs, and blood. To be able to play a two-hour match without constantly gasping for breath takes weeks and months of preparation. Endurance relates to overall physical condition.

There is one last element that I find vital in handball. That is mental focus, concentration, accompanying the endurance - a mindset to keep going and not give up even if I am losing.

Persistence is what we often see with children. They keep pressing and pushing until they get their way. We need to persist - to decide to continue something in spite of opposition and difficulty. I like the story told of Cato, the Roman scholar. He "started to study Greek when he was over 80. Someone asked why he tackled such a difficult task at his age. `It's the earliest age I have left,' said Cato ... and went right on studying."

Tenacity is similar to persistence. It is hanging on doggedly n matter what obstacles we face.

Steadfastness is a biblical word. It comes from the Greek word bupomeno, meaning "patient enduring." In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we are told to be "steadfast, immovable" (ESV). The Bible speaks of our hope being "sure and steadfast" (Hebrews 6:19, ESV). Steadfastness will not fade or fail. It lasts forever.

Resolve, or resolution, means making a decision and keeping it as we pursue a specific direction. We need to resolve to persevere.

Other words could be used: firmness, stability, fortitude, courage, decisiveness, relentlessness. Each of these words captures a dimension of perseverance. In short, perseverance means to keep going, to remain faithful in the direction of God's call and will. ...

The apostle Paul was a man born to battle and to a life of pressures and difficulties. ...

Let's examine three aspects of Paul's secret, from his writings:

1. Christ gives me strength for everything I must do. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). That is such a simple statement underlying such a big truth. The truth: Jesus gives us strength.

2. It is strength for everything I do. "Yeah, yeah ... a good sermon. But I need something practical, something that works - now!"

Let me ask: To what degree have you tried Jesus? Jesus, or the name of Jesus, is not some magic word that you repeat as a mantra and a miracle happens. Nor is Jesus a man-servant who appears at your side saying, "And what may I get for you now?"

When Paul said he could do everything through Christ, he spoke of an indwelling Jesus who have him salvation and who daily spoke with him and led him. The "salvation" pill of "receiving Jesus" in some cavalier way is not enough. There must be surrender to the complete salvation He offers. It involves submission to Jesus in salvation, which begins to change how we think and live. Our tendency is to "believe in Jesus," and then go on to conduct our lives in pretty much the same way as we did before. There must be a conscious decision to depend on the strength Jesus offers. ...

We need a basic diet of spending time with Him regularly in the Scriptures and prayer. We must exercise a commitment to do what He tells us. Then we must keep doing that even when we don't feel like it, when we don't feel the need, or when we're too busy.

We also must practice what we believe. Then strength (power) is experienced. I can daydream all I want about how to have a stronger, faster shot in handball, but until I spend time with some weights in the exercise room, it will never happen. ...

3. When difficult times come, I need to persevere. The ability to persevere comes from the "power from God," which Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 4. Here is how Paul described his responses:

  • Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. As the saying goes, he was "up to his armpits in alligators." He saw no way out. But he could not be crushed. He knew from truth he had learned and from personal experience that God would sustain him.

  • Perplexed, but not in despair. At times he could not figure out what was happening to him - or why. He was perplexed, confused, but he would not permit himself to give up in despair. Many times we must keep going when we have no clue as to the root of our problems and circumstances.

  • Persecuted, but not abandoned. Not many of us in the West today have really been persecuted, even though we may feel like we are on the receiving end of persecution. However, in our world today, many people actually do suffer persecution for their faith. But we have the absolute confidence that we are not orphaned - not abandoned. God is still there, watching out for us.

  • Struck down, but not destroyed. There are setbacks, hard times, illnesses, great disappointments - but they will not destroy us.

  • Finally, Paul simply said, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Excerpted from Making Peace with Reality: Ordering Your Life in a Chaotic World, copyright 2002 by Jerry E. White. Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, Co., All rights reserved. For copies of the book, call 1-800-366-7788.

Jerry White, president of The Navigators, is a popular speaker at conferences and churches. The author of several books, he has also served as a mission controller at Cape Canaveral and taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He retired from the Air Force in 1997 as a major general.

What challenges do you face when trying to persevere in tough situations? What rewards have you experienced when you have successfully persevered? Why is perseverance important to you? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic: