Is something going on somewhere in your country, town, neighborhood, or family that has someone upset, nervous, or in panic mode? It might even be even you! Cancer. Disaster. Job loss. Death. Enemy attack. If you like to plan and control your environment so that your loved ones (and yourself) can rest, relax, and be productive, these interruptions to life are very hard to bear. What do you do? Do you try to escape to something that makes it go away for a while—a feel-good movie, book, or a retreat? But then you get back to the rough-and-tumble of real life and find that whatever is stressing you is still there. Most stressors don’t last just for a day—more like a month or year or even a decade! Isn’t that true?
Trouble in This World—Guaranteed!
Jesus said to His followers that we will have trouble in this world—you and I and every other Christian. All of us. It does not matter where you live or how much money you have or what kind of success you have gained. It does not even matter how much faith you have or how faithful you have been to God in your daily life and work.
Some troubles simply come from living in this fallen world and are common to everyone—illness and natural disasters. Other troubles such as persecution and rejection are related to being a child of God living in an unbelieving world. Then there are those we inflict upon ourselves because of sin still present within us—our own bad choices—or troubles that others inflict upon us because of their bad choices. Either way, we get stuck with the results. Maybe that is what you are experiencing right now.
So, in order to not only survive but also to thrive over a lifetime of ups and downs, you and I need to have something called perseverance, something the Bible says is good for us. But perseverance is only learned when there is a challenge to our comfort. And who likes that!
What Is Perseverance?
Perseverance is not a word that we use often, but the Bible talks about perseverance a lot. We use the word endurance more often. Endurance race. Endurance test. Endurance is a good word, but it is not as intentional as perseverance. What is perseverance?
Perseverance is holding to a course of action, belief, or purpose without giving way.
Perseverance is the quality that enables a person to stand on her feet when facing a storm head on. It refers to active staying power and tenacity to hold up under some long-term burden, not just getting stuck in traffic. It carries the idea of whole life experience. It is the quality that enables a person to stand on his or her feet when facing a storm head on.
The Greek word often translated “perseverance” in the New Testament means “bearing under.” You have to be “under” to bear “under.” That requires some kind of weight.
A good analogy is how we as women can prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones have lost so much density that they look like “swiss cheese,” full of holes making them weak. That is not good for anyone, especially older women. What we want to have are bones of iron. That requires regular intake of vitamin D and calcium plus load bearing exercise.
Nutrition alone will not develop strong bones. Bible study alone will not develop perseverance. Staying on your feet and moving forward in a storm does. Sadly, for those of us who are book learners, we cannot learn perseverance from a book. We learn it best through suffering. Bummer!
Suffering Tests Your Faith; Perseverance Matures Your Faith.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Testing refers to the process of melting down rock that has suspected gold in it. It is tested to see how much gold is in it and to remove anything that’s not gold. Fire melts the ore, the heavier gold metal sinks, and the weaker crud that is not gold floats to the top to be skimmed. The gold in the ore was already gold before being melted. But after melting, all that is left of the ore is pure gold and is useful for making jewelry, money, decorations, and other beautiful stuff.
The testing of your faith is on faith that is actually there. You can rejoice about that. You have faith worth testing. Gold in any amount is beautiful, isn’t it?
Jesus uses those tough times when you are under stress, pressure, pain, or suffering to float to the surface the parts of your character that are not so beautiful, not so strong, and not so godly. If you let Him, He will remove that not-so-beautiful stuff and strengthen what is left so you can persevere. This results in stronger faith.
Not only that, perseverance accomplishes something else in your life. When you persevere through any pain, distress, or long-term challenge, you will be mature, complete, and lacking nothing. You can have joy in the process (James 1:2) because of the reward at the end for holding on without giving way.
Motivation by reward helps, but you need one more ingredient in the mix in order to “hang in there” over a lifetime. You need hope in this difficult world.
You Need Hope in This Difficult World
Regardless of the cause of your struggles, you need a secure hope in order to “hang in there” over a lifetime.
… so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast … (Hebrews 6:18-19 NET)
Hope is an “anchor for the soul.” What a tremendous image! Picture an anchor giving security and stability to a ship in a midst of a storm. That is what hope does for you, and more!
Our God is faithful. That is a fact. By trusting God through present difficulties and pains, you can remain steadfast because you know the outcome.
Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but a confident, eager expectation of a coming certainty based on the character of God to back up His promises.
Christ will complete the work He began in you that enables you to persevere over a lifetime. You can have a secure hope rooted in the faithfulness of God and NOT GIVE UP! You can persevere through the rough-and-tumble of real life when you are empowered by your faith and sustained by your hope in an always faithful God.
We live in the time period between Genesis 3 when sin entered the world and Revelation 21 when God does away with all sin and its effects. Where there is sin, there is decay, destruction, and death—relationally, emotionally, physically. Hard stuff is going to happen to everyone, even to the best of Jesus’ followers. Jesus said so, James and Paul repeated it. This is foundational.
If you are going to faithfully persevere, you are going to have to accept this—not like it, but recognize it and not be discouraged.
God is working during this time in history. He says to us, “Okay, I am going to use those very things, those tough things to develop something in you, my daughters, so you can get through life faithfully and have joy in the process” (loose translation of James 1:2-4).
Sometimes we are promised by other people that if we just have enough faith, “Nothing bad will ever happen.” Have you heard that? Nice thought. Possible? Yes. Reasonable? No!
So when bad things do happen, you can become overwhelmed. Or you can become so disappointed that you give up on your faith-walk. But Jesus does not promise an easy time. He puts it right out there so we will know, “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33)—trials of many kinds.
Instead, He promises Himself. We must focus on what He is doing in the midst of what we are doing. It is our total confidence that Christ will complete the work He began in us that enables us to persevere through the rough-and-tumble of real life. He is with us every step of the way.
Choosing to Persevere
You have to choose perseverance for it to finish its work. What would be the opposite? Whining. Complaining. Grumbling. Anger at God. Giving up. Using an acceptable but unbiblical practice of your culture to fix it—whatever IT is.
We forget where we are going with Jesus. We move, change jobs, divorce, avoid, blame, consider ourselves victims, buy our way out, and drink or drug our way out. You have seen your friends do this, haven’t you? So have I. Maybe you have done it. I know I have.
But if we will let Him, Jesus will remove that yucky stuff to make us mature and complete, not lacking in anything needed. We will have what is necessary to live out Jesus’ life in us. It does not mean perfect because we are not promised perfection in this life. But God will finish His particular work in us before He takes us home.
For you and me, God has kingdom work for us to do here on earth during this time between Genesis 3 and Revelation 21. He needs us to be mature, to be grown up. It is hard work to grow up, isn’t it?
I am not good at letting perseverance finish its work when I have a way out. What about you?
Prepare by Instruction; Learn by Experience
My husband always says that God’s way of teaching us is this: “Prepare by instruction; learn by experience.” That is true about developing perseverance in our lives, also. Have you noticed this in your life?
Our instruction comes from the Bible, especially viewing the work of God in the lives of men and women during much of their lifetime. We can see God’s faithfulness to them and be confident in His faithfulness to us as well. He is the same God after all.
I heard this several years ago, and it has stayed with me.
When we look at life just with our own eyes, we become fearful, pessimistic, and negative. We think, “Nothing’s going to work. I don’t know if I can get through this.” But when we look at the Bible and begin to see how God empowered everyday people like you and I, the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God to strengthen us and give us courage that we did not know we had. (Steve Hixon)
That is so true. God is the best teacher.
Are You Ready for Perseverance in Your Life?
Are you ready to develop perseverance in your life? If so, remember these four action steps I have mentioned in this article. They are like lane markers for our race.
#1. Choose to persevere through every challenge.
#2. Count on God’s promise to give you hope.
#3. Let that hope sustain you through the trials of life.
#4. Celebrate the joyful reward.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with hope as you persevere through everyday life.
Read or listen to “Pathway #6: Keep Moving Forward.”
Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study of Old Testament Men (read an older version online)
Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study of Old Testament Men (download a new version as pdf)