Perseverance And Faith
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may received what is promised. (Hebrews 10:36)
Perseverance is the quality of character that enables one to pursue a goal in spite of obstacles and difficulties. It’s one thing to simply bear up under adversity. This in itself is commendable. But the Christian life is meant to be active, not passive. The Christian is called to pursue with diligence the will of God. He calls us to do more than simply bear the load of adversity; He calls us to persevere(to press forward) in the face of it. He wants all Christians to finish well. He wants us to “run with endurance.”(Hebrews 12:1)
Each of us has been given a race to run, a will of God to do. Along the way, all of us encounter innumerable obstacles and occasions for discouragement. God wants us to persist in doing His will whatever those obstacles might be. How can we do it?
Both Paul and James give us the same answer. Paul says, “ Suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). James adds, “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness”(James 1:3). We see here a mutually enhancing effect. Adversity produces perseverance, and perseverance enables us to meet adversity. A good analogy is found in weight training. Lifting weights develops muscle, and the more one’s muscles are developed, the heavier the weight one can lift.
Though perseverance is developed in the crucible of adversity, it is energized by faith. Again, consider the analogy of weight training. Although the weights on bar provide the resistance needed to develop muscle, they do not provide the energy. That must come from within the athlete’s body. In the case of adversity, the energy must come from God through faith. It is God’s strength, not ours, that enables us to persevere- bad we lay hold of His strength through faith.
We read in Romans 8:28 “for we know that all things work together for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose” and yet, especially in adversity, we question the validity of that statement. “How,” we reason, “can such struggles or sufferings be for my good?” At the moment they certainly don’t seem to feel so. To borrow from Jerry Bridges’ example, as you keep lifting, at every repetition the weights seem heavier until at last your muscles are screaming for relief. Most athletes know that in order to gain, they have to press past the “burn.” There’s even a phrase that’s been coined: “No pain, no gain.” Yet because of their goal of increased muscular strength, the athlete will push through to attain the next level. Once they do so, they will set a higher goal and begin the push toward it, ever reaching higher until they max out their ability.
This is what adversity helps us do as Christians. As we begin our journey with Christ, even the smallest of temptations can trip us up. We wonder if we will ever find the strength to stand against our old life and the pull of the world. Little by little under the control of the Father, we face temptation. He will never allow us to face any test beyond our ability to withstand according to 1 Corinthians 10:13.
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].”
1 Corinthians 10:13
The secret to successfully growing in faith is in direct proportion in our learning to trust in and lean on God. The apostle learned this lesson with the thorn in the flesh. After begging God to remove it and God chooses not to do so he says:
“Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me; but He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you [My lovingkindness and My mercy are more than enough—always available—regardless of the situation]; for [My] power is being perfected [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.” Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ [may completely enfold me and] may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength].”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
What Paul learned is that the revelation of our weakness is indeed the revelation of God’s strength at work in us. And the more we recognize our weakness, the more we rely on God and the deeper our faith and the greater our trust becomes. The more we wrestle, the more we discover how much we need to lean on God. That is the epitome of Christian growth. Christian growth is the opposite of what many think. There are some who believe that as you grow in faith and knowledge, you also grow more in personal resistance to sin and a stronger leaning toward sanctification. The truth is that the more we rely on our strength or righteousness, the weaker we become. It is the strong that have learned to lean more and more on God. Christ Himself said that it was the Father who worked in Him and that He did nothing without the Father. If this was true of Christ, ought it not be more so for us?
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and weak in your resistance against temptation, let the adversity push you to your knees in weakness. As you rest there, wait on the Lord who will renew your strength and overcome the temptation on your behalf.
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who has no might He increases power. Even youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.”
Dr. John Thompson