On persevering

This will be our last we post on the site “formerly known as Flourish.” Thank you, dear followers, for being on the journey with us. Your presence and participation has been a gift to our team. We pray we have helped your flourish emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Future content for pastors’ and planters’ wives will be found on the new NAMB site here.

What would we leave our faithful readers with in our last post? A list of amazing, fascinating concepts has flooded my thinking in these weeks leading up to our final post. “Let’s go out with a bang!” was running through my mind.

Actually, our last topic isn’t that much of an explosion. It’s a pretty dull, unsexy word. Often it is a lowly virtue which seems to achieve an inglorious success — it’s the word ‘perseverance.’ “She persevered” seems much less dramatic than “She was brave.”

And yet, this feature is so key in our growth and maturity as followers of Jesus.

Perseverance is the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. Determination, tenacity and patience also are closely related qualities.

So just how did this seemingly lackluster concept become the topic of our last blog post?

It was when this truth washed over my heart: The most critically significant spiritual and personal turning points in my life were when I desperately needed perseverance. And most of them transformed my life.

  • To keep working on not just one, but two marriages.
  • To restart (again) the commitment and practice of personal time with God.
  • To continue to confess and repent of personal sin issues.
  • To battle encroaching cynicism and mistrust of people.
  • To wake up and try to mother my children well, despite my failures of the previous day.
  • To face hurtful conflicts and work toward restoration.
  • To keep loving, despite betrayal.
  • To stay hopeful as a church leader, to believe God can and would use us and the people we were leading.
  • To stay faithful in seasons of barrenness and discouragement.
  • To wrestle well through pain as I began to understand how suffering can drive us to turn our backs on God.
  • To actually believe might I see the “goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” as was cited at my husband’s funeral.

These and dozens more places where perseverance literally changed the trajectory of my life.

At these points my faith was tested by tough, unfavorable circumstances — which means it wasn’t easy to believe or act in way that pleased or honored God. These difficulties tested what I easily claimed to believe when the sun was shining and life was easy. During difficult conditions and opposition, perseverance is required to press through.

No one escapes life on this planet without difficult conditions and opposition. If you think being a person of faith exempts you from this reality, just read the Bible.

Perhaps the best-known Old Testament example of perseverance is the story of Job. His story is recounted in the New Testament: “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11)

The apostle Paul, however, serves as a superstar of perseverance.

Second Corinthians 11:24-27 provides us vivid details of the hardships that Paul endured: “From the Jews five times I received 40 stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

Paul faced continual brutal conditions and many adversaries.

What allowed these men and countless other biblical figures to persevere?

1. They turned to hope, instead of despair

Hope is the fuel for our souls, the expectation that God is going to act in the future. Despair looks at immediate realities and says this will not change; it is the expectation that God will not act.

Thomas Aquinas said, “Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.”

God intends for our tribulations to produce hope. Think about that. At the point where we want to give up, where the conditions of trusting and believing God are bad — out of that despair He wants us to hope in Him, even if what we see is discouraging, frightening and dark.

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (Rom. 8:24-25 )

Biblical hope is rooted in the faithfulness of God. Hope is that part of our faith that focuses on the future. Biblical hope is not only the desire for something good in the future, it is a confident expectation for something good in the future. Hope means I expect God to be faithful, sufficient, and powerful, even when I can’t yet see it.

This kind of hope:

  • Prevents us from complete despair in death.
  • Keeps us returning to the Word of God for life and guidance.
  • Helps us have patience with people as they are being transformed by grace.

We need to remember this: Satan wants us to be hopeless, and he deals in fear and despair. He is a deceiver and will perpetually cast doubts about the goodness, power, and love of God. Spiritual perseverance is always held together by the foundation of who God is, not in ourselves.

2. They walked by faith and remained obedient

Spiritual perseverance is marked by continued faith and obedience in tough conditions. Our faith is resting in Jesus, and not ourselves. And we don’t summon this faith in our own strength — please note — we are given the power to do so:

  • “May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy.” (Col. 1:11)
  • “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Eph. 3:16)

God spoke these words to Paul: ” My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness ….” Then Paul goes on to make a personal commentary: “I would rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor.12:9)

We are truly vulnerable in moments that require perseverance, yet that moment of our weakness is the place to see and experience the power of God clearly on display. Paul suggests we would even boast in this frail faith-moment as we unmistakably see the power of Christ abiding in us and giving us the strength to walk in faith. And additionally (this is important) Christ would get the glory!

“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)

When I look back on my life, time, distance, and space allow me a clearer look at moments that required perseverance. (Please note, I did not always persevere.) Yet in the moments that I did, I see more profoundly how God supernaturally supplied me with His strength and that gave me hope, faith, and belief He would do that again. And again. And again. And in that process my faith matured.

How about you? Can your identity that your faith is maturing as you persevere?

Sisters, we pray that ultimately something we have written has encouraged you to persevere, that you have tasted and seen His love and power carry you places in your faith and obedience that you could not do in your own strength. Thank you for joining our online tribe.

Much love, Kathy Litton

Published June 4, 2018