Archive for the ‘Perseverance’ Category

Never Give Up

One of my first experiences with perseverance was when I ran cross country in high school. The races were three miles long, usually running through golf courses and parks.

I never enjoyed running, but I did it for the glory of winning a letter. The climax to my running career occurred in my senior year in the final race of the season. I had to finish in the top seven runners from our school to earn a letter and go to the State finals. As we approached the finish line, I was in seventh place, but there was a runner closing in fast. I knew if he passed me, I wouldn’t get a letter. Although I was exhausted, I drew strength from deep within, and sped up to fool the runner into thinking I had a lot of energy left.

And it worked!

He backed off and didn’t pass me, and I finished seventh. Although it took me thirty minutes to recover from my exhaustion and walk again, I was happy because I had endured.

Like in running cross country, we all are in a race today. This race is described in the following way: “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT). 

What does it mean to endure? The dictionary describes it as to remain firm under suffering without yielding; to stay in the race when it is far easier to quit.

To help us endure, God wants us to strip away our bad habits, bad thoughts and sin that weigh us down, so we can finish the race and win.

And what are we trying to win?

One thing is eternal rewards. God give us rewards for serving him in what he wants us to do, in his power, and for his glory.

A supernatural life is another incentive to stay in the race. Only by persevering can we live the powerful life God has mapped out for us, and stand against the ferocious attacks of the Evil One. “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36, NLT).

So, how do we persevere and continue to follow God’s will?

One thing we can do is to rid ourselves of our idols. They are anything or anyone we substitute for depending on God to meet that need. For example, we all need to feel important. Some us can try to feel important by seeking career success. “If I can become a manager then I will regard myself as important.” But in the process of seeking success, we can turn away from depending on God to make us important, and instead rely on the promotion. We no longer trust in God’s declaration that we are precious to him and substitute an idol to meet that need (Isaiah 43:4). Our dependence on promotion becomes a false way to feel important, and we are slowed down in the race.

Another helpful action is to rely on Jesus to strengthen us. As Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NAS). Jesus is our partner to help us endure and not give up. He says, “Come to Me and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NAS). He will take the pressure off of us as we give our burdens to him in prayer.

Finally, we can hang in there and finish the race by keeping our eyes on the prize. Jesus did this by focusing on the joy awaiting him, which enabled him to “endure the cross, disregarding the shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

I endured that cross country race by keeping my eyes on the prize of getting a letter. May we all finish the race of life and not quit before we win the prize.

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Waiting Patiently

Waiting is hard. Lately it seems God has me waiting for a number of things – the start of a new ministry, lab test results, an article being published, and growth in a couple of faith areas. I’m doing my part to cooperate with him, but I’m challenged to wait patiently for him to do his.

Recently, I had grown discouraged about the lack of results from my writing. Few were reading my blog, I had stopped receiving writing assignments from my church, and my book hadn’t sold in months.

So, I sought the Lord to determine if this was his way of telling me to give up writing, at least for a while. Through my desires, wise counsel, peace, and the Bible he said, “Wait patiently.”

But I didn’t have to wait long for some encouraging results. The next day, I was notified one of my devotionals written a year ago would be published  in an international magazine reaching nine million readers.

Why did he make me wait an extra day to receive the good news? Why didn’t he give me this encouragement the previous day to guide my decision to continue writing? My insight is he wanted me to persevere and do his will despite the lack of positive feedback. He regarded my obedience as more important than being successful.

One problem we often have is we believe our plan is better than God’s. When circumstances fail to meet our desires, we conclude we are getting second-best. But we’re not (John 10:10).

God has reasons why he makes us wait.

It could be we aren’t ready for the responsibility. Another possibility is others who are involved aren’t prepared yet to do their part.

The wait could be a future “no” we aren’t ready to accept now.

We often don’t know why he makes us wait. But God is in control and it’s from him. “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen” (Job 37:13).This reality helps me to be patient with him, others, and myself.

We can probably recall times when we didn’t wait for God and suffered for it. In a couple of instances, I wanted a promotion so bad I wasn’t cautious and accepted the job, which became overwhelming. If only I had been willing to check the job requirements more carefully.

Learning to rest in who God made us to be can help us feel at peace even while waiting. Experiencing the benefits of our new identity as a Christian means we feel safe, respected, loved, and accepted, even when we aren’t getting what we want. We often are fooled into thinking our deepest needs are met when we get what we want, instead of by following God’s “good, acceptable and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

When we hit brick walls and are forced to pause, we have an opportunity to seek God for direction. He may want us to check our motives. “Search me, O God and know my heart; … and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23, 24). Or, maybe he is waiting for us to take some action before he opens the door.

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Timing is important to God. What we want may be God’s future will, but not now. He is good and faithful. May we learn to “Humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6) and wait patiently for him to act.

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I was talking to a friend a few days ago. I asked him how it was going. He said that it wasn’t going good. He said that he thought that he had learned how to deal with anxiety, but for the last few mornings he had awakened with his heart pounding from fear. He said that he seemed to be anxious about his work, family, ministry, and whatever else was going on. He knew what he needed to do, but it didn’t seem to be working yet. He wondered if he would ever learn.

I assured him that I knew how he felt. I too was dealing with a problem that I thought I had learned how to handle.

I have a life-long habit of stuffing negative feelings. This is not good. I need to resolve the issues that give birth to the feelings and also express the feelings.

When I don’t do that, I often get body pains. I have had backaches, neck aches, toothaches, hand pains, and finger pains, all resulting from stuffed feelings like anger, hurt, grief, fear, and sadness.

I know that this is true, because the pain has gone away at least 20 times in the last seven years, as I have applied techniques that I learned that assume the pain is being driven by emotions. This chronic pain has ranged from a few days to three years. No doctor was able to get rid of the pain.

But now I have back pain again, which two doctors are clueless about what is causing it. From what I’ve learned, it’s due to stuffed anger.

So what’s going on? Will I ever learn how to deal with my feelings so that pain never comes back?

Why It’s So Hard

The sad truth is that it’s hard to change. The Bible teaches us, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This means that the way we were trained from childhood will tend to be the way we deal with our issues as adults, long after we have learned to do it better.

God knows this. He says, “Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2). And, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

How We Learn

We learn better ways of dealing with life by being retrained. Not just learning about doing better, but actually doing better as a habit – which can be hard work.

We often don’t get it the first time — or the second, or the 20th time. Old habits die hard.

Jesus knew this when he was training his disciples. He does a miracle and feeds 5,000 with five loaves of bread. Then he does another miracle and feeds 4,000 with seven loaves of bread. But later, the disciples worried about having enough to eat (Mark 8). They still didn’t get it.

So, we can expect to have to revisit the challenges of our past–with one twist. In some ways the challenges will often be harder. God seems to peel away our old ways layer by layer.

In my case, the pain this time is in an area where it’s never been before. And my capacity to ignore a physical source is diminishing as I continue to age.

But God is relentless. He doesn’t give up easily, if ever. We shouldn’t either.

As David grew in faith and skill, he was prepared to take on Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we grow in our faith and skill to deal with our challenges, we will become more useable and like him.

So, as we revisit challenges that we thought we had already learned how to handle, may we remember that it’s hard to change deeply. Also, our challenges often will have new challenges within it. But this is God’s process to transform us gradually into godlier people, “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

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Hang in There!

I never dreamed it would take so long. I never anticipated many of the problems that I would face when I started to write a book four years ago. It definitely was a test of whether or not I would endure.

What started out as an attempt to pass on to my small group important ideas and practices for spiritual growth that I learned in seminary, gradually grew into an effort to publish a book.

I had to overcome many obstacles within me like, “I can’t do this”, “What happens if I fail?” and “who needs help with editing?”

During those four years I was to spend $24,000 of my own hard earned money and spend thousands of hours writing and rewriting the book.

During that time I was told to “give up and put the book in a drawer and forget about it.” The self-publishing company that was helping me publish the book went out of business taking $6,000 of my hard earned money and not delivering any service for it.

Seven months ago I had emergency heart surgery and almost died.

Yet, through it all I sensed that God had a message he wanted to get to his church through the book. I persevered because I thought I was doing work with God in helping his children to grow in their relationship with him.

And the book was published on Amazon.com a few days ago!

However, the need to persevere continues for I have things to do to market the book. When will it ever end?

Yet, God reminded me a few days ago that it is not in vain. “But what happens if you do not use the book in people’s lives?” I said to him. “It’s not in vain,” he said back (1 Corinthians 15:58).

I recalled something that he taught me in the last few years that nothing is in vain if done in obedience, in dependence and for his purposes.

So, I am free to focus on my tasks and leave the lion-share of the work to him to market the book, just as I did in working with him in writing the book.

So, what do you need to persevere in?

One definition of perseverance is to persist in an activity in spite of difficulties and discouragement.

The truth is that we will seldom succeed right away. God tells us “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

He also says to us we will “bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15). One fruit is becoming a more mature Christian, which includes psychologically and spiritually (James 1:4).

If God has led us into an activity, we are to keep at it until he clearly leads us to quit. He commands us to hang in there! (Hebrews 12:1).

How do we persevere? How do we hang in there? Grind our teeth and gut it out?

No!

We ask God to help change our attitude about hard things. Instead of groaning and complaining, we view difficulties as opportunities to grow in our dependence on God (James 1:2-3)

We can also choose obedience to God over success and comfort as our goal in life.

Finally, we can also ask God to help us experience his deep love for us and his goodness. Then we can rely on his promises like “You will see My goodness in the land of the living (paraphrase of Psalm 27:13), and “Surely My goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life and you will live with Me forever in heaven” (paraphrase of Psalm 23:6).

Our reliance on these promises can help us to persevere through the pain.

 

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When I was in the Air Force in the 70’s, one of my duties was monitoring long-range missile tests. This involved translating coded radio messages of how the missile was performing as it traveled  thousands of miles across the Pacific.

The audience for my translations was several colonels who were in charge of various aspects of the design of the missiles.

One night, a particularly important launch was taking place. A key part of the test was whether or not secondary missiles would properly work. These were called deployments. There were 18 of them.

Several colonels were present as I began my translation of the coded radio messages. Things went well at first. I said, “Deployment 7, successful, Deployment 8, successful, Deployment 9, successful..”

However, somewhere around Deployment 11, I could not keep up with the coded messages and I lost track of what was happening.

I panicked! So, I started to make up what was happening. Forgetting there were only 18 deployments I said, “Deployment 17, successful, Deployment 18, successful, Deployment 19, successful…”

At this point, I was jolted by a loud noise coming from the colonel in charge slamming his notebook on the table. He looked angrily at my boss and said, “Turn that bumble machine off!”

Then, my boss glared at me. If looks could kill I would have been a dead man. He was so mad at me that he publicly chewed me out four times the next day.

However, I persevered. I knew that there was nothing I could do you to undo my boneheaded decision to fake it. I just kept on keeping on doing the other parts of my job as best I could.

And God honored it. I survived! Not only did I survive, but also I received an award for outstanding service a year later.

I could have chosen to give up. I could have quit trying to be successful. But God’s way is to persevere. “In hope against hope Abraham believed” (Romans 4:18). He believed and received the promise in spite of failure after failure to believe.

We need to persevere in our struggle to live the truth. It never comes easy in our struggle against sin. God does not want us to give up. He wants us to persevere (Hebrews 12:1-6).

Listen to Winston Churchill as he sought to inspire his country to persevere in World War II against overwhelming odds. He said,

”Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

His people did not give in and played a key role in beating Hitler. They persevered.

We cannot live a godly life without perseverance. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

A friend of mine, who is a champion long distance runner, said that another runner approached him recently and said he was going to quit. He said he was going to quit because it hurt to run.

My friend said to him, “Hurt! I always hurt when I run. I have learned to run anyway!” He had learned to persevere.

God likens the Christian life to a long distance race. He says, “Lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles you and run with endurance the race that is set before you” (Hebrews 12:1). God wants us to persevere in our struggle to live the truth.

The good news is that God will give us perseverance as we persevere (Romans 15:5). As we cooperate by persevering, he performs the miracle of changing us into a more persevering person.

  • Ask God to show you a truth that he wants you to persevere in living.
  • Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him as he enables you to live this truth.

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Sowing in Tears

“Sowing in tears” is hard for us to do (Psalm 126:5). It often leads to our giving up because it is just too painful. Even if God promises a harvest some day, there is still often painful sowing and waiting before results are seen.

A couple of months ago, I almost gave up. I had invested $10,000, 1,400 hours and nearly three years in writing a book. My harvest was only 26 copies sold. I wanted out. It was too embarrassing and too hard on how I felt regarding my self-worth.

So, I consulted the Lord for direction. His response was to continue writing. Even if there would never be much in the way of results, he would be pleased because I did it with him and for his purposes. Pleasing him would be enough harvest. Anything else would be frosting on the cake.

Therefore, I continue to write. He promises me that I will reap if I do not give up (Galatians 6:8). That reaping may be just pleasing him, but it could also include helping many Christians to deepen their love relationships with the Lord.

We must remember that God’s work in and through us often starts small (Matthew 13:31) and grows slowly . We need to be patient. God wants us to look to the prophets as our mentors in “suffering and patience” in doing God’s work (James 5:10). Much of the time they were in great pain and often missed the joy of stardom. Yet, they experienced the strength of God’s presence in their sowing in tears (Jeremiah 1:19).

If you are sowing in tears these days, may I encourage you that you are not wasting your time. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). Don’t let the lack of results fool you. Sow in tears till God clearly leads in another direction.

Application Exercise

What is a work that you are doing these days in which you feel like you are “sowing in tears”? Ask the Lord if he wants you to continue with this ministry or go in a different direction. What did he say?

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Perseverance

A strength my dad had was perseverance. He used to boast to me that he had never lost a fight as a boy. He said that one reason that this was true was because the other guy would often get tired of beating him up, and quit. So, my dad would win! He modeled perseverance to me in many ways as I was growing up.

Perseverance is so important in winning the battle of living in this fallen world. I shudder to think where I would be today if I had not followed my dad’s example and persevered. I would not be pursuing my dreams today if I did not plan to persevere. I think the major difference between those who succeed in life, and those who do not, is often perseverance.

God has promised us his daily support to persevere. “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25). We need to take him at his word and wade into the pain and obstacles of life knowing that he will enable us to persevere.

Rich

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