‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him’ – James 1:12
I have been thinking about perseverance lately – it is a characteristic that by its very nature is difficult to attain. I like Winston Churchill’s quote in the title – simple yet to the point! Perseverance is a state of endurance, strength, stamina, faith, and dogged determination to continue to push and slowly work ones way through circumstances that are challenging, seemingly unchanging and appear to have little hope for the future. Challenges present themselves in a myriad of facets – sickness, trauma, uncertainty, heartache, grief, monotony of life, loneliness, martyrdom, and countless others. Everyone goes through challenges of some sort, little or large, at various seasons of their life.
Perseverance is a characteristic that is commendable and virtuous in God’s eyes – a characteristic we should strive to achieve in the way God intended. Not simply persevering, but persevering with JOY! James goes so far as to say,
“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. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:2-8
What a perspective! Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials, because this testing of your faith produces perseverance, which in turn leads to maturity in Christ. Lean on God, pray, ask him for wisdom in any situation you face – He gives generously. But you must believe, and not doubt. Believe He will give you the wisdom you need to navigate your way through the trial.
Why do we have to persevere through trials in the first place? Why can’t life be easier? Perseverance and endurance come up time and time again in the Bible. They are certainly not to be ignored. And perseverance is certainly not one any of us will be able to avoid – we are all tested in our faith throughout our lifetime.
I have 5 key pointers on the purpose and importance of perseverance, and will go through each one briefly in a series of blog posts. My hope is that you will find them encouraging and that you will be inspired to continue to push through whatever trial you may be facing today, knowing that you are fine tuning and sharpening a quality that will lead you to the ultimate joyous victory – deeper relationship, understanding, and fellowship in Christ.
How amazing would it be to get to a state of being able to persevere through hardship, and all the while, still delighting in God? We’ll dive straight in with faith…
1. Perseverance develops Faith
The very essence of perseverance is walking through a situation where there is little hope or where it feels like it is never-ending. Maybe it’s difficult to see how things can get better. Maybe the issue is stamina – ‘Sure, things will get better. But I don’t think I can carry on waiting for that point in time to come!’ Perseverance is the long slog of enduring, and then enduring some more… and then enduring some more.
I went through a season in my life for about 2 years, where I was in a very challenging situation. I tried every which way to crawl my way out of this situation, to no avail. I was praying to God and asking Him to help. I was ‘trusting’ God, but I wasn’t really trusting God. I was praying without really seeing how my prayers could be answered, and without really believing that they would. I was ‘ticking the prayer box’ off my list. The situation seemed hopeless. I tried everything. But on my strength, I couldn’t lift myself out of this situation. I got to a point where I was becoming physically unwell and visiting my doctor wondering what was wrong with me. It turned out my physical symptoms were a result of stress and low mood due to the difficult situation I was in. This shocked me. That I had reached a stage where my physical health was actually suffering as a result.
Something my mother once said to me came to mind. ‘If at any point in your life you feel that no-one can help you, and you’re all alone, literally cry out to God in desperation.’ In other words, run after Him; seek Him out. He is always near. Sometimes, we have to draw near to Him. This is a situation where I felt completely alone. So that’s what I did.
I went out walking one day. I climbed a hill close to where we lived. And as I walked I cried out in desperation to God. ‘I trust You, Lord. I know You already have a plan for how to get me out of this situation. Your timing is perfect Lord. I trust You. THANK YOU in advance Lord for the way out You have already prepared for me.’ And every day, I walked up that hill. I listened to worship music, I looked up to the cross at the top of the hill, and I praised and thanked God for the miracle He was going to work in my life.
I persevered in actively trusting God for the guts of two months. First my health started to improve. Then my acceptance of the current situation started to build; I began to feel a sense of peace inside. Day by day my faith and trust in God and in His timing, grew and grew. My relationship with God deepened to a level it had never been at that stage. And finally, after two months of persevering, with nothing in the situation itself changing, suddenly a kaleidoscope of changes started to occur. God delivered! He took me out of that situation and into a season of blessing that far surpassed what I could have imagined.
‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’ – Ephesians 3:20
During periods of perseverance, it is your faith in God which will give you hope. It is your faith in God which will carry you through; it is sheer and utter reliance on God’s grace and strength that enables you to take each progressive step. When you must persevere through a situation, and when there is little hope, faith comes to the fore. When there is no other option to fall back on, when faith is all you have, we tend to start to depend and rely on God more. We grow to realise that we don’t have the strength or solutions, but He might…
I want to emphasise this fact. He does.
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight’ – Proverbs 3:5-6
As we persevere through life’s trials, we have the opportunity to see His power in our weakness. We have the opportunity to see His grace and His love and His ability to work in our lives in a very real and tangible way. This enables our faith to become stronger.
‘Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
God is not abstract. He is not distant. He is not a figment of imagination. He is not a made up concept to satisfy the ‘religious’ of their needs. He is real and He works actively in our lives. He has a genuine interest in the goings on of our lives and yearns to be involved in and called upon. God works real miracles and can make real changes in ways we will struggle to see if we do not develop our faith in Him.
Due to our human nature, unfortunately we sometimes don’t exercise or develop our faith as much as we should, until life’s trials bring that faith to the fore. Perseverance is vital for developing that faith to a deeper level.
Furthermore, when God highlights the value in curating a persevering spirit, He also highlights the need to do so with a thankful and joyful heart.
The next post will focus on persevering with gratitude… Click on the following link: 15. Never, Never, Never Give Up (Wise Words, Winston) Pt. 2