Kenneth L Mills
Thursday’s Blog 9-24-2020
Scott Peck, in his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, makes this declaration in his opening sentence: “Life is difficult.” While life may be difficult in these days of unrest, isolation, and uncertainty, the good news is that we have someone to look to as we faithfully “keep the faith.”
The writer of Hebrews writes, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).
The word that stands out to me is “perseverance.” In fact, the writer suggests that we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Perseverance is not one of those words we use all the time, but it is a crucial word for us in these days. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.” It reminds me of Eugene Petersen’s unique book, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society.” Written over forty years ago, it is a timeless treatise on a few of the Psalms. He wrote, for example, “that Christian disciples too often navigate this world as tourists rather than as pilgrims. We think anything worthwhile can be acquired once, so we develop the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points.”
Newspaper editor, Peter Miller stated that “perseverance is not limited to maneuvering through crises or disaster but enduring the day-after-day faithfulness to get up and do what is needed, regardless of obstacles.” James, the brother to Jesus, affirms this truth. “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” (James 1:2-3, NIV). Perseverance then is steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties or discouragement.
If I understand these passages in Hebrews and James correctly, perseverance does not mean “grinding it out” in our own strength. So, maybe perseverance is not something we do, but something the Holy Spirit does in us. It’s both hard but good. Perhaps this is why we are able to count our trials as “pure joy.” James reminds us to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).
An example of such perseverance would be the Apostle Paul’s ministry, starting from his unique conversion to his tragic execution. During that time, Paul took three missionary journeys covering about 14,000 miles, mostly on foot. In two years and three months, under the ministry of Paul, all Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord Jesus. Throughout his travels, Paul was constantly dealing with obstacles, detours, beatings, and even a shipwreck. Yet he persevered, and as he stated, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NIV).
Of course, the ultimate example is Christ Himself. Remember what the Hebrew writer shared? “Consider him (Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:3).
So, the good news for us today is learning to trust in God’s agenda by persevering, regardless of what the circumstances look like.
May God bless you as you continue to walk and live in obedience.