To the Grandkids: “Your life in Christ is day by day, not a big ‘explosion.’ You never know what the Lord is going to do.” – Grandpa
These words from a beloved grandfather, printed on the program of his funeral service, are meant to remind his grandchildren that a life in Christ is lived through daily faithfulness.
As I’ve thought about these words this week, the Holy Spirit persistently whispers “perseverance” to my heart. But life in Christ, as I experience it at the moment, is more routine than remarkable. This string of recent days is empty of “explosions” – I haven’t experienced any jaw-dropping, glorious fireworks nor outbursts of crisis, fear, or despair.
Yet the past few months have reminded me that it takes one phone call to make the next moment/day/week/month anything but ordinary. And while a crisis may seemingly bring my routine to a screeching halt, the truth is that life keeps moving forward. This reality was especially vivid to me right after my father died.
While riding in the car, I remember observing strangers out for a walk or at work in their yards and wondering “how can they do that?” It was jarring to realize that the world had not actually stopped. Oh, I know it seems incredibly self-absorbed to think that my broken heart would suspend the world for a time, but shock and grief are like that. Forward motion, as the way of life, seems incongruent with mourning. But with time it helps the healing process. Day-to-day will continue somehow, someway.
When I think of “perseverance” I picture a runner in a race, as in Hebrews 12: “… 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 author and finisher of our faith …”
My husband is training for a race, and he prepares for different phases of the route. There are times when he will keep pace – meaning that he’ll concentrate on moving forward while preserving his energy for the duration. Then there are moments when he’ll have to push harder – perhaps against a headwind, or up an incline, or down the home stretch when his energy is almost spent.
If I picture my life this way, I am keeping pace – for the time being – moving forward, day by day. Seems simple, but days like these take consistent focus and re-focus. My mind can easily wander from my end goal. I become distracted by another path. The temptation to run ahead of my Pace-Setter is enticing. A critical, complaining spirit saps my energy. Sometimes I get discouraged when the route takes turns that I didn’t expect. And those darn entanglements are hurdles that hinder my stride.
It helps to remember that perseverance is more than endurance. More than holding on, perseverance requires perspective and purpose. The perspective comes by fixing my eyes on Jesus, the source of daily faith, energy, and strength. The purpose comes in knowing that this race course has been marked out for me, and the finish line is eternity:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (the words of Paul).
And this morning, as I’m keeping pace, I’m thinking about those I know who are in the midst of the uphill climb. In the past week, I’ve spoken with friends whose path is made steeper by depression, uncooperative people, financial worries, chronic health issues, job loss, unexpected delays, a startling diagnosis, caregiving demands, strained relationships, and disillusionment. Friends, my heart wants things to be made quickly right for you. But our Father is so much wiser and more loving than I could ever be. He has higher goals for you and me.
I don’t know how or when or if He’s going to alter or fix your circumstances but He has promised to “author” and “finish” your faith. He will initiate and complete whatever it takes for you to reach the finish with the fullness of His glory. As I’ve been thinking about perseverance, you come to mind. So, keep running – one foot in front of the other. Let the Holy Spirit permeate your lungs and energize your spiritual muscles. Ask Him because He promises to empower you.
Here are a few thoughts from some of my favorite authors that I pray will carry us forward in perseverance with purpose and perspective:
“Perseverance means more than endurance— more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith” (Oswald Chambers).
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work in order for you to be mature and complete … Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1: 2- 4; 12).
“Running with patience is a very difficult thing to do. The word ‘running’ itself suggests the absence of patience, or an eagerness to reach the goal. (Running with patience is) the power to continue working after a setback, the power to still run with a heavy heart, and the power to perform daily tasks with deep sorrow in your spirit. This is a Christ-like thing!
Dear Son of Man, this was Your kind of patience. It was both waiting and running at the same time, waiting for the ultimate goal….” (Streams in the Desert, October 30).
“Disciplined runners consistently clear their heads and focus fully on the journey ahead. Are their muscles tired? Yes. Are their lungs strained? Yes. But can they continue? Yes, because their passion and zeal for the goal supersedes the strain. The goal beckons them onward. Passion doesn’t negate weariness; it just resolves to press beyond it …Pushing past weariness is possible. So don’t stop now.” (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon)
“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.…” (Habakkuk 2:3-4).
“No matter what hardships the world may throw at you, you have—in Me— everything you need to persevere. Despair is a deep pit, and sometimes you totter around its edges, precariously close to falling in. Your only hope at such times is to fix your eyes on Me. The more perplexed you are—bewildered by complex circumstances—the easier it is to lose your balance. To keep from falling, you must change your focus: from your circumstances to My Presence.” ( Sarah Young, Jesus Lives)
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5: 1 – 5)
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 13 – 14).
Dear friends, Be strong and let your heart take courage. I press on with you, with gratitude for your example, with hope that comes from the Lord, and with the finish line in sight. We “never know what the Lord is going to do” but we will trust in the victorious God that He is!
Love you, Renee