As I write this weeks’ article, I am so aware of how much our community is suffering from the coronavirus, employment challenges, and other issues. These things have affected many I love all over the country. I have prayed and waited upon the Lord like never before. If you and I are going to move on spiritually and fulfill our callings, among all the other necessary virtues we will need perseverance. We not only need to learn how to fight, but we must learn how to hold on until the breakthrough comes.
It reminds me of Daniel. The Lord said his prayers were heard immediately but the war in the heavenlies caused the answers to arrive later than expected. We all need a combination of discernment, authority, and unwavering faith to survive the daily enemies we encounter, even those we aren't aware of. It's not enough to just know about God's Kingdom. We've been called to possess it.
When you are born again, you are born into God's Kingdom, where God rules and reigns. But that is not the only place He reigns. The old idea that all we as Christians must do is await heaven or God's kingdom when we die is just not true.
When Jesus came, He proclaimed the Kingdom of heaven is at hand in Matthew 4:17. This phrase “at hand” means just what it implies — it is within reach. Jesus explained it as “the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
True believers bear fruit with perseverance.
“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering and patience bring forth a good crop.” Luke 8:15.
Your spirit is saved by faith in Christ's sacrifice. And your soul – your mind, will, and emotions – is saved through Christ — outworked through faith and endurance. That doesn't mean we are saved by works, but it means our perseverance is vitally rooted in your salvation.
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Matthew 11:12.
That's not only physical violence in situations throughout history, but it's a focused and earnest drive, passion, commitment, and pursuit of God that enables us to “keep on keeping on” through some of the most difficult times possible.
Have you ever experienced that passion? I know I have.
Even John said he was a “brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient perseverance which are ours in Jesus.” Revelation 1:9.
The Book of Revelation mentions the words perseverance and patience seven times. Repeatedly it teaches us about those who persevered and overcame. Overcame what? Whatever challenge they faced that tried to keep them from reaching their goal. To be found victorious in Christ.
Let's look at this word, persevere. Its meaning is rooted in the word “severe.” It's the exact opposite of lethargy or inactivity.
Church, there are times when we don't reach our spiritual goals unless we are “stretched” in ways we might call severe or extreme. That's how this trait got its name. On our way to victory in some area, our trials might become severe. Likewise, it's with severe faith, severe or extreme steadfastness, that we inherit the promises of God.
Paul warned we must “through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22.
James tells us in James 1:3-4 that the testing or trial of our faith develops patience and perseverance, and that perseverance must finish its work so that we may be perfect and entire, not lacking (wanting) nothing.
We too must be ready and prepared to contend for the faith. We wrestle not against each other, but against principalities and powers in high places in the spirit realm. We cannot be wimps or hide our candle under a bushel. Rather, Jesus says we are soldiers that must learn how to endure hardships. Surrender is not an option.
Our victory comes from our faith in the One who loves us. Even our perseverance isn't based upon our own strength, but is appropriated from grace from our relationship with Jesus. When we are plumb worn out and don't think we can go on another step, we run to Him and find the rest we need to keep on going.
“But he who endures (perseveres) to the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13.
How is your strength? Your patience and perseverance? Has lethargy, disappointment, or apathy taken your energy captive? It can happen so quickly if we briefly forget that our battles are not against each other.
When we forget, we may quickly frame our co-worker, our spouse, or our boss as the one “out to get us.” When our prayers during a tough situation seem to go unheeded we are so quick to become defensive or even retaliatory in our thoughts, words, and actions. Once those words leave our tongue, they can never be retracted.
More relationships have become broken because of the tongue than from any other potential issue or problem. That's why the Lord saw fit to spend so much time in the Bible teaching us about the dangerous nature of the tongue — how it's set on fire by hell itself. Thank God for His forgiveness, restorative power, and His mercy, or not even one of us would make it.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience (perseverance) and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience (perseverance) and consolation grant you to be like minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That you may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6.
Life has enough stress you might say. Do I really need to be wearing myself out day after day fighting to maintain my head above water?
I'll share something I have learned through over 42 years of walking in Christ Jesus. If you are trying to do this in your own strength and ability, you are bound to fail and be overcome by evil. God tells us to overcome evil with good. If the Bible clearly states that there is not one good man alive, then how can we ever hope to experience victory over any evil? In Christ alone. It is no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.
So many Christians today are living in what the Bible calls the Valley of Decision. That term doesn't just apply to a one-time conversion in our youth. Our lives no longer belong to us. However, we live day after day deciding what we “feel” like doing with our time, our talents, and even our money. Even Jesus taught us that we shouldn't say, tomorrow I'm going to.... But, If the Lord wills, tomorrow I will be doing.
Holy Spirit, help us to remember that we should be about our Father's business, even when the road gets rough and the fiery trials get hotter. We shouldn't just sit in our easy chairs reading about God's promises. We are called to possess those promises and walk them out in shoe leather. It would be good for each of us to remind ourselves every morning that we may be the only Bible some person may ever read.
What qualities do others see in you? With what words would they describe you and your Christian life? Endurance? Steadfastness? Perseverance? Those are not words a lukewarm believer would be defined as. But a soldier? Yes! It's time to get our grit back, steady our hands to the plow, and make a real, measurable difference in whatever spot we inhabit in this world. We must possess the promises.
Please join me in this prayer:
“Lord, forgive me for tolerating a peacetime mentality when I am living in a time of war. Father, I repent of self-pity, apathy, unbelief, and lethargy. With Your strength Lord, I choose to shake myself and not stay AWOL in Your army any longer. Anoint me again Lord, with Your wisdom and holy zeal. Remind me that many are the afflictions of the righteous, but You Lord deliver them out of them all. My problems are temporary and are working in me a far greater weight of glory. Thank You for not leaving me where I sit—but for loving me enough to light a fire under me that drives me straight into Your arms and Your kingdom! Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done—in (this) earth as it is in heaven.”
Ruminate on that.