The “P” Word

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I have to admit that I really don’t like the word “persevere” very much. Just hearing the word makes me tired, and reading the definition really drains me.

Persevere – to persist in anything undertaken, maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, continue steadfastly, persist, struggle on, hammer away, be determined, keep at it, press on, stand one’s ground, stand fast, hold on, go the distance, stay the course, plod on, stop at nothing, leave no stone upturned, hang on,  plug away, stick to one’s guns, hang in there.

Isn’t that the most exhausting thing you’ve ever read?

Life has a way of wearing us down like waves eroding the shoreline. Daily battles, conflicts and unresolved situations tend to suck the joy, passion, and strength out of us. Sometimes I find myself feeling like the psalmist who said, “My soul is weary with sorrow” (Ps 119:28a NIV). Have you ever felt utterly exhausted all the way down to your soul? You reach down to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” but your bootstraps are missing! Then you hear, “Stick to your guns!” And of course there’s the always popular yet  never encouraging, “Hang in there!” What guns? Hang in where?

The root word for persevere is severe. Sometimes the trials of life can get quite severe. The Apostle James encourages us with these words, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4 NASB). James reminds us that there is a desirable result after perseverance. He reminds us of Job’s perseverance; “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV). 

The Bible doesn’t hesitate to use the “P” word (persevere). The book of Revelation uses it seven times. When it comes to persevering, the question that comes to mind is “How long?” That same question has been asked for thousands of years. In fact, the question “How long?” is asked fifty-eight times throughout the Bible. Even in Heaven in the midst of great worship the martyred saints under the alter cry out, “How long, O Lord?” (See Rev 6:10). We rarely get that question answered. What we get is promises of eternal and sometimes temporal rewards for our patient perseverance. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay’” (Heb 10:35-37 NIV).

The great theologian Charles Spurgeon summed it up this way, “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” Charles Swindoll encourages perseverance by taking small daily steps. He said, “If you’re running a 26-mile marathon, remember that every mile is run one step at a time. If you are writing a book, do it one page at a time. If you’re trying to master a new language, try it one word at a time. There are 365 days in the average year. Divide any project by 365 and you’ll find that no job is all that intimidating.” Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, said, “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

There is just no getting around the fact that God places a great premium on perseverance. What’s the key to not giving up and persevering to obtain the promised reward? Moses discovered it. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27 NIV). “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV). Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus is the key to obtaining the prize available at the end of perseverance.

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