Brother and Sisters,
This evening it seems “perseverance” is an appropriate word for us to reflect on. I say this as current guidelines suggest a continuance of our “shelter-in-place” and social distancing needs through April at least. We pray that the Lord’s mercy will bring an earlier end to this pandemic and these extraordinary measures, but if he does not, does he cease to be merciful in our sight? As the Apostle Paul cries out, “May it never be!” Our merciful God knows exactly what we need, and we can trust him. Now for perseverance…
It seems, if we believe God’s Word, that perseverance is an essential component to Christ-like character. God perseveres, which means to know him we too must know something of holy perseverance. There is a word in Greek – hypomone (if you care to read the transliterated original) – variously translated in the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible as, “steadfastness,” “patient,” “patience,” “patiently,” or “endurance.” On two occasions the New American Standard Bible renders the same word as “perseverance.” This term hypomone appears thirty-two times in the New Testament. Let me share a sample of four such instances with you now:
Romans 5:1-5 (ESV) – “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
[Notice the absolutely necessary link between endurance and hope, and between hope and the glory of God – the glory of God that brings us life! We do not truly enjoy the glory of God if we have not learned endurance.]
Romans 15:4 (ESV) – For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
[Notice once again the link between endurance and hope. Also, did you catch how the Scriptures fit into this process? Endurance for endurance-sake alone is of limited value only. But endurance paired with, grounded in, God’s Word yields hope!]
2 Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV) – May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ
[Ah! So, this perseverance thing is a Jesus thing; it’s about the character of Christ. No wonder we need to learn perseverance as his followers.]
2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV) – His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Perseverance is not a matter of self-enabled “boot-strapping.” Rather, it is the product having been laid hold of by Jesus Christ for salvation by grace through faith. Perseverance is the outworking of faith, and it is itself a builder of faith. Perseverance is essential to being a fruitful Christian; someone for whom the knowledge of Christ shapes their heart.]
Now, in many ways we’re not all that excited about the word perseverance. It tends to make us think of long, arduous, painful endeavors, and rightly so at times! But, once again, notice how much Scripture pairs perseverance with things like joy, hope, glory, usefulness, fruitfulness, and faith. If those words ring with a beautiful, positive note in our ears, so also should the word, “perseverance!” It may help us to hear “perseverance” in a positive way if we add two more words into the mix: Perspective and Creativity.
Perspective reminds us that our in-the-moment feelings do not define reality. Indeed, what we experience as a period of “persevering” may in truth be a mere blip of an instant – not only in God’s history-spanning view, but even in the time-bound existence we live. Hebrews 12:3-4 (ESV) exhorts us to perspective: “Consider him [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Here’s a bit of helpful perspective related to our COVID-19 “shelter-in-place” crisis…we’re not even a month-in yet. This too shall pass, all in God’s good time.
And lastly, creativity. Perseverance need not be a slog if we engage the need to persevere with God-given creativity. Every moment God affords us is a moment of opportunity. What are the opportunities in front of us should we find ourselves living the COVID-19 lifestyle through April or beyond?
So, what will we do if on April 30th, a month from now, we find ourselves still facing the difficulties we’re experiencing in the moment? We’ll simply put one foot in front of the other, thankful for each moment, and continue persevering with hope until the Lord brings us into a new day.
Love in Christ,