Do you ever feel worn down by what life throws at you? And even though you may not want to admit it—does it ever make you feel hopeless? If so, I’m with you. But instead of letting that junk overwhelm us and take us out—I’ve found we can push through that crap and come out the other side both stronger, and even full of hope. “How?” You say? Read on.
I used to be allergic to exercise. OK, I guess it was just apathetic. Truth be told, early in my marriage, my only exercise regimen was walking to the box of Cheez-Its in the cupboard or the ice cream in the freezer.
But around 20 years ago, I decided to shed my lethargic ways. I remember the first time I ever intentionally, and not under threat of violence, ran. It wasn’t pretty. Granted, it was less of a run and more of a fast walk. But I made sure I was at least moving. Although a bit sore at first, I made it a discipline. And now, it’s a part of my weekly routine, like cleaning the bathroom or mowing the lawn. You could say I persevered. And I continue to persevere.
Also around 20 years ago, I started seriously exploring faith. Asking, “Who is God?” And as I grew in that understanding, I started to ask, “What is He saying to me?” And scarier still, “What am I going to do about the things I think He’s saying?” (Gulp.)
Now, I’m nowhere close to figuring all this out, but as I look back through my parallel journeys of running and seeking to understand God, some things have become clearer. Primarily, I feel that God continues to invite me into life beyond what I see in my job, on the Web, or even on Netflix (although I do believe Stranger Things is a gift from God).
For me, God has used running as an analogy to show what investing in the future can look like.
Once I started to understand what God was saying in terms of investment—both investing in my health and investing in my spiritual growth—I soon made the jump to my potential for impacting the world. The more I invest in running, the more I’m able to have an impact on my health and wellness. The more I invest in my spiritual growth, the more I’m able to have a bigger impact on the world.
But growth takes time and effort. It takes sacrifice, but it’s worth it. It’s worth—you guessed it—persevering.
A friendly disclaimer: What I believe to be true around perseverance comes from how I perceive God and interpret the Bible. I’m about to start throwing some around, and since you’ve hung with me so far, I hope you can stick with me a few more minutes as I share that perseverance requires movement, connection to God, and connection to others—resulting in world impact.
1. Perseverance isn’t about standing strong. It’s about moving through.
A guy named Paul wrote a lot of the Bible in what’s referred to as the New Testament. He had this to say about perseverance:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. I Corinthians 9:24-27
Paul’s saying that life is a race. But what the heck are we running for? Why persevere? Paul is saying we persevere because there’s a prize God wants to give us. That prize is a perfect life after this one that lasts forever. That might sound crazy, but it’s true. He knows this world is powerful and trying to pull us down with lies (like telling us we’re unworthy or incapable). But this passage tells us we can discipline ourselves, we can control our bodies, and we can run. We don’t merely brace ourselves for the things life throws at us. We run through them! And guess what? We don’t run alone.
2. Perseverance isn’t about self-sufficiency. It’s about interdependence with God.
And he (Jesus) withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. Luke 22:41-43
God’s son, Jesus, is speaking here. The religious elite were gunning for him. Jesus knew they were coming to arrest and convict him at any moment, resulting in the most excruciating death on a cross.
Jesus was praying and calling out to God, but God didn’t pull him out of it or kill his enemies (BTW, both possible and at his disposal). What did God do? He sent an angel so that Jesus could be strengthened. So that Jesus could persevere to accomplish the “race” set before him. Whatever your “race,” God will meet you in the same way. Strengthening you as you call out to Him. It’s something that can only be realized if you’re willing to persevere.
3. Perseverance is about serving others.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2
We’re not only meant to persevere through our own stuff but we “bear one another’s burdens” as well. It gives me a ton of comfort to know that others are called to help me keep moving, and I them. It’s good to not feel alone. And let’s face it, this world can feel pretty frickin’ lonely sometimes. Connection to both God and others will give us the strength to keep moving through whatever is before us. Like running, it takes practice. When we reach out to help one another persevere, that’s creating impact! And that’s so sweet.
4. Perseverance makes us like Jesus.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
We’re told in this verse to persevere in doing good. And why are we doing good? Because that’s what Jesus did. Our “doing good” shows people who Jesus is, so that they can come to understand and believe in Him, too. That’s impact! The more we persevere, the more we look like Jesus, and the more others want to know Him.
5. Perseverance is how we receive gifts from God.
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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
James says some crazy stuff here about it being “pure joy” when we suffer. What the…? As we persevere, God is promising to give us maturity and completion—and that is what gives us joy.
I know I can be immature. Just ask my wife. I know I have holes in my thinking and actions, needing completion in who I am. God is saying if you want maturity and completion, he wants to give it. But you need to persevere! And the more you do, the more He gives—which makes it easier to persevere the next time. The more we’re generous, the more we see God’s generosity to us. The more we attempt to impact the world, the more we see His impact in our lives. We don’t do things to get things. But in the doing, we see all we’ve gotten. God is faithful in this.
So in a world that tells us it’s safer to stay put, I think God is calling us to something greater. To actually get off the couch, lace up the sneakers, and hit the pavement. To move even when we’re afraid, tired, or sore. It might not be easy, but it will be far, far better than the status quo. So go forth. Impact the world. And persevere!