Saturday, December 14, 2013

Persistence in Christian Life

Published in REVIVE, Dec. 2013

Somebody has said it well, “It is not how you start the race, but how you end the race that wins you the prize.” There are many who start the race very well; there are only a few who become winners.  Paul specified, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1Cor.9:24). In other words, God wants us to run with a single, determined focus – to obtain the prize.

“To persist” means “to continue firmly in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.” To persist means to keep moving ahead in spite of wind, fire, and rain. To persist means to continue, to be constant, to keep pressing forward. To persist means to never stop.

VALUE OF PERSISTENCE

Persistence Brings Answers to Prayer

The Bible always connects prayer with persistence. Jesus promised, “Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” In the original language, the sense of the verse is “Keep on asking and it shall be given unto you, keep on seeking and you shall find, keep and knocking and it shall be opened unto you.” Jesus Himself persisted in prayer for long hours, even whole nights at times. He taught through parables that one must not give up or lose heart when praying, but must keep on persisting in prayer. In the Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge, He demonstrated that how even an unjust judge was moved to action when the widow kept persisting at his door (Luke 18:1-8). He mentioned that a friend would get up in the middle of the night to help his friend with whatever he asks, because he persisted. In fact, He observed that though not because of the friendship, he would rise up and give whatever the friend needed because of his friend’s persistence (Luke 11:8, NKJV). Many saints fail to obtain answers to their prayers because they fail to persist. They persist till a point but give up just before the answer would come. Isn’t it silly to destroy the eggs under incubation just because we aren’t able to see any change on the external? Many abort a dream out of impatience in face of the invisible. But, if one persisted, the invisible would break through the shell in the fullness of time. Persistence brings answers to prayer; therefore, the Bible exhorts us to never stop praying (1Thess.5:17, NLT). When the Church persisted single-mindedly in prayer in the Upper Room, God poured down His Holy Spirit; when they prayed without ceasing for Peter, God broke through the gates of the prison and set him free (Acts 12:5). God answers prayers. God is ready to answer persistent prayers.

Persistence Inherits the Promises of God

Hebrews 6:12 instructs us to not be sluggish, but become imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises of God.

Imagine a man dying in abject poverty while a cheque of one lakh rupees lies rumpled in his pocket. Imagine he had an infinite number of such promissory papers that have not been activated because they were never processed through the bank. Perhaps, he didn’t know anything about their value; perhaps, he was just sluggish to walk down to the bank.

Sadly, that is the condition of many Christians. They either have false views about God’s will for their lives and so live in abject fruitlessness or have become too sluggish to press on in godly diligence to obtain all that God wants to entrust them with in order to display His power in their lives. One reason is because they aren’t transformed by the renewing of the mind by submitting to the pure Word of God.

God’s will is revealed in His promises; He has given us His promises because He loves us and wants us to inherit them. However, as somebody put it, He can’t force the blessings down our throat. We are called joint-heirs with Christ, which means that our signature (faith) and receiving (persistence) is required. Some Christians are only a little better off than the monks who lived in caves or sat on poles for years because they believed that was God’s will for their lives. It’s a sad condition to attempt self-mortification through carnal means when the Bible declares that it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can mortify the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). God’s promises touch the whole man – body, soul, and spirit (3John 1:2; 2Cor.7:1). They are sufficient for us to live a godly life in this earth (2Pet.1:3).

Persistence brings Productivity – Fruitfulness

The Bible encourages us to not get tired of doing good; because if we don’t lose heart, we will reap the reward in due time (Gal.6:9). No farmer gives up hope because he doesn’t see the harvest a week after he has sown the seed; he knows that the seed has its time. They say that the Chinese bamboos, when planted, display no sign of growth for many years; however, in the due time, they suddenly shoot up to gigantic height. All through those seemingly unproductive years, they had been taking deep roots under the soil. If we persist, we will see the fruit. The key is: taking root. There are times when God is just sharpening the axe, in order to use it at a specific point of time later.

If one is continuing in sinful practices, one must immediately repent and turn around. Don’t waste time by allowing sin to waste your time. Replace sinful practices with godly and good actions, and every action sown will bear a reward.

Persistence is Purpose-Oriented

Paul asserted that he had reason for persisting in his course; he doesn’t run aimlessly, he doesn’t box as one beating the air (1Cor.9:26, RSV). He tells the Corinthian Christians “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” (1Cor.9:24). Purpose and goal define the meaningfulness of living. God has a course charted out for each one of us. Even before we were born, all that God has designed for us, to each day, was written in His book even before they came to be (Psalm 139:16). But, it is up to us to discover His will and persist in the calling, the goal that He has called us to. It is up to us to unravel His will in our lives. If we lose hope, our goals are being shattered; our foundations are crumbling; our vision, failing. But, if we know whom we have believed, then we will be persuaded that He is able to keep what we have committed to Him until that Day (2Tim.1:12). He will enlarge the ground beneath our feet to keep our feet from slipping (Psalm 18:36). So, we can run confidently forward towards the goal to obtain the prize. We do not need to fear when our hope is anchored in God. He Himself is keen to unravel His purposes in our life; for it is God who is working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Phil.2:13, NLT).

Persistence Obtains the Prize

Again, it is not how we start the race but how we finish it that matters. There are many who start out very well; but fall away during the course. There are many who enrol themselves for discipleship; there are only a few who graduate. God has called us to run the race with the determination to obtain the prize. God is only interested in giving the rewards to those who can multiply the five talents into five more and the two talents into two more. God is interested in our success, whether at job, at business, or at school. God wants us to keep winning all along the way. Winning occurs within the circle of discerning what God’s right will is. The crucifixion of Jesus was not defeat, but victory. The martyrdom of the saints was not defeat, but their victory; for they overcame the devil by the word of their testimony and the blood of the Lamb and they were not afraid to die for Christ – they persisted to the end (Rev.12:11). God wants us to run with the certainty of the knowledge of God and His will, and to run in order to ultimately obtain the imperishable crown (1Cor.9:25).

OVERCOMING HINDRANCES TO PERSISTENCE

Overcoming Every Besetting Sin by the Power of the Spirit

Hebrews 12:1 instructs us to tear away every weight and besetting sin from our lives, those sins that easily ensnare us and keep us from moving forward. There are many Christians who have never seen much progress in their Christian life of decades because of some sin that has kept defeating them each time they were about to step forward. We can’t persist any further until we have let the Holy Spirit deal with that besetting sin – it might be a bad addiction, a sinful habit like lying and procrastination, a wrong attitude, or an evil craving; but, whatever it may be, it must go right away, right now. Somebody said that the best way to break a habit is to drop it. Peter J. Daniels, the Australian entrepreneur, tells us that the best way to develop a good habit is to keep it persistent for 100 days and never allow an exception against it – and the habit will lock in. In his psalm celebrating God’s blessing for persistence, David prays, “Examine me, GOD, from head to foot, order your battery of tests. Make sure I'm fit inside and out so I never lose sight of your love, but keep in step with you, never missing a beat.” (Psalm 26:2,3, MSG). Jesus told us to remove the plank in our eye before talking about the speck in someone else’s (Matt.7:2-5). Often, we make remarks about progress without any essential progress in our own lives; because, in our own personal life, we have been living defeated lives. Studying God’s Word pierces through the entrails of our inner world and rips us open before the light of God (Heb.4:12,13). Now, there is the good news for us in the New Testament. God has given us the earnest of the Spirit to help us in this very matter; because the Spirit searches all things and the Spirit knows the mind of God (2Cor.5:5; 1Cor.2:10; Rom.8:26,27). God helps us to grow internally strong in edification through praying and interceding in the Spirit, and the Spirit knows what to pray for when we’ve run out of all that we know or can do (Rom.8:26,27; 1Cor.14:2,4).

Overcoming Every Negativity with Faith in God’s Word

The Bible tells us that faith overcomes the world (1John 5:4). Now, let’s define negativity biblically. Anything that seems to be positive is not positive in the same manner that all that glitters is not gold. Any form of confidence is not sane; for self-confidence is also found in great amounts among the insane. Lucifer became the devil because of a false possibility-thinking (he thought it was possible to exalt his throne above God). Biblically speaking, faith is that which walks in the lustrous path of God’s Word; negativity is that which walks in darkness. Anything that is not illuminated by the Word of God is negativity. The children of Israel persisted till the borders of Canaan, but failed to get in because of negativity. Their negativity soon erupted in complaining, grumbling, self-pitying, lusting, frustration, and rebellion: the end result, destruction. The Bible says that God destroyed them because they didn’t have faith (Jude 1:5). He saved them out of Egypt, of course, but destroyed them in the wilderness. They never got into the Promised Land because they didn’t mix God’s good news with personal faith (Heb. 4:2). We must bring every thought and false (fear instilling, vile) imagination captive to the feet of Jesus (2Cor.10:5). We must get out of negative company (friends, movies, books, music, etc) and get into faith company; for God has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light, so that we may walk in the light as He is in the light and we may have fellowship one with another (1John 1:7).

Persistence finds answers to prayer, brings forth fruit, fulfils God’s plan, and wins every battle. But, there is a price to pay, there is pain involved, there are things to lose; but there are also greater things to gain and a greater joy more satisfying than all. So, let’s persist in order to obtain the crown.

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