Scripture: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4
While living in a small town in western Virginia, my next door neighbor was a lovely woman who held the title of Master Gardener. Needless to say her plants and flowers were amazing and I always admired her gardening skills. One summer evening she called me and said, “Bonnie, be in my back yard tonight at 9:00 pm.” I couldn’t imagine what she wanted, but I was intrigued and just curious enough to comply. When I arrived, she pointed out one of her large plants, and told me to keep my eyes on it. As we both stood there watching, I was astonished to see, at precisely 9:00, a beautiful, perfectly formed, mature flower literally “pop” open right before our eyes! The plant was an Evening Primrose, and I was delighted to watch as its other flowers also popped open one by one - I had never seen anything like it.
Have you ever thought it be wonderful if we could find spiritual maturity in that way? Just pop out and suddenly “be” the mighty woman or man of God that we desire to be, complete and perfect, ready to take on any task or trial with total confidence? But you know, and I know, that this is not God’s plan for us. His sanctifying work in us can be painstakingly slow, deliberate, and difficult, and He knows that we learn best through adversity. It is through the act and art of living life with Him daily that we are gradually transformed into His likeness.
The Greek word for perseverance, hupomone, is also defined as endurance or patience – each closely linked in meaning, and each a crucial part of a mature believer’s faith. But how do we learn perseverance? Someone once said that if you ask God for boldness, you need to be bold! Likewise, if you want to learn perseverance, you must persevere!
Persevere through the Word. Our enemies would love to destroy us, our faith and our future. Recently I shared how years ago Satan actually sent the pastor of my small church to attack, accuse, and condemn me – shaking my faith to its very foundation. I began to emotionally spiral downward until I questioned even God’s love and my own salvation. After many tears and sleepless nights, I turned to His Word and rediscovered the TRUTH about myself and His great love for me. I learned, and now “I know for sure” that I am saved, the Holy Spirit is within me, that Jesus loves me, and nothing can separate me from that love. Are you struggling with your identity as a child of God and feeling somewhat lost? Turn to His Holy Word – it is alive and powerful, a source of reassurance and hope, and eternal truth that will stand forever.
Persevere through Prayer. I will admit that growing up as a young believer, prayer was never my strong suit. It was difficult to make time to pray and to keep my focus on God whenever I did. I’m learning, however, that there is no substitute for spending serious time with God. Prevailing prayers, pleading prayers, heart-rending prayers, and brutally honest prayers are most pleasing to Him. Prayer allows for intimacy with the Father, humbles us before Him and softens our hearts, it cleanses our souls and releases our spirits. In the midst of our brokenness, prayer brings us back into a right relationship with God, it brings healing, and restores hope. And, “Hallelujah, He’s a prayer-answering God!”
Persevere through Community. Late last year I was diagnosed with an unusual and serious illness. During the earliest days and weeks of the treatment I was given, I actually found it very difficult to pray, and sometimes impossible as I struggled with the physical challenges and emotional realities of my condition. But praise God, my precious brothers and sisters in Christ rallied around me and prayed on my behalf! They were such a tremendous blessing, especially as they prayed, but also as they cooked meals, sent cards, e-mails and texts, made phone calls and visited me in the hospital and at home – reaching out in love, compassion and concern. This was a beautiful picture of community at work within the Body of Christ, humbling but heart-warming, God-ordained and real. In community we help one another to persevere.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you’ve told us in Your Word that “The one who perseveres to the end shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) We thank you for this assurance, for we do indeed long to see You face to face and to receive the crown of life you promised. Until that day, help us to walk along the path set before us with endurance, patience, and faithfulness. And should we ever be tempted to give up or stray away, may we echo the words of Peter in faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”