Seeking to carry out God’s will is not always easy and can often be met with numerous obstacles.
Examples are endless. Decisions with respect to vocation or career, responding to a difficult boss or work colleague, nurturing the Christian upbringing of children, balancing the demands of work and family; being generous with our time and money; setting aside time for daily prayer – and many more.
Perseverance is a characteristic nearly always found in the saints. St. Paul’s life is a running narrative of perseverance. From the time of Jesus’ personal call to him on the road to Damascus, to his death in Rome, St. Paul encountered rejection and persecution throughout most of his ministry.
He was forced to flee Iconium; he was stoned in Lystra; he and Silas were beaten and imprisoned in Philippi; his presence in Thessalonica and Ephesus provoked riots; and he was ridiculed in Athens. On his last trip to Jerusalem, he was arrested and held for two years by the Roman governor, Felix, who refused to release him, hoping to receive a bribe. He was later sent to Rome and was under house arrest for two years before his eventual death.
In his own words he says, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have labored and toiled and have gone without sleep… Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28)
Most of us are not likely to experience these severe difficulties in fulfilling God’s will, but we can expect to encounter various challenges.
As an attorney for a large oil company, in my mid-40’s I was offered an assignment that would have required our family to move back to New York from northern Virginia. It was a career enhancing assignment, but we had three teenage daughters and a two year old son at the time. My wife and I discerned that our daughters were all in a good place with good schools and Christian friends, and we were not sure we could replicate those conditions in New York. Therefore, I declined the offer.
While I did not lose my job because of this decision, further advancement in my career was certainly put on hold. Not long afterwards, I was asked to take a position I had previously held in order to give a “more promotable person” the experience of my current job. I started to see attorneys who used to report to me being promoted over me. I would like to report that I accepted all of this with understanding and grace, but I struggled mightily for several years.
In the meantime, God blessed us with another daughter; the teenage daughters we were concerned about completed their education, met wonderful husbands and are now raising Christian families of their own. The same is true for our son.
After about five years, my career seemed to get off its side track. Now in retirement, as I divide my time with family and a couple of Christian ministries, we could not be more blessed.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)