Category Archives: Perseverance

True Grit

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Andrew, 3rd row, 5th from left

Persevering and not giving up is a character trait honored in and out of the Bible. 

Three times, God encouraged Joshua to “to be strong and courageous” when commanding him to lead the people of Israel across the Jordon River and into the land he was about to give them. (Joshua 1:6-9)  God blessed Job in the latter part of his life more than the first after Job persevered through the loss of his family, his possessions and a painful illness at the hands of Satan. (Job 1:12-20; 2:7; 42:12)

Jesus told his disciples the parable of the persistent widow to show how “they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1-8)  He praised the Church of Ephesus for their perseverance and enduring hardships for his name. (Rev. 2:3)

Life is full of challenges and hardships that try our perseverance – a lingering illness, prolonged unemployment, an unbelieving spouse, an alienated adult child, a difficult boss or colleague, training for various athletic undertakings, practicing for excellence with a musical instrument, pursuing the mysteries of science and other fields of learning, fighting in battle and war to victory, enduring persecution for justice and righteousness, and so many other examples.

This past Saturday, our grandson, Andrew, 20, completed a 3720 mile bicycle tour from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Capitol in Washington, D. C. with other Pi Kappa Phi fraternity brothers from across the country to raise awareness and money for people with disabilities.  Their tour is called Journey of Hope. 

They rode over mountains, climbing as much as 10,000 feet in a day, through valleys, across the Great Plains, around the Great Lakes, over the Appalachians and finally reaching Washington sixty-three days later.

They rode through pouring rain, snow in the mountains, sweltering days in the 90’s, lightening and even an episode of swarming bees.  Each morning they would rise at 5:30 am, have breakfast and take off for the day, riding on average 70 miles, and as much as 125 miles and eight and half hours on their longest day.

Many of their afternoons and evenings were taken up with approximately forty “friendship visits” with various groups of people with physical and intellectual disabilities.  They played wheelchair baseball, danced at Special Olympics dances, and engaged in a variety of activities with children and young adults with disabilities.

The challenges were many – sore, cramping and strained muscles, varied sleeping conditions, physical and mental fatigue, even boredom on long  days through the desert, potholes and equipment failure.  Andrew went through eight tire tubes.  But he and his team persevered. No one gave up.  They showed true grit. 

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those that love him.”  (James 1:12)

 

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Toughening It Out

How do you respond to persistent, long term challenges? 

The prophet Jerimiah complained to God about the godless prospering and living in contentment even though their hearts were far from him.  God had called Jerimiah early in life to speak for him.  From the beginning, Jerimiah encountered hostility and persecution to his prophetic words taking place over decades under several kings and the conquering armies of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.  Seldom did the people or their kings heed his warnings.  To compound his lament, he sees people prosper who have ignored both him and God.

God’s response is not entirely sympathetic.  He says, “If running against men worries you, how will you race against horses?” (Jer. 12:5)  This sounds similar to God’s response to Job after his many complaints resulting from his lengthy suffering.  “Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance?” (Job 38:2)

Like Jerimiah and Job, how often do we complain to God about the trials and challenges in our lives, or question his timing or justice?  It may be the suffering from a long term illness, seeing the life of a loved one snuffed out prematurely or protracted unemployment extending beyond our ability to cope.

I am reminded of the women who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years in Mark 5:26 or the man who had been an invalid for 38 years waiting to be healed by the stirring waters of the Pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9.  Each had an enduring faith: the woman saying, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured;” the man waiting for someone to assist him to get into the pool while the healing waters are stirring.

For almost thirty years, I have been praying for the healing of a daughter with a speech disability that accompanied her birth with Down syndrome.   She understands fully all that we say to her, she reads at a rudimentary level, but she has difficulty articulating her feelings or thoughts that require more than a short sentence.

In spite of her disability, God has blessed her with a smile that melts your heart, an inclination to love and hug most everyone she meets and a purity of heart that teaches the rest of us about the ways of God.  While I must confess that I have given up on my prayer from time to time, I still persevere, knowing that anything is possible to God in spite of my mustard seed size faith. 

I stand in awe of people who suffer through a painful long term illness and yet retain the joy of the Lord.  I marvel at the spouse who cares for a disabled loved one day in and out, month after month and sometimes even year after year.

The apostle Paul who accepted the tough words of God to Jerimiah and Job for his own life, offers us great words of encouragement in the face of interminable suffering or challenges.  He says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3)