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Thursday: The Need to Persevere — 7 Comments

  1. Many years ago when I was young and fit, I visited Mt Tarawera in New Zealand. On June 10, 1886, Mt Tarawera blew up in a pyroclastic eruption. One minute it was sitting there benignly and then is blew up. 6 hours later, the whole show was over. 150 people died in the eruption if my memory is still intact. I visited the mountain in the 1970s, nearly 90 years after the eruption, and we decided to climb down into the crater on the southern side and climb back out on the northern side. The northern slope of the crater was made up of loose scoria scree, porous pebbles about the size of marbles. It was one of those surfaces where you took three paces forward and slid back two.

    I thought that it was going to be easy and started off with a rush. An hour later. I was still 20 metres from the top and so exhausted I just sat down on the slope and threw up. I thought that I would have to give up, slide to the bottom and walk out the southern side (which was a lot easier). But after a rest and a bit of cheeky encouragement from my mates who were already sitting at the top and enjoying my discomfort, I persevered and reached the top. And it was worth it. The crater is 9km long and looks like a giant wombat has been digging the area up.

    Endurance has a lot of merit in life. A couple of days ago we discussed the apparent contradiction between grace and endurance in our spiritual lives. I think that grace gives up the strength to endure. Just as a little, but important, aside to this business of endurance. One of the keys to endurance is to take time to rest. I would have still been stuck on the scree on Mt Tarawera, if I had not taken the time to rest. And I vividly remember when I was enduring the battle to get my Phd thesis written, how important it was to enjoy the rest provided by the Sabbath. God knows our frailty.

    The Psalmist prays:

    Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. Ps 6:2 KJV

    I like that bit about vexed bones!

  2. While perseverance is something that is developed by practice (eg James 1:2-4), the vital role of support amid community (or a sense of community) in helping foster perseverance is often overlooked. Back at creation, God affirmed that it is not good for a human to be alone (Genesis 2:18) and therefore created both a helper (Genesis 2:18) and associated instruction to go forward and create community (Genesis 1:28). Even God exists as community within community (John 1:1). Beneficence, focussing on advancing the authentic best interests of others, is the core principle underpinning all life and it too is inherently a community-based reality (Philippians 2:3-4; Ecclesiastes 4:11-12). No surprise that Jesus lived this out while He was on earth (Luke 2:52), including also communing regularly with God (Luke 6:12) and receiving support from angels at His most difficult moments (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43).

    What is the take-away of all of this for development of perseverance?

    1) If we don't happen to have support for ourselves, we can draw support and additional strength to persevere when we remind ourselves that we aren't the only one facing what we are going through (1 Peter 5:9b). You can either have a general awareness of this, or you can think of a particular person or group of people who you know are (or have) gone through similar. Similarly, you can recall a Bible character's experience that you can authentically relate to for the same purpose.

    2) Be on the lookout for how you can provide assistance to others who are caught in difficult circumstances that may be ongoing and not easily resolved. The important thing is to provide genuine support for the other. Be especially careful to not be like Job's 'comforters' that actually made things worse (Job 16:2). While helpful words in the right time and right place can assist someone in difficulty, so can restraining from giving unhelpful 'advice'. In those situations, being with someone and offering practical assistance (without being pushy) can be beneficial. The main thing is that the other person feels supported, rather than hassled. So take the time to discretely find out what the other person experiences as supportive - and what they don't.

    Experiencing and providing authentic support is 'theology' in action (John 13:34-35).

  3. As I was reading Jacob’s story, I thought about how God wants us to persevere in the faith struggles that come in our relationship with him. Jacob fights with someone who he first believes he is physically the match of. Jacob is able to hold up all night in their wrestling match. I wonder at what point he realised who he was wrestling with. I wonder if he saw this as a test. I wonder if in holding on and saying, “ “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” it wasn’t just his acknowledging that this Being had the potential to bless him, but that he knew without His blessing, he (Jacob) had nothing worth holding onto. So, Jacob holds on with all his strength, and then the Being touches his hip and he feels excruciating pain. Jacob realises his strength is not enough. Yet, he holds on, realising this Being could kill him with a touch. Jacob holds on knowing it is only because this being has allowed him to hold on that he is still alive. I feel his holding on was like Job stating, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”.

    In Jacob, I see reflected the faith of the Canaanite Woman (Matt 15:21-28). She too held on to Jesus and did not let Him go even when He tested her with what He knew she had heard all her life from the “righteous Jews” as regards her people. Jesus said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” She felt the excruciating pain of his words and looked into his eyes and determined she would not let Jesus go until he blessed her. With confidence, she spoke up, “Yes, Lord,” she said, “ even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus acknowledged her faith and her daughter was healed from that very hour.

    Lord, thank you for giving me the strength to hold on. Even the will to hold on comes from your Spirit. Help me to hold on even when I don’t understand what you are doing, especially when your response causes me pain. Help me to trust that only in not letting you go will I receive the blessings that you so long to give me.

  4. "Climbing the stairway to heaven"

    It's worth the challenge !
    Don't you think ?

    Philippians 3:14
    I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

  5. Jesus compared being blessed by "perseverance toward God," as a woman that persevered to the point of being "a pest," toward a judge that she felt would and could give her "justice," regarding someone that had mistreated her legally. The judge chose to work in her behalf because she was "a pest," for him. Jesus then, goes one to assure us that God is more righteous in blessing our perseverance with Him in comparison to that "unrighteous judge," toward that "pesty woman."

  6. And, also, Jesus went as far as to show how God even blesses us with our perseverance with God in giving us "crumbs." As in the example of the woman that persevered with Jesus even though Jesus came across to her as even referring to her as being "a dog," when He said to her that it was not right to take food from the table of His children and give it to dogs and she persevered with Jesus to show how God blessed the dogs with the crumbs that fell from the table where His children were eating. Jesus then went on to exalt that womans' faith and blessed her right then and healed her daughter. Amen for God's "crumbs" to us for even those "crumbs" from God to us are very, very, good indeed!

  7. I challenge anyone with the "Gift of Public Speaking," to preach a sermon about "God's Crumbs." Put in the story of the "annoying woman" to the "unrighteous judge," and also the one that came to the actual "Righteous Judge, Jesus," and how Jesus then went on to bless that woman with what turned out to be better than "Crumbs for the childrens, dogs."


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