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Whatever Happened to Perseverance?

“The signs of a true sent one were performed among you with all perseverance.”

~ 2 Corinthians 12:12

We live in a day where perseverance (a mark of those who are truly sent to the Lord’s work) is a lost art. So much so that I fear for the future of God’s work. Why? Because the ability to persevere under pressure is a mark of those who are called to the work.)

People today throw in the towel at the drop of a hat. They’ll stay in a job for a few years, then if the pressure gets too much, or it’s not conducive to their happiness, they’ll quit. The same with a relationship. The same with a business venture. The same with a church.

My first experience with an authentic church lasted eight long years. I’ve talked about it elsewhere, but that experience was so intense that we crammed sixteen years into eight. The church saw two bloody splits, lots of glory and a good dose of gore.

Many times I wanted to get out of dodge. Often, I wasn’t happy. It wasn’t meeting my needs. But I knew the Lord wanted me to stay. Not just for myself, but for the church (that is, the people). And not just for the church, but for something I didn’t know back then . . . for other churches and people in the future that didn’t exist at the time.

I’m glad I didn’t quit, because those years proved to be the preparation for my future ministry. If I hadn’t preserved through them, I don’t believe I would have been able to co-work with others.

Nor do I believe I would have been able to weather the storms that awaited me. Not to mention learning innumerable unique lessons that I would have missed . . . some glorious, some difficult.

(Regrettably, I quit baseball my junior year in high school. Something I regret till this good day. Ironically, I was a pitcher.)

Writing this post is a double-edged sword. The danger is that some who are reading it really should quit something they are getting ready to give up on because their presence in it is creating (or will) create problems. Or because God clearly wants them to get out.

I hope that such people don’t take this post as encouragement to stay with something they should get out of.

This post isn’t for you, dear soul. It’s for another set of people.

Over the years, I’ve received many letters from people who were part of “churches” that had no scriptural basis and that were being led by abusive leaders. And for reasons that I cannot fully process, they had the hardest time leaving. In fact, some of those same people are still in abusive churches still being abused.

I’ve also met Christians who were part of home groups that were as dead as doornails, locked into rituals and traditions that were birthed in the 19th century. There are no signs that the Lord is present in these groups. Yet these same people feel that they can’t leave, even though deep in their hearts they know they should. Some of them still remain (for reasons that I don’t understand) and their complaints about the group continue.

Yet . . . as ironic as it is . . . I’ve met Christians who professed to be called of God to His work and expressed their utter commitment and devotion to the headship of Jesus Christ and to His body. And by God’s infinite mercy and grace, they were fortunate to find and link arms with a group of devoted Christians who were meeting as a shared-life community under Christ in a beautiful way. Something very rare in our time. The Lord’s presence is evident in such groups to anyone who has a spiritual pulse.

Yet when the group hit a dry spell, or when things didn’t go their way, or there were problems (as every church encounters), these same people bailed after staying around for only a few years.

What was lacking was a full-orbed understanding of what the church really is, both her human side and her divine side, and the price of standing for God’s eternal purpose. And it was evident that there was no real devotion or commitment to the community of the believers.

One wishes that the impressive quality of undying commitment and devotion that is present in the first two scenarios would be present in the third.

The irony is smellable.

Perhaps you’re in a situation where the pressure, the disappointment, and the failed expectations is pressuring you to quit. But God wants you to stay with it. Not just for yourself, but for others. And also for your future and the future of the kingdom of God.

In such cases, He wants you to learn perseverance. He wants to take you deeper into what it means to forebear and to see things through His eyes rather than your own.

He wants you to understand that the name of the game isn’t your temporal happiness, but His will.

The Lord will allow you to do whatever you desire. But sometimes – I’d dare say oftentimes – His highest will is for you to persevere. You’d be amazed at the spiritual values that are generated when perseverance is chosen over quitting.

You’d also be amazed at the things that the Lord can turn around simply by keeping your resolve and standing with something to which you’ve committed yourself.

Recall what happened when Israel became tired of the manna and begged God for meat.

“And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15).

I’ve seen the “leanness of soul” that comes with failure to persevere so many times in people’s lives that I’ve lost count.

Israel didn’t persevere or forebear. They grew tired of what God had given them and opted for something different. And a price came with it.

(Incidentally, trying something out for a few years isn’t persevering. Just saying.)

Much more can be said, of course. But this is what was on my heart this morning. May God raise up women and men who know what it means to persevere. The kingdom of God is in need of such. Let him or her who has an ear hear.

The question today is very focused. So if you comment, be sure to answer the specific question instead of veering off into other things or other kinds of stories. I cannot promise that the Blog Manager will approve the comment if it doesn’t answer the specific question. (For those of you who are new, I am not the one who moderates comments on this blog.)

Today, we only want to hear one kind of story.

Tell us a story about a church, a job, a business venture, or a relationship that you were tempted to give up on, but you persevered through it for more than five years, and looking back on it, you were thankful you did.

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FRANK VIOLA has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply, gain fresh perspectives on old or ignored subjects, and make the Bible come alive. Viola has written many books on these themes, including God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here. His blog, Beyond Evangelical, is rated as one of the most popular in Christian circles today.