A certain athletic apparel manufacturer has a commercial featuring a song with the words, “everybody gets knocked down; how quick are you gonna get up?” It’s a good question for sports, but also for life – including the spiritual life. In the previous post we saw that self-control is the habit that allows us to say “no” when we would rather say “yes.” Perseverance is the habit that allows us to say “yes” when we would rather say “no” – or maybe “I give up.” One thing that we can be sure of is that we will face difficulties and obstacle in life. How we handle them can make us or break us.
In James 1:2-4 it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” For most people it would require quite a change of thinking to consider trials to be a joy. Isn’t part of the very definition of a trial that it’s painful? But James says to consider it joy because of the end result, not because of the unpleasant nature of the experience itself. We do not have to become spiritual masochists to practice this! Instead, we are called to practice faith – trusting in God that He is at work in our difficulties and trials, making us more like Him.
Without trials and difficulties, we could not become mature. As the well-known adage in physical fitness goes, “no pain, no gain.” Some Christians, particularly in Western culture, think that difficulties in life are contrary to God’s will for us. This isn’t the case. We must change our mindset towards trials and difficulties and accept that they are actually part of God’s plan to mature and perfect us. Many times we short circuit God’s plan for us by using any means at our disposal to avoid difficulty and unpleasantness rather than embracing them.
As with the previous habits, there is a regular practice that we can engage in to develop in perseverance. The idea of it comes from this promise in Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Having our strength renewed is what we need to keep us going over the long haul. But how does this happen, and what does it mean to wait on the Lord? Waiting essentially means to wait in hope and expectation that God is going to come through, even if you don’t know how or when. It is a refusal to give up.
Waiting on the Lord is also used to describe the spiritual discipline of spending time in quietness before God, waiting to hear his voice. It is a renewal of hope, and a renewal of spiritual vitality that we all need on a regular basis. Just like we need sleep to renew our bodies, we need spiritual renewal to keep us going in the spiritual life. This can involve rest, meditation, and reflection on God’s work in the past. It helps us to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” just as the writer of Hebrews encourages us to do: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
Below are a few Scripture verses that can be used for reflection and quiet meditation. If you are struggling to keep going in your spiritual life, try spending some time waiting on the Lord and reflecting on His faithfulness.