As we take up the theme of Perseverance for the year, it is well worth us looking at a Biblical framework for what this means.
Firstly, settling on our position is essential. Scripture is clear in that it tells us we are already positioned to persevere, and Ephesians 1 gives us a firm affirmation of this position – we are redeemed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted, forgiven, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing is ours and on top of all of this, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. The authority of Jesus is within us. What an affirmation of our position!
It appears that in our humanity we are wired to function according to our original design, with a deep seated, probably unconscious expectation, desire and hope that nothing will go wrong in life. We should remember that God never designed life to be lived in brokenness, and that His original design for creation did not include difficulty or suffering or death. As a result of sin, we became fractured image bearers and the consequence of sin opened the door to our broken or fallen state. As such, when we encounter suffering and hardship, it not only takes us by surprise, but we are often left bewildered by the reality.
What I love about God is that he has never changed His intention about His creation. He hates our brokenness and whilst humanity rejected God’s ultimate rule and the consequence was a dislocation from all we were created to be, God steps in and makes it possible for us to persevere through struggle because he has personally positioned and equipped us for this journey.
Jesus tells us that in this world, we will encounter trouble (John 16:33), but He did not leave us with that statement alone. He went on to the cross, and overcame the world, making it possible for us to live redemptively, positioning us to have both hope and the capacity to persevere. It is a priceless gift. If we were not positioned in Jesus, we would face being crushed by the blows of life and left adrift without hope.
When difficulty and suffering crash into our lives what does it mean to be positioned so we can persevere? We are:
- Perceptive – The Scripture reveals the nature of evil, which includes the way the enemy attacks us through hardship. We are told of this strategy in John 10:10 where the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. But let’s finish the story; Jesus comes to give us life and life in abundance. We are also told in1 Peter 5:8 to be alert as this enemy is like a lion who seeks to devour our faith. Not so nice. The strategy is in plain sight. An astute awareness that the enemy of our soul is lining up with the intention of taking us out enables us to be well positioned and not blindsided by this deliberate assault. Perception allows us to persevere.
- Prepared – God exhorts us to be prepared every day and to be aware that, ultimately the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood but are spiritual. Every heartache, hardship, loss, and agony we endure in the flesh is finally a battle in the spiritual realm where the enemy seeks to separate us from God. By being prepared, we come to understand that our journey into difficulty also has a passage through and out to the other side because Jesus accompanies us, and He will always have the final victory. Our role is to prepare. That means we take up our armour every day as exhorted in Ephesians 6:10-20. When we suit up in our armour, whose might are we strong in? His might. And to what end? To persevere. But not just to persevere for the sake of persevering. It is to be transformed in our relationship with Jesus.
As we journey deeply with Jesus it means that we come to know and we know and we know that God is good and although there are times we find ourselves in the ashes of life like Job, preparation positions us to make the same declaration Job did, “I know you can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted . . . I despise myself and repent in the dust and ashes”. (Job 42:2-6). Job’s revelation is our revelation which shapes our preparation. Preparation means we walk so closely with Jesus and embrace the reality that God loves us and is for us. Even when hardship obscures our view (and it will), being prepared always gives us hope because we walk on the pathway of God’s truth. Preparation enables our perseverance.
- Planted -Being planted is the ultimate position. It is a stance of victory that flows out of being prepared. Whilst our preparation is a vital part in trans versing hardship, we do not start powerless. We start planted and positioned in the finished, victorious work of Jesus. God has already raised us up and given us His Spirit; the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Romans 8:11) and we therefore have His authority. We are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). Being planted, we persevere.
- Persevere -Perseverance in the biblical narrative is not based on some modern-day quip that draws on inner, personal strength to drive forward at all cost. The perseverance God speaks of is possible only through Jesus. We can be completely “spent” and have nothing left, yet we can endure and persevere in the strength of the strengthening Christ (1 Peter 5: 10). It is in the hope of Christ’s strength and the reality of who He is that helps us persevere.
Our prayer is that you will go forward in the strength of Jesus, with a deep awareness and experience of His love, justice, grace, power and might when every trials hit hard. You are positioned and that makes perseverance possible. It is the place of authentic hope. Our hope is sealed because Jesus, who is far above every power and realm, every kingdom and throne, in this age and the age to come is our hope. He is with us and ahead of us and leads us through all things.