Persevere with Joy
Are you a sports fan? Do you follow one of the local teams? In Southern California, we’re fortunate to have a lot of sports teams we can root for, professional and college. Having gone to many Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, and Trojans games in the past, I’ve noticed that there are two types of sports fans. There are those who want their team to dominate, to win big, where the outcome is never in doubt. I call them front-runners. Then there are those who want their team to be tough. They like it when the game is close, the outcome is uncertain, and their team has to persevere in order to win. A couple of weeks ago I went to the Angels game and they won 14-1! They played great but, to be honest, the game wasn’t very interesting after they had built a big lead. It was a win but it didn’t require much heart or determination on their part.
Perseverance is one of the keys to growing in the Christian faith. While I think we all would like things to go smoothly and win 14-1 everyday, we know that’s not how life is. It’s not God’s plan for us in this life. We don’t always come out on top and things don’t always go the way we want them to. In fact, life is often filled with trials and losses, big and small ones, in various seasons of life. I’ve had my share of trials this year, loss of family and friends, difficulty in relationships, personal struggles, as I’m sure you have too. Even now, I know a lot of people going through difficult circumstances with the loss of family, illness, loneliness, emotional struggle, and other hardships. Yet the Bible tells us to persevere. Hebrews 10:36 says “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” In related fashion, Paul encourages the believers in Philippi to remain steadfast because “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” Don’t give up! Keep walking with God!
James takes it a step further when he says in James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Joy in trials, that sounds crazy! Doesn’t it? Well it’s similar to Romans 5:3-4 in which the Apostle Paul says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Joy and trials don’t naturally go together but there is a satisfaction in knowing that our faith grows stronger and we develop perseverance – durability and toughness – by enduring trial and hardship. God uses trials. He doesn’t cause all of them but He uses them to strengthen our faith and produce perseverance, character, and hope. In the midst of trouble, we should keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.” When we take a godly approach to trials, we grow in humility, submission, and dependence on Him. It’s like the refining of metal in the fire which, in the end, produces a better product.
And in the process, God is glorified! It is always a testimony to me of God’s grace when I see believers (brothers and sisters in Christ) experience the hardships they do, keep their faith in the Lord, and do it with a sense of joy. They are an inspiration to me and others! I know that God is at work in their lives, refining their faith, and developing perseverance and determination…much like our favorite team! Remain steadfast in the Lord and He will make you mature and complete.