I admitted to a friend this week that the older I get, the more I realize the sheer value of not giving up. As life skills go, it isn’t anything we would point out as admirable, and when you are younger you hardly even realize its necessity, so the very fact of noticing probably speaks of your age. The thing is, in the energy and ambition of youth no one warns you how many ordinary days there are in a life, and how even the best-laid plans often leave you somewhere you didn’t expect to be. Perseverance may not be flashy and exciting, but that determination to keep going and keep trying may make the difference between finishing well or getting lost in the woods along the way. The longer you travel through life, the more you realize how easy it is to get sidetracked and how it can happen to anyone. Church-planter Paul puts it in terms of a race, and like an athlete he presses on toward the finish line to get the reward, leaving the past in the dust. Inspiring as that is, many days the words of the prophet Isaiah resonate more with me, as a woman who needs daily strength and wisdom. He promises that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Some days I am quite content to walk and not faint. And whether we are soaring or staggering, it is faith in something beyond this life that keeps us pressing forward, and it is a lesson every child of the light needs to learn.
An oil painting hangs in my living room, in a heavy gold frame. The foreground is dark forest, with tall trees obscuring the sky, but there is a path winding away into distant light that streams through the branches. A friend who dabbled in oil painting showed up in my kitchen with it, years ago– said she called it Walk Toward The Light. The painting has hung on my wall ever since, a visual representation of Hope. It is one of my favorite possessions. I can see how that particular theme of perseverance and following the light has become part of me and shaped my perspectives, has become a sort of anchor for the heart: Don’t focus on the dark trees of despair, but on the light of His love….You don’t need to understand these circumstances, just walk in the light of His guidance, one step at a time…. In the midst of pain hold onto the strength of the One who is Mighty to save….Wait for the Lord, wait for Him to act, and put your hope in Him, because He is faithful….When other voices confuse and batter at your heart, look for God’s Truth shining clear. Keep walking toward the Light and don’t give up.
Time and experience as a Christ-follower give you the vantage point to realize that the everyday steps you take today will influence the path you travel tomorrow, and those ordinary choices are adding up into a lifetime. Peter says that as we choose each day to live as children of light we are growing in our knowledge of the One who called us out of darkness. And He promises that all those small everyday efforts to obey Him are together producing a life that will prove meaningful and rich. Peter puts it like this to the early believers: “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)
So every time we meet pain or difficulty or disappointment it is a crossroads of decision, an opportunity to choose faith, to choose obedience. Every situation contains a question from God: Can you trust Me with this? Do you truly believe that I am Goodness itself and have your best interests in mind? Will you surrender your will and obey Me in this? In order to keep walking in the light you have to stand on the solid truth of God’s calling and His “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). Peter says these are meant to be our resources for living; in fact, we should “make every effort to respond to God’s promises” (2 Peter 1:5). Then he expands on what that will look like: Choose to do the right thing. Choose to pursue more of Christ. Choose to rein in your emotions and all the desires of Self that fight for dominance. Choose to forgive, to make peace, to love even the most difficult people. And keep on doing it day after day in all the twists and turns of the path you are on.
Perseverance is what proves to the watching world that your faith is real and there is a God who deserves all the glory. More importantly for us, Peter says, “Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11) The key to finishing this faith we have started is nothing more exciting than perseverance. Keep walking toward the Light, dear friends, wherever you are on this faith-journey.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-2
The greatest act of courage is to simply keep facing one direction when everything in you wants to turn and run.Ann VosKamp