Faith and Perseverance
Why does the word “perseverance” exist? The authors of the New Testament frequently mention perseverance (ὑπομονή) in relation to one’s faith, character development, and suffering. Louw and Nida (a Greek lexicon of the New Testament) defines it as the “capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances…despite difficulty and suffering.” In our lives, we persevere through trials and tests. We face all sorts of challenges and resistance to achieve our goals. Why can’t we simply go through life seamlessly, effortlessly, and painlessly?
There are many potential answers to this question. Some would bring up the universal issue of sin. Others might point to the wrong choices we made that turned a situation to become bad. A good number would even blame God by asking themselves, why would a good God make his people suffer? Despite these natural tendencies to question our suffering, I do think the word perseverance exists because it serves us a special purpose.
I’ve always compared my faith journey with running long distances (see Faith and Running), because both require a strong dose of perseverance to make it to the finish line. Recently, after a long break, I started running again and found myself unable to finish my usual 10- to 12-kilometer run. After several excruciating runs, I began to think that my body had deteriorated and my ability to endure the pain of running had declined. It took me longer to complete my run, and it really felt much harder to reach the finish line.
But time and again, I always come back to thinking about my faith journey, amidst the stress, trouble, and pain I encounter along the way, to press on to the finish line. Paul says, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the course; I have kept the faith” (1 Tim. 4:7). This verse has always been my encouragement.
I’m proud to say that I achieved my years-long dream of completing a half marathon a week ago. The journey is long, but the reward is worth it. Without perseverance, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Even when we take faith out of the equation, perseverance remains a key factor for spiritual growth in one’s life journey to accomplish the things one hopes to achieve.
Think about your goals or dreams today. Don’t they require perseverance more than anything else? Don’t you have to patiently endure the unpleasant events and circumstances you encounter along the way? Don’t you have to pause to think and rethink that, regardless of what’s going on at the moment, you still have to continue and press on to achieve your goal? Persevering through something is often difficult, and many of times makes you want to give up. But let me encourage you with this story I once heard from my pastor’s sermon, shared with him by his daughter.
“Every pair of white shoes has a story. When they are first carefully taken from the box, their story is just beginning. Endless opportunities await them, as they are standing in the doorway to the real world. They are innocent, fragile, and clean. They haven’t faced any struggle or endured hardship. The world is still unknown to them because it hasn’t left its mark on them yet. But, soon, that will change. It may start out small, nothing big, just a little scuff here and there, but it will still leave a mark. The mark is annoying to look at because you don’t feel quite like yourself anymore. It seems like a piece of you has been taken or changed, but you have to keep walking; keep moving forward. You can’t let that minuscule thing stop you. You are still strong. Next time, it’s a bigger hit, so it leaves a bigger mark. This time a stain. The shoes are no longer white, no longer pristine. Their whiteness has become stained in the mud and the mire. You’ve got to keep walking though; keep moving forward. These blows continuously come at you. The white continues to fade, but, underneath all that filth, the white shoes remain. The world seems to throw at you almost more than you can handle, but don’t let that change who you are. The marks, the stains, they don’t just represent the suffering, they also represent the victories because you decided to keep walking; to keep moving forward. So don’t look at the shoes as being dirty, look at them as being a mark of victory. These white shoes are our walking in the Spirit shoes for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of Jesus in the midst of a world marred and scarred and tarred by sin.”