Perseverance (3): The Response of Perseverance

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Response of Perseverance: Submission to God’s Sovereignty

True success in following Jesus means signing up for and running the marathon of life of following Jesus.  You  know you’re one of hundreds, if not thousands, in the day’s race.  I will probably not “win” the race, or even place in the top ten, top fifty, or top hundred.  

I often envision men like the twelve disciples, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Justin Martyr, the early church martyrs, Augustine, John Wycliffe, John Huss, Martin Luther, John Knox, Henry Martyn, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Charles Spurgeon coming in “first”; mostly guys who either burned themselves out for the kingdom, or were martyred while pursuing it.

But I’m in the race, for heaven’s sake!  I signed up!  I’m running it with all those other guys.  I had the guts, like they did, to put pen to paper, sign the commitment form, enter the race, and show up at the starting line!  I ran as fast as I could when the gunshot was fired.  I have the perseverance to continue to run through the cramps.  

I’m in the same “Hall of Faith” as the many saints listed in Hebrews 11.  I am “surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life faith,” and am making efforts to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that easily trips us up.”  I am trying to “run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  I am doing this “by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”  I must “think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people,” and then I “won’t become weary and give up” (Heb. 12:1-3).

And when I’m winded and need to sit down on the curb, I have the perseverance to get back up and continue running.  When I get so tired that I trip on the curb or over a manhole cover, I wipe the blood from my scraped hands and broken nose and keep on running.  When I happen to look away to pay attention to the restaurants along the way or the pretty lady waving on the sidewalk so that I run into another runner, making us both trip and fall, I shake my head in frustration with myself, help him up, get myself back up, and get back to running.  

Perseverance.  It’s what following Jesus is all about.  Perseverance means not feeling like I have to have all the answers.  It even means not feeling like I must look for all the answers.  It is driven by the clutches of God’s sovereignty in my life, which carry me like the wings of an eagle (Isa. 40:26-31); clutches which dig deeper than the clutches of culture, which seek to drag and weigh me down with tempting, seductive, false promises of success, wealth, perfection, answers, and a sense arrival.

The only proper response to God’s sovereignty in perseverance is submission, then.  It is submitting myself – my heart, mind, will, emotions, strength – to the promise that God wants to help, protect, remember, and bless me.  He is for me, and not against me.  He wants a “peaceful harvest” for me and wants to train me in this way, along this path (v. 11).  The right response is to submit to this truth and submit to God’s sovereignty, no matter how strange it may seem.  The right response is to

take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.  Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but will become strong” (vv. 12, 13).

Submitting once more, each time you fall down, each time you’re frustrated, each time you don’t have answers, each time you’re confused, each time you sin again…submitting to God each and every time is in and of itself perseverance!  Choosing to believe His promises over you feelings…that’s submission to the sovereignty of God.  This act, in and of itself, is perseverance.  It is the very substance, the nucleus, the “nitty-gritty”, the ABC’s, the fundamentals, boot camp training, and the meat and potatoes of perseverance.  Getting back up…every time…and following Jesus…afresh…renewed in and by the sovereign goodness of God…choosing to believe His intentions of grace toward you…no matter what everything else in life seems to say…no matter how “bad” it seems to get.  That is what perseverance looks like.

Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God” (Psa. 42:5, 11; 43:5).  

Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you…” (42:6).  

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.  But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to the God who gives me life” (vv. 7, 8).  

Persevering means submission which is exercised by getting up again and strengthening myself in the Lord, in the midst of all the noise, chaos, discontentment, frustration, and confusion surrounding me (1 Sam. 30:6).  

The American Dream has lied to us.  It is not biblical.  It is just another generational way of saying that we can find peace and our purpose in life through another idol.  This generation it is the American Dream.  It’s also democracy and conservatism and technology and anti-terrorism.  A generation before it was anti-communism.  A generation before that, industrialization.  Before that, the idol was scholarship and academia.  And before that, commerce and railroads.  Before that, independence.  And before that, colonization.  Before that Puritanism, and before that Reformation, and before that Renaissance.  And on and on it goes.  Every generation has idols it worships, idols which lie to us and tell us everything will be alright if we just achieve such-and-such, or pour our resources into this or that.  

Culture constantly lies to us and tells us that the way we are living is not the best way to live.  Subtly, slowly, and surely each generation swallows the marketing, advertisement, and oration until we come to believe more and more that the stuff about life that stinks shouldn’t be there and that we can all change it if we do A, B, or C.  

But the Spirit stands there, silently, convicting, convincing, persuading, and telling us that this world is broken, people are broken, and there is much about life that does stink.  But He also proclaims to us the promise that Jesus is Lord of all, that the Father loves us so much that no matter how back life stinks, the stink cannot separate us from His love.  The Spirit proclaims the absolute sovereignty of God over His world, and reminds us that our good God exercises His right to graciously rule His world in order to bring the world to know His goodness, grace and mercy.  Jesus-followers know this, and they choose each day to submit to God’s sovereignty and His rule in His world.  Making that choice, every single day, in light of the culture’s lies, and in spite of them, is perseverance.  

  About the Author: Rob is an entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, and pursues business in a missional way for the kingdom.  He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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