Perseverance (4): The Results of Perseverance

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Results of Perseverance: Satisfaction in God’s Sovereignty

Perseverance is true submission to God’s sovereignty.  True submission to God’s sovereignty brings true shalom.  A word not often used outside of its Jewish context and culture, shalom is a word I am coming to understand more of…a word I am coming to pray for.  It stands for a concept I am wanting now more than anything else in this life.  More than a great income and wealth…more than a nicer and bigger house…more than solid and clear direction for the future…more than a bigger church family…more than a “successful” business…more than peace and quiet in my neighborhood…more than anything.

Shalom means peace, completeness, wholeness and a deep, abiding sense of well-being.  It is about more than just a state of mind or being, or a good state of affairs.  It is a deep, inner, abiding sense of calm and peace in spite of outward circumstances, because of the deep-rooted settling in the sovereignty of God.  Shalom encapsulates a reality of unimaginable peace, where enemies are reconciled, injustices are made right, hurts are healed, fears are calmed, and communities are prospering in righteousness.  It is the whole creation in harmony, peace with God, peace with each other, peace among the nations, peace with the planet.

To be sure, much if not most of this shalom will not and cannot occur in this broken world as long as broken people are living in it.  So the gospel of God’s grace goes out to the nations to heal and save broken people, who then heal and rescue a broken world, along with its cultures, art forms, music, governments, economies, etc.  This is what the prophets of the OT looked forward to.  And it has been initiated in the first coming of the person of Jesus Christ, is now carried out in the people called the church of Jesus Christ, and will be consummated one day by the second coming of Jesus.

Until then, the Bible gives us a picture of saints enjoying inner shalom, despite the outward chaos of non-shalom around the world.  That is a state of living which attracts people to Jesus Christ.  Most people live in drama and chaos, and peace is attractive.  Being introduced to it through the good news, and then being sanctified in it through perseverance in the good news, eventually leads to a harvest of peace, the fruit of shalom.

Repeated choices to submit to God’s sovereignty instead of to our own feelings of discouragement, depression, disparagement, discontentedness, and disrespectfulness is perseverance.  And perseverance grows the fruit of inner shalom we can call satisfaction.  It is an ever-deepening sense that all is well, that all will be well despite whatever is not well right now.  It is not turning a blind eye to injustice, unrighteousness, evil, wickedness, conflict, greed, and mankind’s ongoing lust for power and sex.  Inner shalom and satisfaction and peace do not ignore any of this.  Rather, they are the Spirit’s work of stabilization and security in God’s promises.  The saint deepens in his inner sense of satisfaction in being a part, however great or small, in God’s sovereign plan.  

Paul had this shalom, this deep, abiding, lasting sense of satisfaction.  We see it in his letter to the Philippians, to whom he was writing while he was sitting in Roman prison.  In chapter one, Paul demonstrates breath-taking shalom.  Here he is in prison and he’s joyful about the Philippians!  He’s praying for them, thinking of them, rejoicing over them (1:3-4).  He’s confident that no matter what condition he’s in that God will complete the work He’s started in them (v. 5).  He has a longing to be with them, the kind that is filled with tender compassion (v. 8).

Then his inner shalom comes out in his view of his own deplorable circumstances.  Unjustly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, just like his Master, he has an all-consuming joy about those very circumstances.  He has chosen to submit to God’s sovereignty in all of it realizing that, “everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News” (v. 12).  On the one hand, every lost person around him knows that Paul is in prison for Jesus Christ, so that the imprisonment is actually an evangelistic tool (v. 13).  On the other hand, believers everywhere are being strengthened in confidence as they “boldly speak God’s message without fear” (v. 14).

While he was in prison however, there were some pretty arrogant fellows taking advantage of Paul’s absence in the Philippian church.  Pointing more to themselves than to God, Paul didn’t get worked up about that!  

It is true that some are preaching out of jealously and rivalry…Those others do not have pure motives about preaching Christ.  They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to my make my chains more painful to me.  But that doesn’t matter…the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.  And I will continue to rejoice” (vv. 15-18).

And as far as his own life goes, it hung in the balance.  Yet this too was just another opportunity to see this deep, abiding, lasting sense of inner peace, joy and shalom…a satisfying sense that God was in control of everything that everything was going to be okay, simply because God has promised the resurrection life of His Son, Jesus, to Paul…and to us.  

“And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.  For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.  So really I don’t know which one is better.  I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.  But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (vv. 21-24).

This was a life that he wasn’t just living as an example to them from afar off.  You’ll recall that imprisonment was the very manner in which the gospel was introduced to the city of Philippi in the beginning! Luke tells the story in Acts 16.  In Paul’s second missionary journey he and Silas are preaching the gospel in Phillipi and are arrested and imprisoned for causing a riot after casting a demon out of a slave girl and crushing the dreams of wealth her master had.  

A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods.  They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison.  The jailor was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape.  So the jailor put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in stocks.  Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (vv. 22-25).

So here these two guys are, severely beaten, bleeding, oozing sores and running wounds.  They may have had a concussion.  But they were singing.  They weren’t preaching to other prisoners.  They were worshiping.  Why?  Because deep within their souls was a powerful, abiding, unrelenting sense of peace and shalom.  If they died, then God would have used them as far as He desired, and He would continue the mission with someone else.  If they didn’t die, then they would go on to live and die another day.  This example he and Silas had set for them was rooted in a persevering submission to God’s sovereignty.  That’s why he closed his letter to them by writing these encouragements.  

Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again, rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all that you do.  Remember the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything: instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me…Then the God of peace will be with you” (4:4-9).

True shalom brings true joy. 

About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business 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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