Perseverance, persistence, prize! What is perseverance, stop a moment and consider how you would describe perseverance? Some say perseverance is “persistently sticking to a plan.” Others say it is “constant, patient effort.” I like the dictionary definition: “continuing in a course of action or decision, irrespective of discouragement, opposition or previous failure.”
But, I would add: “to win a prize”. Whether it is to see a plan come together, achieve a goal, receive a reward or gift etc. Whatever it is, perseverance for the sake of perseverance is just self punishment. Unless there is a goal, a plan or purpose behind your perseverance, there is really no point.
Perseverance requires immense self discipline, mental stamina, endurance, training, and inevitably means that something has to be sacrificed or given up in order to receive something good. Why persevere if not for a prize. Didn’t Paul say in 1 Cor 9:24,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”
In that specific passage the purpose is to “get a crown that will last forever” (verse 25) and to that end we do not “run like a man running aimlessly” or “fight like a man beating the air” (verse 26), instead we will persevere in running our race. Even if that means that we have to discipline our bodies and go into “strict training.” Even if we have to deny ourselves whatever is potentially harmful, we keep ourselves focused on the prize.
God never calls us to persevere in circumstances without a purpose, a plan and a prize.
The Purpose: to run the race towards the goal
The Plan: to go into strict training, discipline our bodies, avoid whatever is potentially harmful
The Prize: a crown that will last.
In Phillipians 3:12-14 we see the purpose, plan and prize again. The purpose is to press on (toward the day that all of Christ will be revealed in us), the plan is to forget the past and strain toward what is ahead, and the prize is that for which God is calling us heavenward.
I understand from this that if God calls me to perseverance in any circumstance or life situation, there is always a prize, whether in this life, the next or both. There is always blessing in standing fast (to firmly stay in the same position or hold an opinion, or refuse to be defeated).
Even when we persevere in the discipline of the Lord (Heb 12:2, 7 and 9-11), there is purpose – “God disciplines us for our good”, there is a plan – to endure His discipline, and the prize: “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
When I consider a picture of perseverance I immediately think of Job who despite being severly tested by God, received a fresh revelation of God in Job 42:1 “I know that you can do all things, no plan of yours will be thwarted….surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” But that is not all folks, in verse 10 “the Lord made him prosperous again and give him twice as much as he had before” and the Lord “blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first” (verse 42:12).
I also think of Joseph who had to persevere God’s preparation for position later in life, he had to become a slave, a servant in Potiphers house, a prisoner, forgotten. Only to become prime minister overnight, second only to the Pharoah and declare “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (Gen 45:7) To have the perspective looking back on his life that “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen 50:20).
Finally there is Paul who persevered through untold difficulties and tells in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28:
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”
Yet at the end of his life he tells Timothy clearly what prize is that he has been looking toward in his perseverance.
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:6-7)
This thought that all perseverance is part of a plan that has a purpose and a prize in mind, has so encouraged me as a believer. Especially in these times where so many of us are persevering our current world circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Everyone has been touched in some way, whether spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially etc. no one has escaped.
I leave you with the encouragement from Jesus that was extended to the church of Philadelphia, who Jesus said was of ”little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” He promised them in Rev 3:11:
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”
Thank You Lord, that anything that You have called me to persevere in, is wrapped up in Your goodness. My soul can rest in You, You always have a purpose for the plan of perseverance. I rejoice in my trials of many kinds because as my faith is tested I am becoming mature and complete, not lacking in anything.