Persist with Joy!
So the message this past weekend was to count it all joy. All the struggles, trials and tribulations are for a reason. God wants to take us from Point A to B – from where we are to where we need to be. He is developing in us a greater faith. Faith always has to be put to the test. Heaven is for the faith-filled believers; the ones who endured to the end. We never like to go through the storms in life. We are so anxious to get out of them before we learn the lessons. But Book of James tells us to stay the course and count it as joy. The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).
In my readings this past week, I learned of the Wright Brothers tenacity. I read of the struggles in Auschwitz through Viktor E. Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And in The Greatest Salesman in the World, I am contemplating “persist until you succeed.” The theme this week is persistence or perseverance. You never know when the next step will lead you to the promise. It’s always right before you. The trouble is we give up before we find the answer. It’s always just around the bend.
I was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ determination to fly. It was all they thought about. They persisted until they succeeded. They went through many years of tweaking their design until it proved right through all their experiments. Time after time, they focused on getting it right. If this worked this time, how can it be made better for the next version? During that same time, many others tried to develop plans for an airplane. Some were close, but they weren’t close enough; they never sustained flight. The Wright brothers focused on the birds. They saw how a bird used their wings to fly. The brothers worked their designs in accordance to how nature works, and the airplane came to be in a very simplistic manner.
Viktor E. Frankel’s book gives his account of the struggles behind the walls of the concentration camp. As I was reading about his fight to live, I wondered if the lucky ones were the ones who were taken to the gas chamber right away. They didn’t have to endure the harshness and horrendous circumstances in the camp. In his account, Viktor wrote about the ones who lost hope and gave up. They died right before liberation came. Viktor lived for three years behind those walls; barely surviving on very little food – a small bit of bread and watery “soup” each day. They worked in snow and ice with no gloves or coats to keep them warm. Some had shoes with no laces or no shoes at all. I am reminded of the depravity of man when man has no soul. But Viktor survived; he made it to the end of the war and saw liberation day.
We are told in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul fought the good fight; he finished his race and kept the faith until the end. Paul lived a life of testing. He endured the beatings, the shipwrecks, and various hardships. He stayed the course. After his conversion, Paul was told all that he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. And he did it. He was the man for that hour – to get the message rolling through the known world. His tenacity brought the message to you and me. He introduced the Gospel message to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And it spread like fire. He fought the fight so that we could keep it to ourselves. No, that’s not right. He did his work so that we could do ours.
We have our own battles to fight. We have our own hour to shine for Jesus. Our faith needs to be pure. It has to be tested and made sure. Like the refiners fire, the dross needs to be removed so that our faith is purified. When we suffer, we actually identify with Jesus. He took on our sin and shame and endured the cross for us. He suffered for us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we too have to suffer in this life. It will either draw us closer to Him or it will drive us away. This is the testing of our “soils” to see if we have good soil or the word was sown in rocky soil; when persecution comes, we fall away. Faith has to be sifted. The rocks have to be removed. It’s the only way to know for sure where we stand. When we endure until the end, we succeed in obtaining the crown of righteousness. When we count our trials as joy, we keep the end in mind – the crown will one day be ours, if we persist. So, persist; it builds character in us and gives us the hope for liberation day. It’s coming – count it as joy!
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4