2 Peter 1:5-9
This was one of the favorite expressions of my drill sergeants in Basic Training. So for lack of a better title, that’s what we’re going to call today’s virtue: perseverance, another virtue found in 2 Peter which isn’t in Galatians.
Once again, MacArthur has a great definition for us: “Patience or endurance in doing what is right, never giving in to temptation or trial. Perseverance is that spiritual staying power that will die before it gives in. It is the virtue which can endure, not simply with resignation, but with a vibrant hope.”
I guess in a way this virtue is essential for all the rest, and it seems to me that in some ways it’s the most important. Some people might say love is the most essential, and there’s an argument for that, but here’s my case. If you have “love” which lacks perseverance--if it folds the first time it’s tested--then your “love” isn’t worth very much. Same goes for any other virtue I can think of: patience, peace, kindness, self-control, etc. I don’t have any deep insights, but here’s what I do have:
• Yes, perseverance is measured by your consistency. But it’s also measured by getting up when you fall down. I don’t believe that we’re going to be sinless in this life. But we can (and should, and must) grow to be more like Christ. Once again, I turn to C.S. Lewis: "Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again." When the Spirit points out that you’ve fallen short of God’s standards, then you ask for forgiveness, commit yourself anew, and then try once more.
• It can also be aided by some practical decisions that you make. We’re weak in and of ourselves. We need help. It’s a sign of the work of the Spirit in your life when you realize that you can’t become like Christ through sheer force of will. There are things you can and should do to make the struggle easier for yourself. For example, if something in your life is causing you to stumble, then get rid of it. We tend to look at sin like an ex-girlfriend that we keep on our speed dial in case we change our mind later, instead like the mortal enemy it is.
• What’s one of the first practical things you can do? I believe that this virtue, more than any other, can be cultivated by being plugged into the Body of Christ. I’ve experienced this before, and if you’ve been a Christian for a while, you have too. Yes, the Spirit gives us supernatural power which we can’t explain by natural means. But most of the time he also works through the Church to help us, and this is especially true regarding perseverance. That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
I don’t know about you, but when my race is done, I hope that I can say along with Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Do you want that too?
Lord Jesus, I am so weak and you are so strong. Please fill me with yourself. Fill my eyes with the finish line in front of me. When I’m ready to collapse, please hold me up. When I fail you, please help me to get back on my feet and try again. Your grace is the only way that this is going to happen.