Why Christians Need Persistence and Spiritual Tenacity
by Jim Denison
Last Friday, Mayah Zamora walked out of University Hospital in Uvalde, Texas, sixty-six days after she was shot in three limbs during the Robb Elementary School shooting on May 24. The hospital said of their ten-year-old patient, “She is our hero, and we can’t wait to see all she accomplishes in the future!”
In other good news, Israel and Palestinian militants agreed to a truce in Gaza last night following three days of fighting between Israeli forces and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad; the ceasefire appears to be holding this morning. In bad news, China is expanding its military exercises around Taiwan today as President Xi Jinping continues to build what he calls a “comprehensive” system for enhancing China’s security abroad and at home, including invasive systems for monitoring Chinese citizens.
In more bad news, Ukrainian military are fortifying their positions around the eastern city of Sloviansk as they anticipate a fresh Russian assault in the region. The polio virus appears to be spreading in New York State. And California Gov. Gavin Newsom is demanding that Hollywood stop filming in conservative states.
HOW LONG THE "CULTURE WARS" WILL BE FOUGHT
Here’s what these stories have in common: they illustrate the power—for good or for evil—of persistence.
Mayah Zamora reminds every person suffering injury or illness that tenacity is a daily choice. The latest conflict in Gaza shows us that Israel is still surrounded by enemies. China’s leaders are playing the “long game” in their quest for global dominance. Vladimir Putin is doing the same in his ambition to rebuild the Russian Empire. Despite remarkable medical advances, we are still mortal. And the “culture wars” will be fought as long as there are two sides to fight.
Unfortunately, persistence is not a popular value in American culture today.
We are conditioned to be consumers who can have whatever we want whenever we want it. Between easy (and dangerous) credit card debt and on-demand shopping and delivery services, waiting for what we want is largely a thing of the past.
But there’s more to the story. Our existentialist worldview elevates the individual over the collective. Postmodern relativism has convinced us that “my truth” is just as true as “our truth.” Materialism values what it can measure, thus prioritizing the present over the future. Secularism discounts the spiritual, thus focusing on the temporal over the eternal.
"THE RIGHTEOUS FALLS SEVEN TIMES AND RISES AGAIN"
By contrast, it’s hard to find someone in the Bible used greatly by God who did not emulate persistence. Abraham had to wait twenty-five years from the time God called him to leave his father’s house (Genesis 12:4) to the birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:5). Moses was exiled for forty years in the desert before he met God in the burning bush and spent another forty years leading the Jews to the edge of their Promised Land.
In Jeremiah 25, the prophet declared to the people of Judah, “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened” (v. 3).
Jesus taught us, “Ask, and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7); the Greek is translated literally, “Ask and keep on asking.” Solomon observed, “The righteous falls seven times and rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). Paul exhorted us, “Do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13; cf. Galatians 6:9).
This injunction especially encourages me: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
"IF I SHOULD DIE, THINK ONLY THIS OF ME"
Why do you need persistence today? What challenges in your life call for spiritual tenacity? Let’s close with three biblical responses.
ONE: WALK WITH GOD TODAY WHILE WAITING FOR TOMORROW.
Our Lord calls us, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). The Message translates this command: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God.” When last did you “step out of the traffic” to be alone with your Father?
TWO: REMEMBER THAT FAITHFULNESS IS A POWERFUL WITNESS.
When we are faithful in hard times, others take note. Paul praised the Thessalonian Christians for such tenacity: “We ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all you're persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring” (2 Thessalonians 1:4). When others see us suffer in faith, they are drawn to our Father.
THREE: GIVE YOUR HIGHEST CAUSE YOUR HIGHEST SERVICE.
As opposition to our faith continues to escalate, American Christians may be called to pay a higher price for following Jesus than ever before. But temporal courage in the service of transcendent truth is always a worthy sacrifice.
Over the weekend I learned of Rupert Brooke, a British poet who volunteered to serve his country in World War I but died of an infection at the age of twenty-seven. Reading his work, I found his autobiographical poem titled “The Soldier”:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Can we be less grateful to serve the Lord of heaven today?