Perseverance is one of those words often appearing in beautiful calligraphy and astutely framed on an office wall. The mere presence of this word commands respect and boldly invites its reader to absorb and ponder its significance.
I often observe this word standing alone, accompanied by a mind-numbing image of what perseverance looks like, or the word perseverance is threaded into a series of words which creates a profound statement. Either way, whether an associated image or cleverly crafted slogan, the intended purpose is to generate enthusiasm or, at the very least, stir up warm fuzzies for its reader or recipient.
However, I am convinced that until a need for perseverance is known or experienced personally, any imagery or slogan accompanying it fails to adequately bridge a meaningful identity to its meaning…and its significance remains a nice wall hanging.
Per dictionary.com, the definition of perseverance is: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
“Steady persistence” can so easily be interpreted as safe, inexpensive, and comfortable.
What if it does not look like this at all?
What if steady persistence is unsafe, costs everything, and causes great discomfort?
Over my years in the marketplace and in ministry, I have endured the unbridled enthusiasm of countless motivational speakers. Some of these speakers were unapologetically secular in their “you can do it” humanistic approach to perseverance. Others were spiritually centered, yet, often focused on a Biblical story taken out of context which quickly became strangely secular.
What I often observe is the catchy slogans suggest that a persevering mindset is but an event–experienced as a verb—rather than embracing perseverance as a lifestyle—being lived out as a noun.
In my own experience, especially in matters of faith, steady persistence is rarely a verb event.
The “steady persistence” of Christ is threaded continually throughout the Gospels. This persistence is fully manifest as Jesus “resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem” in what would be his final entry into Jerusalem–knowing full well what awaited him–with a steady persistence, obediently pressing forward into the Father’s will.
Christ exemplifies perseverance as a noun.
While in Nepal several years ago, I stumbled upon the above image of this unattractive flower growing out of a brick wall.
Its appearance and expression stopped me in my tracks.
Not because the flower was attractive or beautiful…but because it just was.
What is not reflected in the photo was the brick wall was laced with barbed wire and broken glass placed in the wet masonry–darkness and despair overshadowed the neighborhood–the weight of spiritual oppression resisting the Christian witness could be felt in every step.
In the midst of these stark realities, the Lord reminded me of what steady persistence looks like.
Perseverance is a noun.
When demonstrated, it may not be pretty, it may appear in the least likely places, and it may not look at all like we imagine. However, faithful steady persistence is incredibly beautiful.
As followers of Christ, might we be instruments of faithful perseverance.
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)