“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Testing Of Your Faith Develops Perseverance


Monterey Coast, California
photography by Anthony Kaetzel 


Perseverance is often relegated to the phrases "suck it up" or "get over it" or "move on." 

Origin of the word "Persevere" from Merriam-Webster:  Middle English, from Anglo-French parseverer, from Latin perseverare, from per- through + severus severe.

Persevere = through severe.

Through it.  Not over it.  Not around it.  Or pretend it isn't happening.  Through it.
In the book of James, we come across the beatitude-like verse:

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Our pastor had been teaching on the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12.  He taught us that
Blessed" comes from the Greek word “makarios.”
Makarios is more than happiness; it is joy. It finds its source from within itself.
Makarios is self-contained, self-generating, and independent of all the chances and circumstances of life.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, 
whenever you face trials of many kinds, 
because you know that the testing of your faith 
develops perseverance. 
James 1:2-3

Seriously?  Joy and perseverance?  Blessed and perseverance?  How is it possible to have joy and be blessed when we have to persevere?  Perseverance = through severe.  But how do we do that?


P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.
Pray
Educate
Read the Bible
Share
Envision
Vision
Endure
Remember
Encourage

Pray

…You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray… James 5:13

I think the first step to perseverance is to pray.  You may not like "the severe" you are going through… and you can feel free to tell Him that!  If you are in the middle of your "severe" you can ask for a miracle or relief or strength.  We don't have because we don't ask!


Educate

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to him. James 1:5

When we are in the midst of the situation, it is easy to get overwhelmed by it.  By gaining knowledge about our "severe" we can take away some of its power over us.  The more I know about the scientific biological side of depression the more I am able to make adjustments in my own behaviors.  Including medications, light therapy, journaling and rest.

When I get overwhelmed with my lack of parenting skills, I take time to educate myself.  Same with being married. What if your spouse suffers with alcoholism?  Or you are in debt?  Or your child has a diagnosis that overwhelms you?  Ask God to give you wisdom.


Read The Bible

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. 
Do what it says. James 1:22

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law 
that gives freedom, and continues to do this, 
not forgetting what he has heard, 
but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25

I think being a marginal Christian is hell on earth.  If you are familiar with just parts of Bible verses, you may be under the impression that Christianity is like living a fairy tale.  When you read the Bible, you need to read the verses that are in context to your favorite one.  God is consistently taking His children through the "severe."  Through the Red Sea.  Through the fiery furnace.  Through the stormy sea. He takes us through it.  He is with us in the "through" it.  Our blessing comes from knowing He is with us.


Share

Therefore confess your sins to each other and 
pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 
James 5:16

We need each other.  We need to share our "severe."  Sometimes we need a different perspective.  This is what I love about mentoring.  Asking someone in your life to hold you accountable to the reality of your "severe."  To remind you that God is with you.  That God has a hope and future for you.  Someone who will show you compassion and not just commiserate.


Envision

But he gives us more grace…. James 4:6

Come near to God and he will come near to you… James 4:8

We need to know that God is for us and near us.  That we are not persevering on our own. We often envision a bleak future about our "severe" but we forget to envision that God will give us more grace to get through it.


Vision

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, 
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life 
that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

What will it look like on the other side of your "severe"?  Ask God to give you His vision instead of relying upon your own.  If I look back on my life... and think if I hadn't persevered...
I would be divorced.  (Due to my own immaturity.)
I would be childless.  Or worse yet I would be an abusive parent. (I thought being abusive was hereditary.)
I would not have my church family or many of my friendships.  (Due to my own insecurity.)
Thank you, God!  For bringing me through my "severes" with grace!  For giving me a hope and future that is more abundant than I ever could have imagined.


Endure

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. 
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop 
and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You too, be patient and stand firm, 
because the Lord’s coming is near. James 5:7-8

Sometimes, it is about the waiting.  And waiting can be tough.  And we can have real emotions that overwhelm us, but are unproductive.  When I begin to obsess about a "severe" I am going through, I use rubber band psychology.  Recently, I was in a situation where I felt totally misunderstood.  I wanted to fix it, but I needed to give the other person time.  However, the emotions kept gnawing at me.  I truly did want to get past those self-defeating emotions.  So, I put a slim rubber band on my wrist.  Whenever I had the urge to have negative self-talk, I pulled the rubber band and let it slap my wrist.  After a couple times... I got the hint and was able to not get caught up in the emotion... and get on with the getting through it! 


Remember

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows. 
James 1:17

Sometimes, we need a perspective shift.  We need to remember that God is for us.  We need to look at where we've been and thank God for what He has already brought us through. One of the best ways to do this can be with a grateful journal.  At the end of each day, write down five things you are thankful for... and before you realize it, you will thanking God all day long for His many blessings.


Encourage

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, 
take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 
As you know we consider blessed those who have persevered. 
You have heard of Job’s perseverance and 
have seen what the Lord finally brought about. 
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:10-11

And this is what I am all about... encouraging others.  Comforting others with the comfort that I have received from the Lord.  Sharing the truth of His goodness and faithfulness.

Did you know that this same word phrase "we consider blessed" or "pronounce blessed" is only used one other time?  In Luke 1:48.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation. 
Luke 1:46-50

When Mary rejoices what God has done for her.  We know that ultimately she is blessed, but she was mindful of it even then.  And what a blessing.  Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Repeat!!!

Perseverance must finish its work so that 
you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything. James 1:4

Okay, so it isn't just P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.  We need to add the "R" on the end because we truly are P.E.R.S.E.V.E.R.E.R.s!  Each time we go through a "severe" we learn something.  That we can trust God and He will see us through.  The next "severe" will continue to mature us... until we are complete, not lacking anything.

I think of my husband pursuing his goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  With each attempt to qualify he learned more about his ability to complete a marathon in the required time.  Throughout the pursuit he continued to educate himself and added a coach and he met his goal!  

 Therefore, 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. 

Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, 
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3 


Persevere.  Through severe.  Blessed and joyful.  May I encourage you to not grow weary and lose heart... knowing that you will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

God bless you!

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