Patience

Perseverance
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"Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58 NRSV).

Cecil Norde

Perseverance is just one of the qualities associated with the Christian journey. Peter urges us to add this quality to our faith (2 Peter 1:6).

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the verb persevere as, "To persist in, or remain constant in, a purpose, idea, or task in spite of obstacles." This definition well describes the battle the Christian faces in putting on Christ. We must have determination and an unwavering commitment to surmount all obstacles that would deter us on our journey. Perseverance suggests a "keep moving on" attitude in the journey to reach the full stature of Christ.

In Scripture, perseverance details the journey of the narrow way. In our theme text above, Paul does not use the word perseverance directly. But he describes this quality with the thought of steadfastness in the work.

Here we consider three individuals who exemplify perseverance: Moses, Jesus Christ, and the Apostle Paul. These three notables provide examples of following God’s will through many difficulties. They are models of the biblical concept of perseverance.

"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the holy Spirit [that] was given to us" (Romans 5:3-5 NASB). Perseverance is a mental discipline that gives strength to those living as New Creatures in Christ. It provides continuity of lifestyle in the quest of making their calling and election sure.

Moses

There is no question as to why God chose Moses to lead Isarel out of Egyptian bondage and to establish a new nation under the Law Covenant. For almost eighty years, Moses was prepared for leadership and administration, first as a member of Pharaoh’s court, and later as a shepherd in Midian.

There is no record that Moses had any other arduous occasions of struggle or strife to teach him perseverance until he was called to do the will of Jehovah. Once called upon to lead Israel, countless circumstances required perseverance. For forty years, he prepared a stiff-necked people to enter the land of Canaan (Exodus 3:14-17).

Moses at first feared the undertaking. However, God promised that He would be with him to provide whatever Moses needed to sustain Israel through the wilderness. "Certainly I will be with you ... this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain" (Exodus 3:12 NAS).

Though displaying strong leadership to his people, Moses at times expressed his reservations and fears to God. Moses approached God with pleas for help in leading the people (Exodus 6:1-25, 16:2-3, 32:11-14, 33:12-23). In every case, God gave reassurance, support, and direction to Moses. Like Moses, we must seek God’s help and counsel when confronting life’s struggles and maintain our faith in God.

To develop perseverance, God gave Moses greater wisdom in dealing with the affairs of life. Through God’s guidance, Moses became a good leader. Additional support was added from Aaron, Jethro, Caleb, Joshua, and eleven chosen elders from the tribes of Israel. God provided Ten Commandments and the ordinances of the Law as a template for conducting their lives (Exodus 20-24).

Moses was constantly in prayer and communication with Jehovah during his tenure. He had military triumphs under Joshua (Exodus 17:8-13) and faced the political treachery of Korah (Numbers 16). Moses developed his perseverance by his faith, obedience, and trust in God’s promises and plans for his people. This is expressed in his own words. "The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will extol Him" (Exodus 15:2 NAS).

Moses communed with God, making sure he was on the right path. Are we not to do likewise, through our own trials and tribulations? We should give thanks for our triumphs, request help in our failures, and seek daily support from brethren and friends. We see all these lessons in the perseverance of Moses. As a Prophet and Mediator of the Law Covenant, his life showed daily perseverance in God’s work.

Jesus

As a man, Jesus was sent by his Father to redeem mankind as the ransom price. He will someday return mankind to the viable relationship with God that was first enjoyed by Adam. Jesus knew that his consecration to God would bring many trials and much suffering. His impending sacrificial death was a commitment that he came to accomplish.

During his ministry, Jesus faced adversity from his family, his disciples, the people, and both religious and political officials seeking to entrap him. Perseverance was essential to maintaining focus on his mission during those challenging times.

Jesus’ ministry began by teaching disciples that perseverance was essential in their own commitment. "Enter through the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14 NRSV).

Jesus often taught in parables. In Luke 11: 5-10, he gives the story of a man coming at midnight to his neighbor, saying that he needed bread for a visitor. His neighbor at first refused to give anything toward this request, but after persistent pleas he finally gave in. This illustrates that we should persist in seeking God’s blessings. "So I say to you, ask and it will be given; ... seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives ... he who seeks, finds ... to him who knocks, it will be opened."

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus gave a parable to illustrate the value of persistence in prayer. In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus healed the daughter of a Gentile woman after her persistence appealed to his compassion. He said that her faith was great. Thus persistence demonstrates faith. These examples show that perseverance indicates a working faith that we must have in order to progress along the narrow way.

Pastor Russell put it eloquently. "Our duty (perseverance), nevertheless, is to be bold and courageous for the Truth, not with the hope convincing all of our gainsayers, not with the thought of destroying sectarianism, but with the thought of gathering to the Lord his jewels from every quarter of Babylon, ‘Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice’ (Psalms 50:5).

"This was Jesus’ work in the end of the Jewish age. He was gathering the jewels. His work was a success, although it seemed otherwise to his opponents. Similarly, our work under God will be a success, even though others may see it differently. Even our Lord’s crucifixion was part of the success of God’s plan, favorable not only to the believers but to all families of the earth" (Reprints 3786).

This truth remains with us as faithful servants in Christ! "Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance (perseverance) you will gain your souls" (Luke 21:14- 19 NRSV).

Paul

Originally known in Jerusalem as Saul, he was one of the most feared Jewish persecutors of The Way (Acts 8:1-3). If there was any early demonstration of perseverance in his character, it was in his efforts to persecute the followers of Christ. Saul was a Pharisee, and he had the credentials to teach the Law in synagogues everywhere he traveled. Saul knew the Torah and Scriptures and all of the Jewish legalism and traditions. He was also a business man in the ways of the Greco-Roman world, as a tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3). His vocation, selling and mending caravan tents, took him to various places in the Middle East: Gaul, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, and Israel.

Saul was able to speak the Aramaic dialect of ordinary Judeans, as well as Greek — an advantage he used effectively in business. Jerusalem being a key center of trade, Saul was familiar with the caravan traffic in and out of the city. Possessing the privileges of a Roman citizen (Acts 22:26-29), Saul had access to many areas.

Saul was a respected Jew, and also well qualified to carry the message of Jesus beyond the Jewish realm. He was converted on the road to Damascus, traveled with the intent of persecuting Christians (Acts 9).

There he received the light of truth from the Son of God. Saul was at first bewildered by such a distressing experience. Consequently he needed assistance from the Brethren of The Way to learn the teachings of Christ, and to start growing as a New Creature under the influence of the holy Spirit. Saul received this initial help from Ananias, Barnabas and Titus (Acts 9 and Galatians 1, 2).

The perseverance of Saul in persecuting followers of Jesus was now redirected towards proclaiming Jesus as the son of God. It was seen, too, in his power of persuasion as he proclaimed. Following threats from Jews who now hated Saul, he returned to his hometown, Tarsus.

His name was changed to Paul (Acts 13:9) and under the influence of the holy Spirit, he prepared for his new Christian life. During his years in Tarsus, Paul faced reproaches, insults, distrust, and anger. He realized Jesus’ words, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). He persevered with devoted study and prayer. Eventually, Paul received authority from God to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul’s three missionary journeys brought many trials and tribulations: imprisonment, whipping, stoning, and shipwreck among them. None of these experiences caused Paul to sway from his commitment to the Lord. His perseverance gave him the wisdom to offer encouragement to others in the Way, "Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-3, adjusted).

The Perseverance of the Faithful Ones

The perseverance of Moses, Jesus, and Paul to carry out the work of God was exemplary. Yet each displayed great humility.

Moses was trained in the courts of Egypt, but he gave it all up to follow the will of Jehovah, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).

Jesus was in the presence of God as the Logos, but he gave it all up to redeem mankind. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:5-8 NAS).

Paul was trained at the feet of renowned teachers of Judaism, but he gave it up to answer the call and bring the gospel to the Gentiles. "And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake" (Acts 9:14-16).

Humility and Perseverance

Let each of us likewise show both humility and perseverance in our own commitment to the work of God and the completion of the Church.

Let each of us add perseverance to our faith through a willingness to submit our wills to God, "Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you" (1 Peter 5:7-10 NAS).