October 9, 2014.
We are about halfway through our walk through the Christian virtues, and today we are hitting another hard one. It is very related to self control, which is probably part of the reason that it is difficult to obtain and easy to lose. I must admit that this is one of the virtues that I struggle with the most. I’m sure that I’m not alone. Let’s jump right in.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(II Peter 1:5-8)
The fourth virtue, as it is traditionally numbered, is steadfastness. We have walked through establishing faith and diligence in committing to improving these virtues, and then looked at moral excellence, knowledge and self control. Today’s topic, steadfastness or perseverance, is the virtue that keeps the rest going. I believe that the placement of this virtue is perfect. It comes right after self control, a virtue that we must diligently work at to master, and one that is easy to fall away from quickly. So what does Peter say to remedy this problem? Supplement self control with steadfastness.
Now, that is easier said than done, trust me. So many times in my life have I been on the right track, doing very well in my walk with the Lord, and all of the sudden I am in the gutter. It happens so fast sometimes that I don’t even realize it. When you hit this low, it seems the path to holiness is so far away that you wonder how you were even on it in the first place. Steadfastness is not a virtue that comes easily or quickly, but it is one that we lose grasp of both quickly and easily. This is where the adversary wants us to be. Not necessarily failing, but feeling like all hope is lost when we do fail. He does not want us to get back up. The temptation to sin is just the first part of his plan. If he can get you to fall and then make you feel like you can never measure up again, then he has you for good. That is, until you change your mind and realize that you have the power of Christ to lift you up.
Steadfastness takes time. You will not be able to master this in a week, or even a month. If you can, please tell me your method, because I have things I need to learn from you. It has always been my experience that when I start doing something good, even outside of spirituality, something always seems to come up and ruin the streak. That’s not to say that I don’t get up and try again, but it is very discouraging when this happens. However, the opposite is true as well: it is very encouraging when you have been steadfast for a good amount of time and you can look back on it. There should come a point where you can even rely on it. There are certain things that I have done for so long that I can fully trust myself to continue doing them. It is getting to that point that is crucial.
I believe that this is the importance of steadfastness. Trust. When you have a specific problem, are you going to go to someone with a good track record in regards to that problem, or a bad track record? If you need your car fixed, would you go to an established mechanic or someone who just started school to be a mechanic? This works both interpersonally and interpersonally. We have much more of an influence over those who regard us as steadfast in a certain area than those who see us as standing on shaky grounds. We too can have more trust in ourselves when we have proven to be steadfast in a certain area. This trust builds confidence in Christ and helps us in our endeavors.
So how do we gain steadfastness? It may not be a pleasant answer.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We gain steadfastness by going through trials. Hard times produce perseverance. This building of character is often related to the process of refining silver or purifying gold through fire. We must go through hardships in order to grow character. This refining process and character are so closely related that this process is almost the very definition of character. You know the old saying when someone asks why they have to do some difficult task- “It builds character.” Though cliché, it holds true. James tells us to count it all joy when we meet trials! I don’t know the last time I was very joyful when presented with a difficult task. Perhaps this is partially what makes things seem difficult.
When you are attempting to apply steadfastness to your daily lives (by being steadfast in the aforementioned virtues), please do not be too discouraged if you fail at first. May you went three days, but then slipped in moral excellence. Or maybe it was a week before you lost the desire for knowledge. It’s okay. All you have to do is get back up and try again. I know it is hard to take that first step, but please do! I say this for my own benefit as much as anyone else’s. Steadfastness is produced with time and a consistent, diligent effort (see how diligence ties in?). Actually, I suppose we could claim steadfastness in our struggle with sin. We are constantly bombarded with temptation, and we often fail and have to overcome. I would call this in and of itself perseverance. Seek encouragement from the scriptures.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
(II Corinthians 4:7-10)
There are many encouraging words that come from the word of God when we hit our low points. I would suggest this to be one of the first places to run to when you need that extra push to stand back up and start fighting again. You can do it. I promise. How can I know this? If you have the power of Christ within you, what can prevail over that? Who can prevail over that? Nothing and no one. But we must believe this. We must believe in Him that He can indeed keep us from falling. If it were up to us along, we would certainly be doomed. Thanks be to God that this is not the case.
In times of trouble, it is often helpful to look to a story where we see that a person did overcome. Job is great go to story about a man who was vehemently attacked by the enemy, yet persevered. That’s not to say he did it with ease. He persevered through agony and tears. But he persevered. If you do not want to read the whole book (though I would recommend it highly), you can get the gist from the first two chapters and the last three to five chapters. Job was burdened with much more than we can imagine, but he never forsook the Lord. He stood by his steadfastness (though he did make some assumptions that he probably shouldn’t have) and was extremely blessed in the end for it.
So keep on working. Steadfastness, perseverance, comes with time and through trials. Do not be surprised when they come, but look at them as an opportunity. An opportunity to overcome evil with good. We can get through this, and in so doing we will glorify the One who made it all.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
(I Corinthians 15:58)
Our labor, our perseverance, is not in vain. Keep on keeping on.
Suggested Daily Reading: James 1-5.
“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
(II Thessalonians 3:5)