How to Persevere & Why We Should
Perseverance is recognized as a beneficial trait that we should all attain. Society celebrates it in sports, business, entertainment and in life. While determination or grit is universally accepted as a good thing, do we know how it is developed? Why does it seem to be absent in some people? Why does it operate in one area of life but not in another?
Psychologist Angela Duckworth authored a book called Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance that explores the idea that outstanding achievement is not a attributed to talent but to a special blend of passion and persistence. She speaks about the ability to learn grit regardless of intelligence or circumstance.
The secular view of persevering involves a mindset of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” or having a “can do attitude” or “pushing through the pain.” It often celebrates the triumph of our will over circumstances or overcoming obstacles and setbacks with unfaltering effort.
Jesus says that following Him will result in a light burden and an easy yoke. This seems much different than the common view of how to succeed in life. While there is trouble in the world, Jesus has overcome the world and we are to have peace in that. How then can we persevere in a way that aligns with God’s way of doing things?
Recently, I was praying and began to ask the Holy Spirit for insight on this. From my journal:
Me: It seems that some people are gifted with perseverance while others are not. Is this true or is it developed? If developed, how so? I know self-control/discipline is a fruit of the Spirit.
Holy Spirit: Why don’t you learn it and teach others – how to develop perseverance? What are you supposed to quit? What are you supposed to pursue eagerly?
At this point I was reminded of the scripture passage in Peter about perseverance. I could not remember the exact reference so I googled it, of course. I found it to be in 2 Peter 1:3-8 and realized God wanted me to study the insights He had given to Peter.
2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter clearly describes a process of avoiding an ineffective life which can be extrapolated as a result of not persevering. The end goal is not just to keep “grinding it out” or to develop a “never-say-die” attitude. It is just one step in the journey of partaking in God’s divine nature and escaping corruption. The eight steps crescendo with us becoming love which is what God is.
- Faith – it starts with belief; we have to believe in what God is saying and doing
- Goodness – we develop modest, pure, virtuous thoughts, feelings and actions
- Knowledge – moral wisdom, right living; we learn about God and what He thinks about us
- Self-control – we master desires and passions especially sensual appetites
- Perseverance – we remain by or abide under the places, promises and plans that God has for us
- Godliness – we worship well; we are responding to God with a heart fully surrendered to Him
- Mutual affection – we are loving our brothers/sisters that God places in our lives
- Love – we become love that has the power to shift atmospheres, establish God’s kingdom, destroy the works of the enemy and restore the lost to God’s original purpose for them
Every journey with God begins with faith. As we believe what God believes we are headed in the right direction. Goodness as a concept can be somewhat hard to grasp other than we know intrinsically what is good. Most importantly, we recognize that God is good and what He does is good. We must reconcile our ways, thoughts and actions to reflect this, as well. When we think on whatever things are lovely and of good report we have the best opportunity to learn more about God and what He says and thinks about us.
As this is a study to learn about perseverance I find it interesting that we find self-control and perseverance in middle of Peter’s writings on this subject. Arguably the least desirable process of becoming love is stuck right dab in the middle of where we are trying to go. Self-control can be seen as the things we must quit and perseverance is the quality of not quitting. What do we need to get rid of and what do we need to be steadfast in?
Often the halfway point is the area that we falter in our journey. We have not successfully cut off detrimental desires which leads to a misalignment of our attention away from God’s purpose and our destiny. We have been derailed by the flesh and the enemy. We no longer have the strength to “abide under” or “remain by” the very thing God has promised us but has yet to come. Self-control is the precursor to persevering. The flesh will want to quit on what the Spirit has started but we must “quit” the flesh to continue in the Spirit.
Once we’ve persevered we can enter into a worship that is fully surrendered to God. Godliness is life not our own. It’s more than a song or service but a commitment to God’s plan and accomplishing it His way. A life fully surrendered sees the value of others above our own. We understand God is our source and pour out to our brothers because we are constantly filled.
This leads to becoming love. We are motivated by the heart of the Father and not by our own flesh, emotions or thoughts. Walking, abiding, remaining and even persevering in love allows us to go to places and interact with people that we would otherwise not have the capacity to.
Perseverance is the midway point in our process of living a life of love. I believe the journey happens over and over again as we go from glory to glory. In one sense it is a general description of our entire walk with Jesus. We first believe and we grow to love like Him because He first loved us. It’s a cyclical process and it continues to perpetuate in us until we finally meet Daddy God face to face in eternity.
While it can be seen as the holistic process of our life in Christ, it can also be applied to each challenge that we encounter. It is a road map for “everything we need for a godly life” as Peter put it. Let’s take fear for instance:
- What does God say? What do we believe about God and fear?
- How do I need to think? What good, virtuous things do we need to focus on instead of fear?
- What do I need to learn? What do we need to learn about ourself and/or God to overcome?
- What do I need to change? What mindset or actions are we allowing to control us that feeds the fear?
- What do I need to stand firm in? What area do we need to not back down from in the face of fear?
- What am I saying that is like God? Your words are now God’s words. You have overcome fear!
- What are you saying to others? You are now helping others overcome fear.
- How are you living? Fearless. You have become love and where there is perfect love it casts out fear.
Perseverance is not what we are trying to accomplish. It is the tipping point in the process of becoming an effective and productive follower of Jesus. We have been given everything we need to have divine life, we only need to receive. Now let’s become love.
About the Author
Mark is a marketer and sometimes writer. He's trying to get better at that sometimes thing.