Heroes Part 2: Perseverance

On Sunday August 4th we continued our series 'Heroes'. 

Most people will have heard of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States of America. He is one of my all time heroes. Among his many achievements are the following:

  • He issued the emancipation proclamation which led to abolishing slavery
  • He established the National Banking System
  • He led the union to victory in the American Civil War
  • He brilliantly formulated plans for reconstruction before the war ended.

There can be no doubt that he was an exceptional man, and he is considered by many to have been America’s greatest president.  However, what you may not know is that he had many setbacks before he became president:
  • 1832 he lost his job
  • 1833 he failed in business
  • 1835 his fiancée, Ann Rutledge, died
  • 1836 he had a nervous breakdown
  • 1838 he was defeated for the role of ‘Speaker of the House’
  • 1843 he was defeated for nomination for congress
  • 1846 he was elected to congress
  • 1848 he lost the renomination
  •  1849 he was rejected for land office
  • 1854 he was defeated for the senate
  • 1856 he was defeated for the nomination for vice president
  • 1858 he was again defeated for the senate
  • 1860 he was elected president

He had a number of great qualities including leadership and wisdom. However, looking at the list above, perhaps his greatest quality was perseverance.
Another hero of mine is Moses, the man who successfully led the Israelites out of Egypt, across the Red Sea and through the desert wilderness to the edge of God’s Promised Land. However, like Lincoln, Moses encountered many obstacles, struggles and strife. Although he was “slow of speech and tongue” God tells him that he must go to Pharaoh and tell him that he must “let my people go” for three days so that they can worship God in the desert. Even though God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh, he also tells him that he won’t listen to his requests!

Nine times Moses goes to Pharaoh requesting the Israelites release, and in spite of plagues of “Biblical proportions” raining down on the Egyptians, nine times Pharaoh refuses. However Moses perseveres, and following the tenth request and the death of all Egyptian first-borns, humans and animals, Pharaoh tells the Israelites to go.

However, there were more struggles and strife ahead for Moses. First, the Israelites are trapped by the edge of the Red Sea with the chasing Egyptians closing in. God parts the waters and they escape. Then the Israelites start to complain. First about water then about the lack of meat, and then his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam oppose him. The Israelites grow impatient and rebel. Following Moses’ disobedience of God’s command, he is told that he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Like Lincoln, Moses’ qualities, are leadership and wisdom. However, Moses also has absolute faith and trust in God, and of course because of that, he perseveres.
For the follow of Jesus today, perseverance is a key requirement. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus’ half brother James writes at the beginning of his letter in the New Testament:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

What sort of tests might you be facing? They may be to do with relationships, finances, health, work or something else. One of the great tests that we all face is those ‘seasons’ when nothing seems to happening in our spiritual life. Our prayers seem flat, without any real passion or enthusiasm.

Perhaps reading the bible has become a chore and the pages seem dry and lifeless. Going to church has become a “duty”. These times can be the most difficult trials and tests of all because the temptation is stop praying, reading your bible and going to church: to stop persevering.

However, 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)
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.

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.
Let us also maintain our focus by persevering through times of struggle, strife and even the “dry times”. The gate is narrow and the road is hard but the reward is eternal.

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you react if God told you to do something that would fail? (As Moses with Pharaoh)
  2. How to you respond when people that you are trying to help are ungrateful and complain that you are making the situation worse?
  3. Have there been times over the past year when you have faced struggles with your own personal spiritual practices?
  4. What do you think James means when he writes, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”?
  5. What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life”?
  6. Do you agree that perseverance demonstrates faith?
  7. Can you think of any examples of people who demonstrated persistence in the face of adversity?


Rob Lea, 05/08/2019