Have you ever considered the incredible story of Christopher Columbus? When he left on his voyage, he didn’t know where he was going. When he landed after several weeks of sailing, he didn’t know where he was. When he returned home, he didn’t know where he had been. Wow! No wonder he is a hero! In all seriousness, Columbus is a hero not only for his discoveries, but maybe, even more, because he made the trip! He didn’t quit. He persevered through until the very end.
As we continue our series of messages today titled, Attitudes of Grace, we first remember that our attitude is like a paintbrush of our faith that colors everything. You and I are painters of grace in a world that is living in colorless times. We have already considered how we are called be a living sacrifice everyday trusting in Christ for everything we need. Last week we talked about the attitude of commitment and how it strengthens our daily commitment to trust in Jesus every day. Today we look at commitment’s cousin, perseverance as an attitude of grace that defies the daily voice of the world calling out to us constantly to quit – especially when the going gets hard.
Paul’s words to Timothy are a short victory speech! He knows that he is near the “finish line” of life and time is short. Rather than lament the few days that remain, he seems to stand up, head upright, shoulders back and a smile of absolute resolve as he tells Timothy that the “secret” of living in and living for Jesus Christ is to keep on keeping on! Don’t quit, don’t slow down, don’t complain, don’t blame and don’t give up. Keep on keeping on!
To persevere means to continue steadily in doing something hard or difficult. It means to stick to a purpose. My father (and probably yours too) told me that there are two roads we can choose to take in our life: 1) the easy road, which usually leads us to a dead end. And 2), the hard road which is more difficult, but always the surest route when completed.
Perhaps in the Instagram, Amazon-delivery, fast-food, text society and lifestyle of today the word perseverance is difficult for us to embrace because, let’s face it, to persevere means one must sacrifice something – and that means it will not be easy. For Paul, the marathon race was his main “go to” when defining and illustrating perseverance. How many marathoners are here today?
The final event of every Summer Olympics is the marathon. This much awaited race symbolizes the true Olympic spirit and identifies the origin of the games. In the 1968 games, a Tanzanian man was the last runner to cross the finish line – over an hour after the final runner had finished. He was bloody, injured and in great pain from an earlier fall, but he finished his race. When asked why he continued to run even though he knew there was no way he would have won, he responded. “My people didn’t spend money to send me 5,000 miles to just start the marathon, but to finish it!”
Even today, a marathon is still the “King of Contests” because it is both a contest and a metaphor for life – especially the life of a Christian. Remember that as Christians we are not only called to just start the race of faith (to journey with Jesus), we are also called to finish the race showing others the value of perseverance!
The Bible is filled with stories of men and women who started the journey of faith. But the Bible records the stories of very few who finished their journey well! Paul seems to know this in his call, his reminder, his message over and over again telling Timothy then and us today, don’t quit, keep moving forward – persevere.
Looking around at the last few years, it can seem, at times, that we’re all alone. No one seems to be in control. We wonder what world we’ve been dropped into! Our daily experiences of life continue to scream at us to quit. All around us we hear of, and see, shootings in schools, teen and veteran suicides, tragic storms, natural disasters, needless violence, abductions and murders. We see marriages and families break down, disease and other forms of senseless acts that cause is to want to stop, quit, turn away and give up the “race of faith”!
In verse eight, Paul reminds us why perseverance in the midst of doubts, questions and adversity matters. He tells us to keep on because there is something worth working toward, waiting for, struggling for – the crown of life from Jesus himself! The same victor’s crown awarded the marathon winner is promised to all who keep on keeping on – all who persevere!
Here at Bethia UMC, we have a great cloud of witness who persevered, received their crown and now cheer us on from the heavenlies! They passed the baton to us when their race was completed. We now take their place as faithful disciples of Jesus who exude the gracious attitude of perseverance! With commitment and perseverance as our paint brush, we give beauty, color and meaning to a world in need of grace.
Jesus himself gave us the command to go – to persevere and to finish the work he began years ago. It is hard work! It is difficult work! It is demanding work! But he promises to walk alongside us every hard, difficult and demanding step of the way!
Unlike ole’ Christopher Columbus, we do know where we’re going! We do know where we are! And, we do know where we’ve been! And most of all, we know that God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has been with us the whole journey. We are never alone in this journey called life.
Continue the work! Finish the course! Don’t give up! Don’t quit! Don’t turn back! Stand firm, move forward and keep your eye on the finish line and the cheering crowd of fellow runners of life who have finished the race! Persevere!