Most people can put up with trouble for a while. But when the problems keep coming, they begin to wear you down. You start to wonder, “How long will this continue?”
Maybe you’re fighting to hold your marriage together, or you have a rebellious son or daughter who is bringing you pain. You’ve been dealing with family issues for some time, and it’s not easy to keep going.
Maybe you’re battling a particular sin. You think you are making progress. Then suddenly that old sin rears its ugly head. The battle just goes on and on. You’re tired of it.
Maybe you work in an environment where everything is affirmed, except faith in Christ and the pursuit of a godly life. You are facing the ongoing erosion of an increasingly hostile culture. You’re different and, over time, it is beginning to wear you down.
Maybe you have been called to serve in extraordinary circumstances. You’re facing the struggle of sustaining ministry. Anyone who serves God wholeheartedly will know what it is to come to the place of saying, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. How much more can I take?”
How can I have more patience with my children? How can I persevere in ministry? How can I build stability and endurance into my life? How can I be the kind of person who goes the distance as a Christian in this hostile world?
Everyone has a battle to face, and there will be times when you get tired of yours. The obvious question is, “How can I get more perseverance?”
Perseverance is the Fruit of Faith and Love
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing (2 Thess. 1:3).
These are the words God spoke through the apostle Paul to a community of believers in a town called Thessalonica. This church was born in great difficulties (Act 17). Paul spent three weeks in this town proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ, and many people came to faith in Christ through his preaching. But as soon as the church was established, the new believers experienced opposition. Paul wrote these words to encourage them by the fruit he saw in their lives.
Paul told the Thessalonians, “Your faith is growing.” It is a wonderful thing to have faith in Christ. But what is happening to your faith? Is it growing?
When the disciples found themselves in a storm, they panicked. And Jesus said, “Where is your faith?” He wasn’t saying, “You haven’t got it.” Clearly, they had faith. They were his followers. He was saying, “You aren’t using it!”
What about you? Are you exercising faith by applying it to the particular battles that you are facing?
Faith is confidence in the ultimate triumph of God. That’s what you need when you are struggling with difficult relationships, stubborn sins, discouragement in ministry, and the hostility of an unbelieving world.
Jesus tells us that the one who has been forgiven little, loves little; and the one who has been forgiven much, loves much (Luke 7:47). In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul is thanking God that the love among believers is increasing. Growing faith and increasing love are God’s work in the hearts of these believers.
How does it happen that faith can grow and love can increase, even when a believer is under pressure? It is irrefutable evidence that God is at work in your life. Just as it is in the nature of grass to grow, in the same way it is in the nature of love to be patient and faith to persevere. Christ causes His people to persevere by growing their faith and increasing their love. Patience, steadfastness, stability, and endurance are nourished by the deep roots of faith and love.
Perseverance Changes the Way You Pray
How should you pray when you are worn out, discouraged, and weary of the battle? You could pray, “Lord, give me patience.” That would be good. But a better way to pray is to ask God to increase your love and to renew your confidence in his ultimate triumph.
You can pray about the surface issue, but you will pray better if your prayer touches the root of the problem. Underneath all your struggles with patience and perseverance, you will find a faith that is losing heart and a love that is growing cold.
Maybe you’ve been praying for an unbelieving loved one for years and nothing has happened. You’re getting discouraged. You can say to the Lord, “Help me to persevere in prayer.” But a better way to pray would be to ask God to increase your faith in His ability to change this person and to increase your love for this person with whom you are probably now feeling very impatient.
Suppose you are caring for young children. The demands on you are constant, and as time has gone on you find that you are getting short tempered and impatient. You see what’s happening and you want to change. So, how do you pray? You can ask the Lord to help you be more patient with your children. But when you know that patience is the fruit of faith and love, a better way to pray is to ask God to fill your heart with His love for these children and to give you a new confidence in what He can make of their lives.
Maybe you are battling again with the same old sin. You are discouraged by your many failures, and you are tired of the battle. Ask the Lord to increase your faith in His power to overcome this evil in your life. Ask God to help you love Him more than you love the sin that besets you.
God is the One who makes faith and love grow, so ask Him to do it specifically in relation to your battle. God will use the hardest things in your life to make you like Christ.
Jesus endured what he suffered by exercising faith. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he trusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). That’s faith! Jesus was surrounded by darkness, but He put his faith in the ultimate triumph of God!
Jesus also endured through love. How could he stay on that cross? People were shouting for Him to come down. What made Him stay there? “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for His friends” (John 15:13).
Christ persevered through faith and He endured through love. When others see you enduring great trials because your faith is growing and your love is increasing, they will also see a reflection of Jesus Christ in you.