Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. (from Hebrews 12:1–2, NIV)
No one lives without troubles in life. There are many kinds of troubles: common sufferings most people have, personal difficulties in each circumstance, and deep pains we cannot tell anyone. There is also particular trouble only Christians have: trials because of our faith. James 1:3 encourages to rejoice when we face many kinds of trials, which are the testing of our faith because our perseverance improves, the perseverance makes us mature, and finally nothing lacks in us during the time we endure them. Thus, Romans 5:3–4 says that the reason we rejoice in our sufferings is that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance makes our character, and our hope is fulfilled when our character is mature.
Abraham gained his son, Isaac, twenty-five years after he received the promise of the Lord. He had never spent these twenty-five years at ease. When he arrived in Egypt with his wife, Sarah, in order to protect himself from the Egyptians, he told them Sarah was his sister, so he had almost lost her. Also, when the kings of Shinar attacked Sodom and Gomorrah and seized all the goods and foods, including Abraham’s nephew Lot and his possessions, Abraham called out 318 trained men born in his household and gained back all the lost ones, including Lot. Even many years after he received the promise, Abraham had no child, so he had his son Ishmael through Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant. He thought for a while that God’s promise would be done through a woman other than Sarah. However, when Ishmael ran into a conflict with Isaac, born through Sarah, Abraham had to let his first son Ishmael leave as Sarah wanted, which was a deep pain to Abraham.
When Abraham heard God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where his nephew Lot was living, Abraham prayed earnestly to save the lands. However, he had to watch their collapse because no righteous men lived there. After experiencing those many adversities, Abraham finally got Isaac, the promise of the Lord. Through the long tunnel of his life, Abraham had learned God’s providence and realized that God was going together with him. In the meantime, his faith became firmer, and his character got more mature. As a result, Abraham has been respected and remembered as the greatest ancestor of faith by as many descendants as stars in the sky.
David had also suffered severe trials since the promises of the Lord. According to the decision that God would make him king of Israel, Samuel anointed David, and the Spirit of God came upon him in power. From that day, whenever an evil spirit from God tormented King Saul, David played his harp, which relieved Saul, so he was trusted by King Saul. Before long, when the Philistines attacked and threatened Israel with Goliath and all the Israelites was paralyzed by fear, only a young David firmly trusted God and defeated Goliath. From this victory, David won the people’s trust and married Michal, the daughter of King Saul. However, David’s trials began from that time. King Saul was jealous of David’s fame and began to drive him to trouble. In order to avoid Saul trying to kill him, David began to wander around. He often slept on the grass, watching the stars in the sky and spending time in a cave. David once fled to the land of the Philistines, to Goliath’s hometown. To survive there, he acted like a madman by immediately making marks on the door of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard in the presence of the enemy. His mad behavior allowed David to escape the threat of death.
Did David, who was anointed king of Israel, ever imagine that these things would happen to him? From a secular viewpoint, is not the training to the throne to take humanities and administration, to learn the commandership of the army, and to improve leadership skill? However, the trials that God led David to were the best way, one the world could never design, and he was successful as a result. David had to pray to God to survive every adversity. He eventually survived every moment and realized that God was always helping him, which made him trust the Lord more and more. When he finally became king, he was steadfast and humble and never left God in his lifetime. Saul, who had no trials, turned away from the word of God, while David, who was trained through trials, followed the word of the Lord for life and became the great king of Israel. Therefore, suffering makes perseverance, and perseverance improves character and humility, and they make one fit for God.
For Christians, life is like a race we must run consistently. If we are not vigilant, even for a while, the Devil will take it as a chance to throw us down. Satan’s purpose is to overthrow Christians. He is trying to make us delay, fall, or give up in the race we run. This has been repeated since Adam. Satan even tried to make Jesus stumble when He finished fasting for forty days. Those attributes of Satan appear in many parts of the Bible. First Peter 5:8 says that the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. In Mark 4, Jesus explains the kingdom of God with the parable of the sower and says that Satan comes and takes away the word that is sown in us. Satan is looking for all the opportunities to lead Christians astray with various forms of attack.
In Job 1, the scene of what happens in the spiritual world illustrates well how much Satan wants to overthrow the man with firm faith. One day, the angels came to present themselves before God, and Satan also appeared among them. When the Lord asked Satan where he came from, Satan answered that he had roamed through the earth and walked around on it. Like the word of 1 Peter 5:8, he was looking for the Christians to tempt and throw down. Satan began to find a false charge from Job to attack, who was firm and upright by fearing the Lord.
While Job 1 shows Satan’s trick in the spiritual world, Daniel 6 shows how his trick is visibly embodied in the earth. In the days of Darius, the king of Babylon, Daniel was distinguished and exceptional because he feared and trusted the Lord. So, the king planned to let him administrate over the whole kingdom. The other administrators and satraps were jealous of Daniel, so they tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conducting of government affairs. Then, they found that Daniel was praying to God three times a day, and they took this as the chance to kill him. They set up a snare to overthrow Daniel by saying to King Darius that the man should be thrown into the lions’ den if he prayed to any god or man except to Darius. The misdeed of these administrators and satraps is like Satan wandering around to find someone to overthrow. Satan was spiritually controlling them, and their cunning behavior was seen in our eyes.
“Perseverance is to obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”
Like our ancestors of faith who had faithfully waited for the promise of God, we must not abandon our faith until the vision and dream the Lord has given to each of us are fulfilled. Then, how can we wait for it without fail? Hebrews 6:11–15 gives the answer, which can be summed up in two ways. One is to believe that God is faithful. Twenty-five years after the Lord gave Abraham the promise, he had finally gained it. Although God’s promise seems to be accomplished slowly, the time is never in vain, because we get firm and humble and develop a better character during that time. Another way is to do the daily work given to us sincerely and diligently. Job and Daniel were tested and suffered because of their faith and righteousness, but they had not lost faith in God to the end, so they became faithful servants of God who ultimately triumphed. They showed perseverance. Revelation 14:12 states that perseverance is to obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. It is just perseverance that we need to finish our race thoroughly and gain the final victory in our harsh lives, where Satan attacks with all kinds of tactics and maneuvers to overthrow us. Jesus is the reason and strength for our endurance because He Himself had endured severe suffering, indignity, and betrayal, and died on the cross but finally won the victory by resurrection. Now, He is seated at the right hand of the mighty God.
Joseph dreamed that the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him, and he took it as a vision given by God. However, the reality was entirely different. He was deceived by his brothers and sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian guard, and served as a servant. Nevertheless, he was faithful to his jobs, and therefore Potiphar trusted Joseph. Even when he was imprisoned, Joseph was never frustrated and never abandoned his vision. When the chief jailer knew that Joseph was very wise and sincere, he entrusted him with all the tasks of the prison, and Joseph managed them faithfully and diligently. Through those adversities, Joseph’s mind became firm, his character had matured, and he was able to learn administrative work in Potiphar’s house and in prison. When God’s time had come, Joseph was finally elected governor of Egypt and was able to save Egypt, which had fallen into the catastrophe of drought. At this time, everything Joseph had learned and gained in his afflictions became precious assets to solve the problems.
Both Abraham and Joseph finally gained what they had waited for after a long time while they were sincerely and faithfully doing their daily works.
Figure 17. Real Value of Perseverance
God gives us abundant blessings with the final victory when we break through the adversities of life and keep the Word of God and the faith toward Jesus to the end. In Revelation 3:10, Jesus promised that if we keep his command to endure patiently, He will also keep us from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world. James 1:12 says that those who persevere under trials will be blessed because they will receive the crown of life that God has promised when they have stood the test. Also, Hebrews 10:34 says that we will have better and lasting possessions in heaven if we joyfully endure the insults and persecutions in the world, and 2 Timothy 2:12 records that if we endure, we will also reign with Jesus. Therefore, perseverance is more precious and valuable than anything, because those who persevere to the end will receive what is incomparable and lasting.