Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success; continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.
Nobody really wants to pray for perseverance. It’s like praying for patience- when we ask for it, we are afraid we are ASKING FOR IT. But since Jesus promises us we will have trouble in this world, we need to ask for the faithfulness to stand firm in our faith.
Imagine waiting in a doctor’s office. You are with someone you love dearly, who is seriously ill and in a good deal of pain. You have been to many doctors, and all the treatments and medications have done little to change to progress of the illness. Finally you hear of a doctor who might have a cure, and so you anticipate the appointment with desperate hope. Ushered into the examination room, the two of you wait. For hours. You endure your loved one’s white-lipped endurance. Do you soothe and comfort, give backrubs and read encouraging Scripture? Do you make jokes to distract, or do you recite all the doctor’s impressive credentials and successful track record? You feel hopeful, and helpless, and eager, and angry. You are hungry and tired, your back stiff and your legs cramping in the molded plastic chair- or maybe your feet hurt from pacing the floor. You step into the hall, repeatedly, to flag down a nurse. Maybe she knows when the doctor will come. You will certainly go crazy if you can’t DO SOMETHING. You need to go to the bathroom, but you are afraid to miss a moment of the doctor’s visit in the room, as if you could tell by some subtle clue from him whether death- or healing- is imminent. The waiting is unbearable, and behind it all looms the dread possibility: what if, when he comes, he cannot help?
Finally the doctor arrives. He tenderly and thoughtfully examines the one you love, asking all the right questions. Clearly the doctor is familiar with the disease, and intimately understands its effect on your lives. You begin to relax under his attentive compassion, your anxiety giving way to tentative trust. He details a treatment plan, telling of side effects and symptom management, but you can hardly breathe until he arrives at the end: “And that should take care of it.” There is a cure.
What would have made the torment of the doctor's office easier to bear? If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, before you ever made the appointment, that this doctor would be able to heal your loved one, then the wait becomes an entirely different matter. Trust brings with it the strength to persevere. Anticipation replaces anxiety. Whatever ails us- sin, sickness, sadness- we never have to wonder if God can handle it. Every illness and injury, every betrayal and heartache, every bad decision and sinful choice, responds to His touch. If God can redeem the death of His innocent Son, He can redeem absolutely anything.
And so we persevere, based on the trustworthy character and steadfast love of the One who never changes and never fails. The burden of the waiting, the difficulty of the enduring, becomes much easier when we know the end of the story- and we do know the end of the story. It is finished. Contemplating the glorious riches of His love turns our wondering into wonder, and so we receive the hope of glory and the strength to persevere.
The Story of Cliff Young
We toss around the word “incredible” pretty frequently, but I don’t often think about what it means when I say it. In-credible means something that stretches past the bounds of belief to the not-believable, and so “incredible” is the right word to describe the endurance of ultra marathoner of Cliff Young.
At age 61, Australian sheep farmer Cliff Young signed up for a 544 mile run from Sidney to Melbourne. He did not have the proper equipment, showing up at the starting line in overalls and gumboots. He did not have the proper training; his only prior racing experience ended when he withdrew before finishing. It appeared to onlookers that his sole preparation prior to the race was to remove his false teeth, because he knew they would rattle as he ran.
What the crowds did not know was that Cliff Young had tended 2,000 sheep on 2,000 acres of family land all his life. When storms came in, he would round up the sheep by herding them on foot, sometimes running for two or three days at the time. Without stopping. Young won the race, ten hours ahead of the second place runner, by simply persevering. He ran through the night every night for five nights while the others slept. His gait was a slow shuffle, ridiculous to the elite runner, but it was effective.
How did Cliff Young accomplish such a feat? He simply did what he was already accustomed to doing. He made a habit of enduring through shorter distances, so when the time came for a much greater challenge, he was equipped to handle it. Even more important, Young didn’t quit. He did not stop for storms or for nightfall, which would have stopped anyone else.
An interesting detail: when Young crossed the finish line, he was surprised to learn the winner earned $10,000. He had not known he would win anything. He waited by the finish line for each of the other runners to complete the distance, and divided the prize evenly among them. I’m sure there’s a whole other blog post waiting in that bit of the story…
For more info see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cliff_Young_(athlete)
Also check out Ann Voskamp’s beautiful piece on her blog, aholyexperience.com. This is where I learned the story of Cliff in the first place.