2018 Random Lent Thought #33: Perseverance

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” (Luke 8:15 NIV).

I am not very good at persevering. I am much, much better at starting well and then giving up.

I can begin a new discipline enthusiastically, and be sustained by that enthusiasm for a few days. But then boredom sets in – or the desire to relax and have a good (or easier) time – and so I fall away. This is why so many of my efforts to grow spiritually have failed.

That’s probably why I love this word ‘perseverance’ so much (in the NRSV it  is translated ‘patient endurance’). ‘Patience’ and ‘perseverance’ go together. Patience helps me remember that the crop will not be produced overnight; everything good and worthwhile takes time to grow and mature. So it makes no sense to give up overnight. I need to persevere – to ‘keep on keeping on’ – even when the discipline gets hard, even when I get discouraged at the slowness of the growth.

Perseverance in what? According to verse 15, it’s perseverance in hearing and retaining the word of God. In Luke 8:21 Jesus adds ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice’. I love the double meaning of ‘practice’ in English! It can mean ‘doing’ something as opposed to just ‘thinking about it’ – but it can also mean ‘doing it over and over again so that I can get better at it’ (which is how we form a habit). Both these understandings are vital parts of perseverance. So I hear the word of God through Jesus – I realize I’m being called to a new holy practice – I decide how to do it, and then I intentionally do it over and over again until I get better at it, until it becomes habitual, until it’s part of who I am.

I think the motivation for perseverance comes from keeping our goal in mind. Our goal is to see Jesus face to face and be transformed into his likeness. This is the big, overarching goal and it’s worth every ounce of effort we put into it. But of course there are smaller goals we establish as well, in the context of this big goal. By keeping our goals in mind we can motivate ourselves to persevere.

I’m getting better at persevering, but I’m still a long way from where I would like to be. Lent is nearly over. Lord, help us all to persevere with the good changes we have been practising through this holy season. Amen.

One thought on “2018 Random Lent Thought #33: Perseverance

  1. Susannah

    Thank you Tim.

    And we know we should not lose heart: because although we are weak and fallible, God is faithful and God perseveres with us, even when we ourselves are sometimes so easily distracted from our intentions. The message of this Holy Week, surely, is that Jesus did indeed persevere, showing love all the dusty way to Jerusalem: a love that knows no turning back, then and today and forever. Like the father of the Prodigal Son, God waits patiently for us, and runs out to meet and embrace us.

    May the grace and gentle love of God be with you, and be of good hope because God’s intent and purpose is to be with us, and in us, always inviting us to recollect ourselves, our often scattered and dispersed selves, as we recognise once more, God’s love, God’s presence within us, in the still place and the sanctuary, where God always waits and God always perseveres. God’s faithfulness holds us, and knows us, and loves us, and cares about us: and even if our own faithfulness fluctuates and disappoints, God’s covenant love never does, because, as we remember tomorrow, it is a devoted love, and you are deeply precious.

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