From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 1 – What it means to be a disciple and how Christian character is formed
The character qualities of endurance and perseverance are not widely sought after. Perhaps that is because the only way to develop them is for us to endure and persevere regularly until we eventually get good at it. Doing that is not pleasant, but there is no other way to develop the ability to endure and persevere. Therefore, if we are wise, we will pray for these qualities to be developed in our lives, even though the learning process will be painful, because it is undoubtedly worth it. We should therefore pray, as Paul did, to be strengthened in endurance and patience:
11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,Colossians 1:11-13 (ESV)
The ability to endure things patiently, and to persevere come what may, are qualities which God wants us to have. They are two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. That means they are not gifts. God does not give us patience, endurance or perseverance in the way that He gives us natural abilities or spiritual gifts. They have to be grown in us as fruitsover long periods of time. We can, of course, ask for God’s help in developing these qualities, but it is still our responsibility to grow them.
In other words, God will not give us Christian character as a gift. It cannot be imputed to us instantly, as Jesus’ righteousness is transferred to us at the moment when we are justified. We must choose to pursue these character qualities and to develop them over time. First of all, we must set our minds to want these things and to be determined to get them, because the Bible repeatedly tells us that we need these qualities:
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)
Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB)
for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.1Thessalonians 3:8 (NASB)
9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear:Revelation 13:9-10 (ESV)
10 If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Note that in each of the passages quoted above the responsibility is on us, not on God, to endure, stand firm, be strong etc. He will help us, but He will not do it for us. But we can still be encouraged because these qualities really can be developed. It is not a hopeless task. We have Jesus’ example to follow first of all. But we also have the example of all the people of faith who have gone before us and who have endured severe trials and achieved great things by doing so. The writer to the Hebrews describes these people who have gone ahead of us as being a ‘cloud of witnesses’. He implies that they are able to see us and are cheering us on:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or faint-hearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.Hebrews 12:1-4 (ESV)
Nobody has had to endure more than Jesus, or been more hated than He was. He literally withstood everything that Satan himself had to throw at Him. Most of us are only ever going to encounter much weaker and lower-ranking demons. Yet Jesus endured suffering, while He was on this Earth in human form, just as we must. We can do likewise with our own suffering, especially if we realise that we need His help to persevere and ask Him for that help.
I don’t often include quotations, other than from the Bible. However, this next one is worth reflecting on. It was said by Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. He puts very well the vital importance of persistence if we are to succeed in anything:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not;
nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with great talent.
Genius will not;
unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not;
The world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence, determination alone are omnipotent…….”
President Calvin Coolidge