If we are to succeed spiritually, among all the other necessary virtues we especially will need perseverance. We will need to learn not only how to fight but how to keep going in the fight until God brings the breakthrough. I am not talking about becoming carnal in our warfare or fleshly in our aggression. I am speaking about a combination of discernment, authority and unwavering faith that needs to live within us, even while other virtues and gifts develop.
It is not enough, you see, to know about God's Kingdom -- we are called to possess it. Yes, when we are born again, we are born into God's Kingdom. But the reality of being born of the Spirit means that a whole new realm of possibilities, challenges and obstacles now unfolds before us. In other words, we must overcome many things in order to function as sons and daughters of God. The idea that the only relationship we have with Heaven is the one we experience at death is simply contrary to the Word of God.
When Jesus came, He proclaimed, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). At hand means that God's Kingdom is close enough to touch from where we are. Yet it must be fought for aggressively and attained with perseverance. "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence," Jesus taught, "and violent men take it by force" (Matt. 11:12).
The violence of taking the Kingdom by force is not physical violence but rather focused earnestness, a deeply passionate pursuit of God that enables Christ's followers never to give up regardless of the conflicts and trials they face. John said he was a "partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus" (Rev. 1:9). If we want God's Kingdom, we will face tribulation, and we will need perseverance. We must persist until the substance of God's Kingdom is not merely a doctrine but a functional reality in our lives.
True disciples "bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15). The human spirit is saved by faith in Christ's sacrifice. The human soul -- our mind, will and emotions -- is saved by faith and endurance (Luke 21:19). This does not mean that our salvation is the result of works; it means our perseverance is rooted in our salvation as new creatures in Christ.
Even so, there is a war to be won! We must take the Kingdom by force, fighting for our souls and persevering on behalf of families, cities and nations.
Unyielding Perseverance The book of Revelation mentions the word perseverance seven times for good reason. Over and over we see those who persevered and overcame. It is one thing to have vision and another to have godly motives, but neither will carry us to our objectives by itself. We must also persevere.
Consider this word persevere. Its meaning is rooted in the word severe. It is the exact opposite of lethargy.
Over the last fifty-plus years, there were a number of times when I was stretched in ways that were severe or extreme. I always came out of the experience stronger and more Christlike, yet it was definitely not the way I would have chosen for myself. You see, it is through faith and endurance that we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 10:36). James tells us that "the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance" and that "perseverance must finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything" (James 1:3-4, NIV).
In other words, we don't just go one mile, but two; we contend for the faith; we wrestle against principalities and powers (Matt 5:41; Jude 1:3; Eph. 6:12). We are not wimps; we do not give up. We are soldiers who endure hardship. Even if we are knocked down, defeat is not final; we rise to fight another day (Mic. 7:7-8). Surrender is not an option!
Our success comes from our faith in God; our perseverance is not based on our strength but is appropriated from grace drawn from our union with Christ. We come to Him when we are weary and heavy-laden; in Him we find rest so we can continue our quest. But underlying all our other virtues, we need to possess an inherent perseverance of spirit, for "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" (Matt.24:13).
Has lethargy quietly taken your energy captive? Then by the grace of God, let the Holy Spirit awaken within you today the perseverance of Christ. Indeed, "may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement" (Rom. 15:5) empower you to be the man or woman of God you were born to become.
No Time to Quit On a more practical level, let me briefly say, watch your health. Avoid excessive amounts of heavy foods or sugar and denatured grains, which can cloud your mind and make you sluggish. Get seven to eight hours sleep, use natural foods and develop an exercise regime to tone and condition your physiological makeup. Let's not give ourselves any physical reasons to fail spiritually.
Multitudes will sit in their easy chairs and read about God's promises, but you and I are called not only to know God's promises but to possess them and walk them out. You see, the real question is not "Are you saved?" but "Are you overcoming?" Whatever the scope of warfare you face -- whether it is deeply personal or a fight for your nation to be turned -- the enemy's specific goal is to get you to give up. With all my heart, I believe it is not too late for my country of America and many other nations to turn away from judgment and move toward spiritual awakenings. It is near, dear friend.
Endurance. Perseverance. Steadfastness. These are the qualities that breed character, that transform the doctrine of Christlikeness into a way of life. Again, as James 1:4 urges, "Let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect." The key to perfection, to a life "lacking in nothing," is perseverance.
With the Holy Spirit's help, it is time to get our grit back. It is time to fight.