This post is adapted from Perseverance: Praying through Life’s Challenges, a new women’s Bible study by Donna Pyle focusing on the Book of Nehemiah.
My perseverance journey started several months ago as I stepped on the scale after yet another failed “healthy lifestyle” attempt. The egregious number blaring up at me seemed to confirm the lie I had already believed for years: This is just who I am.
I slunk off the scale, walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator in search of my usual comfort food, and stopped midreach. Then I got mad at myself. Really mad. That’s when Satan started his usual attack: What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get a handle on this? Everyone else seems to balance their lives without a problem. I thought you were strong in the Lord? Isn’t He listening? Don’t you trust Him? You quitter!
I used to believe that I had an issue with food. Then God put a wise, godly friend in my path who helped me understand that was not accurate. My real struggle is what food represents to me. Essentially, food has been my god for decades. Instead of God as my stronghold, my mighty fortress, the idol of food had slithered onto the throne of my life.
God used my friend’s simple words to clarify a decades-long struggle. Once my true struggle was finally clear to me—the sin of gluttony and embracing a false god of food—that fresh insight was significant and served as a catalyst to wholeheartedly persevere toward that one thing: a healthy lifestyle. Not a diet. A lifestyle of balanced meals and healthy snacks that keep a growling stomach at bay. For now, my exercise is simply walking through my neighborhood or taking the two flights of stairs at work instead of an elevator. For the first time in my life, I am beginning to see real, lasting progress. It’s slow, which can be frustrating, but steady as she goes is the key. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
In the midst of my struggle, God had to convict me that my problem went far deeper than a surface issue regarding what food represented. I bet your “one thing”—a goal or struggle—goes deeper too. My problem is a sin problem. The answer is forgiveness in Christ. Even our persevering is a gift from God—a gift He faithfully provides as we are nourished through His Word and at His table of forgiveness. Only the Gospel can bring about the restoration we need. Only the Gospel gives us what we need to persevere. Only Christ provides the strength to stay the course.
Identifying Your One Thing
In order to understand perseverance, you need to put a face on your one thing.
- What goal to accomplish or struggle to overcome has God laid on your heart? Be specific.
- Do you believe persevering regarding your one thing will be relatively short (a few months) or a long haul (years or perhaps the rest of your life)? Explain.
Since I am more than a little overweight, my perseverance journey will be a long one. And since my sin struggle goes beyond skin-deep, it will last my lifetime. That realization is a breakthrough as well. In the past, I always pressured myself to be skinnier immediately.
For the first time in thirty years, I know that God has equipped me with the truth about my struggle—a powerful tool for lasting change. God used that wise friend to help me dig down deep, ask hard questions, analyze repetitive behavior patterns, and reach certain conclusions to provide an accurate assessment of my struggle. And may I say—it was hard coming face-to-face with the depths of my pet sin. Perhaps you feel the same way about your one thing.
I have allowed the sin of my one thing to hold me captive instead of embracing the true freedom found only in Christ. Perseverance means pressing on to identify that one thing, acknowledging it for the sin that it is, and relying on God to daily set our feet on the right path.
What we discover throughout the Book of Nehemiah is that we can be faithful to God and still experience relentless enemy attacks. I know, completely unfair, right?
- How does Satan, our ultimate enemy and the father of lies, attack you regarding your one thing? Again, be specific.
Our faith is evidenced by how we handle challenges, not whether we experience them. Faith connects us to the limitless power of God and makes all that was impossible now possible. That’s the nature of faith. Scripture not only talks about faith that heals (such as Jesus saying, “Your faith has made you well” [Matthew 9:22]), but it also talks about the importance of persevering faith.
- Write out Hebrews 11:1.
Hebrews 11 has been referred to as the Hall of Faith because it lists those who remained faithful to God despite persecution, ridicule, and trials. Reading through Hebrews 11 reveals that those beautiful witnesses persevered through extraordinary challenges. Persevering faith by nature implies that hoped-for change does not occur immediately. Rather, it is the ability that God gives us to hold to faith in the middle of struggle or stagnation. Persevering (enduring) faith produces character.
- Write out Romans 5:3–5.
In this passage, the NIV translation uses the word perseverance. There is a clear progression that is important for us to see as we strive against sin—our one thing:
suffering → perseverance
perseverance → character
character → hope
You and I do not struggle in our one thing without hope! Christ died to give abundant life in Himself. We do not have to look at our struggle, give up, and say, “I guess this is just who I am.” Ultimate victory is complete when Christ comes again. That is our hope. But as we persevere in the strength of the Lord, we will experience milestones of progress along the way. For me, that sometimes looks like passing on dessert after dinner, taking smaller portions on my plate, and choosing healthy options. Yes, they are small victories, but God provides great encouragement through them!
The truth is that we will fail to consistently persevere. Chances are you, like me, have felt that sting of failure far too often. But those failures don’t have to lead us into defeatist mode and belief that “this is just who I am.” God’s Word encourages us to continually struggle against sin by the power of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
- Our identity is in Christ, not in failure. What is our identity according to the following verses?
- John 1:12
- Genesis 1:27
- 1 Peter 2:9
- Colossians 1:14
God delights in answering our prayers and demonstrating His love over us, but He desires to build us into people of character. As one of my pastors routinely says, “God is far more interested in your character than your comfort.” So very true. If we struggle to trust God during the rocky steps of hardship, we will struggle to give Him praise as we experience new milestones along the journey. If we cannot trust Him with loss, we will never trust Him with gain. He desires to build in us the character to stand firm in our relationship with Him despite the opposition.
Understanding that our identity is rooted in victory over sin accomplished by Christ’s death and resurrection makes all the difference. He gives us His Word and perfect strength to navigate disappointment, loss, criticism, and betrayal. We live in the ultimate victory that Christ won for us on the cross, but experience the daily struggle of temptation and sin, the daily need for repentance and forgiveness, receiving the grace of God at His Table.
Daily perseverance against our one thing comes down to trusting God and His plan for our life.
- What are you struggling to trust God with regarding your one thing? Be specific.
Perseverance: Praying through Life’s Challenges will be available in June. Download a sample and order copies for your group or individual Bible study today!