Perseverance Of The Saints
Turning to Scriptures on perseverance during times of trouble is common. The Bible is filled with stories of people who persevered in faith when experiencing turmoil. These people encourage others by their strong belief in God's good and perfect will. Spiritual growth comes from understanding how others endured through faith during various trials. Especially when God seems far away, we can rely on the perseverance of the saints, in their deeds and prayers, to teach us what is needed for spiritual maturity.
In the Old Testament book of Job, we learn about a man who lost his children, wealth, and health, all in the space of a few hours. Though Job's wife and friends insisted that the cause of these troubles was sin, Job knew differently. He continued to trust in God's providence. What Job didn't know was that spiritual warfare was behind his tribulations. Similarly, the apostles once asked Jesus if it was the blind man or his parents who sinned. Jesus told them that the blindness wasn't due to sin at all, but that the man was born blind so that God could be glorified. Jesus miraculously healed the man's eyes so that he could see. This person recognized Jesus as the light of the world (John 9). From these two examples, we are reminded of the invisible warfare taking place in the spiritual realm and that sometimes we go through difficult times so that God can be glorified.
Throughout the Old Testament, we find scriptures on perseverance in the stories of people who obeyed God's call. For the first forty years of his life, Moses lived in Pharaoh's palace. For the next forty years, he lived as a shepherd in the wilderness, an outcast both from the Egyptian royalty and from his own people, the Hebrew slaves. After that, Moses confronted Pharaoh, arranged for the release of the Hebrew slaves, and led them to the edges of the Promised Land. At this place, God became so angry at the Hebrews' rebellion that they were forced to wander, with Moses as their leader, for forty years. Through all the trials and torments that occurred because of grumbling and greed, Moses persevered. The Promised Land was closed to Moses, but God took him to a high place so he could see it and there he died. From Moses, we learn that we may be called to the rocky path of leadership. Though the reward may be closed to us, the promise of eternal life still is ours.
The perseverance of the saints is demonstrated by Noah who spent 120 years building an ark and over a year living with his family inside of the boxy boat. It's demonstrated by Joseph, who was sold into slavery and falsely imprisoned before rising to power as the second-in-command to Pharaoh. During those dark days, Joseph couldn't foresee that God planned for him to take charge of storing grain for the years of famine ahead. But the time came when this is exactly what Joseph did. Elijah the prophet stayed faithful to God even though he believed that no one else had. Through these examples, we see that God's plan unfolds in its own time and that we are never alone. Paul writes to the Roman church that "we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Romans 5:3b-5). The word "patience" in this passage means "perseverance."
Popular scriptures on perseverance encourage us to steadfastness. For example, this well-known passage from the book of Hebrews instructs us to be aware of our spiritual ancestors and to put aside evil: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). The prophet Daniel persisted in prayer even when it meant spending a night with the lions. Nehemiah persisted in building the walls of the broken city of Jerusalem even when it meant that half the men built while the other half stood armed with swords and spears (Nehemiah 4). We should persist in running the race, in prayer, and in our fulfilling our God-given responsibilities.
These are dramatic examples of people in conflict who persevered despite tremendous obstacles to fulfill God's purposes. Sometimes patience and steadfastness is required for more subtle heartaches. The heart-breaking perseverance of the saints is seen in the story of Leah. She deserved a place of honor because of her status, both as Jacob's first wife and Rachel's older sister. But Jacob loved Rachel and elevated her above Leah. Through the names that Leah gives her sons, the careful reader sees a progression from Leah's desperate longing for Jacob's love to a godly, though still painful, acceptance that her dearest longing would never come to pass. Here is a brief explanation for the names of Leah's sons: Reuben because "Surely the LORD hath looked upon affliction"; Simeon "Because the LORD hath heard I was hated"; Levi because "Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons"; and Judah because "Now will I praise the LORD" (Genesis 29:32-35). Leah praises God despite her sadness. Like Leah, it may take someone a long time to turn their personal longings to praise for God. She demonstrates that such praise is possible.
Other Scriptures on perseverance also teach the importance of patience and endurance. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is often referred to as the Hall of Fame because of it applauds the perseverance of the saints, "by faith," against tremendous odds. This one chapter summarizes so many tribulations and accomplishments of those who chose to follow God no matter the consequences. They are heroes who teach godly faith to anyone who takes the time to read their stories and follow their examples.