Most mornings I exercise on a path near my home.
Occasionally, as I head out the door, a neighbor waves and says, “headed for a run…good for you!”
It feels good to think other people see me as a runner. I think runners look fit, accomplished and cool.
There is just one problem. I am not even close to being a runner. I am a walker…a slow, methodical walker.
I have learned how to persevere and stay focused on my exercise goals, but I don’t run…ever!
As people pass me on the path, some younger and some older, I often wonder why am I so slow?
I can feel myself inching toward discouragement which threatens my persevering attitude.
“Lap 4”, my neighbor proudly announces as she whizzes by holding up 4 proud fingers. Four…I am still on 1! It is easy for me to start slipping into competitive mode and think I am in a race.
But I remind myself, slow and steady is better than nothing at all. Don’t give up…just keep walking. Learning how to persevere is an important state of mind in life and in our faith.
What is Perseverance?
Perseverance is the steady persistence in a course of action or purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
Another phrase I like is ‘staying the course’ which originated in relation to horse racing at the turn of the 20th century. The definition is, “To persevere with as much determination, energy, or fortitude as one can until the end of a race, competition, or contest.”
The definition and origin of these terms triggers thoughts of racing and winning; a competition instead of steady persistence.
Sometimes in life it feels everything is a competition even in faith.
I wonder, is learning how to persevere with steady persistence enough? Or do we want to win? and do any of us really win or do we strive and exhaust ourselves?
How to Persevere without Competition?
Keeping up with other people can become a huge distraction. When we focus on competing instead of reaching our own goals, we can lose our way and get off course.
I have been in exercise classes where we are told to modify the routine to our own ability. But I just can’t help feeling like a slacker next to the person who is jumping around smiling in full cuteness.
I also tend to feel better about myself if someone else in the class looks less enthusiastic or coordinated than I do (which is not often!).
How about with our kids? I ran into a friend recently and she began telling me her son was doing phenomenal! He was going to medical school to be a surgeon, straight A’s, amazing girlfriend, on the student ministry leadership team and traveling to save children in an impoverished country. (I’m exaggerating a little but not much!)
In these situations, I can imagine there are winners and losers. I walk in feeling adequate but leave feeling defeated. That is competing not persevering.
I used to be super competitive but have mellowed some, not complacent, just more content and at peace with what I am supposed to be doing.
When I am tempted to feel defeated as I go around the track, I am learning how to persevere without competition by turning my focus on the race I am running and not anyone else’s.
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.” Matthew 7:13-14 MSG
How do You Persevere in Faith?
Some of you may be reading this thinking, but I do win a lot. I am a runner and have won marathons, my kids do make straight A’s and were potty trained by 10 months!
We need leaders and winners, But…
- I haven’t met one person who wins all of the time.
- when we experience a lot of success, it is harder to realize we need Jesus.
How to persevere in faith has nothing to do with our current standings in life.
God loves each of us and has designed us just the way we are slow, fast, tall, short, average student or super star.
In God’s world winning does not measure greatness. Love does.
The way to walk out our faith is staying on the path God has designed for us.
Living in relationship with God and loving others out of the abundance of love we have received from Him.
In our relationship with God there are No Winners and No Losers….we are all embraced equally.
A friend was in the Amsterdam airport years ago and noticed an elderly lady alone in baggage claim. He approached her and asked if she needed help with her luggage. As she turned to him, he realized it was Mother Teresa; standing alone humbly waiting her turn and declining his help. No fanfare, no entourage just a sweet servant of God. A person who learned how to persevere in faith most of her life.
Perseverance in the Bible
There are many stories and verses in the Bible that can help us learn how to persevere in faith. Here are a couple of Bible characters that inspire me to keep going.
Bible Characters Who Persevered
Most of us know the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. There is a 13 year time span illustrating Joseph’s story of how to persevere; from the time Joseph is 17 years old and has his dreams of being a leader to the time those dreams come true.
” When he told it to his father and brothers, his father reprimanded him: “What’s with all this dreaming? Am I and your mother and your brothers all supposed to bow down to you?” Now his brothers were really jealous; but his father brooded over the whole business.” Genesis 37:10-11 MSG
Those 13 years tell an incredible tale of perseverance and staying the course. Joseph focuses on his mission and not the obstacles he faces.
Joseph is held against his will, sold, imprisoned, trapped and betrayed but perseveres and fulfills the call on his life.
“So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “You’re the man for us. God has given you the inside story—no one is as qualified as you in experience and wisdom. From now on, you’re in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you.” Genesis 41:39-40 MSG
The story of Stephen is from the Book of Acts. In the days of the early Christian church, the apostles needed help serving those who were being neglected.
Stephen, along with 6 others, was chosen because he was a man of strong faith and full of the Holy Spirit. His call to leadership began at a young age and he enthusiastically pursued the call to spread the good news of Christ and serve others.
Jewish leaders who opposed the spread of Christianity, began to spread rumors to stop Stephen’s work and his voice.
Stephen learned how to persevere despite the persecution he faced which led to his death. As he was being stoned because of false allegations, he demonstrated Jesus’ message to love and forgive others. He was the first of many Christian martyrs.
“As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.”
We may never face the struggles of Joseph or Stephen, but can be encouraged by their stories and learn how to persevere in faith.
Bible Verses about Perseverance
There are many Bible verses about perseverance. Here are 5 verses that teach me to how to persevere:
1. Joshua 1:9 NLT
“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
2. 1 Timothy 4:1-13 MSG
“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.” 1 Timothy 4:1-13 MSG
3. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
4. Psalms 119:1-8 MSG
“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regret sin comparing my life with your counsel.”
5. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT
“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”
3 Tips to Help You Persevere in Your Faith
It can be extremely difficult to persevere in your faith and pursue Jesus in the midst of struggles and obstacles, but perseverance builds character. I have relied on these 4 tips to help me persevere in my faith and develop Godly character:
- Have confidence in your Identity in Christ
We have to believe that God created us for a unique purpose. We are his children and regardless of our circumstances He has something for us to do. Owning this truth makes it easier for us to stay on our path and persevere.
- Use Comparison to celebrate others
Comparison is a great enemy of perseverance. It is one of the quickest ways we can lose steam and just quit the race altogether. I think it is unrealistic to eliminate comparison, but we can dismantle its ability to discourage us. Instead of letting comparison defeat us we can use it to celebrate others.
Shannon Popkin writes in her book Comparison Girl, “On social media, in the neighborhood, at church, or the school drop-off lane, do you push yourself to prove that you measure up, then feel ashamed when you don’t? Measuring yourself against others isn’t healthy. And it isn’t God’s plan. In fact, the way of Jesus is completely upside down from this measure-up world. He invites us to follow him and be restored to freedom, confidence, and joy.”
- Trust He will guide your steps
Trusting God plays a big role in our ability to persevere. When we stand on the firm belief of who Jesus is and how much He loves us, we are able to keep walking. We can grab each other’s hand along the way as we go through seasons of life. But at some point, we will have to walk alone and place our trust in something or someone. I have decided to trust God!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
I am still tempted into competitive thinking, but intentionally redirect my thoughts to where I am supposed to be going. I focus on staying in my lane and finishing the call on my life.
My most important job is to pursue Jesus with all of my heart and grow closer to Him so that I begin to look more like him in all that I do. I am also called to help others along the way.
What about you? How are you learning to persevere and not give up?
Mary Rooney Armand loves to write inspiring, faith based stories. She focuses on helping others grow in their intimacy with Christ and thrive in their personal relationships. Mary lives in New Orleans with her husband Cory and four children. Besides writing, she teaches Bible Studies and leads small groups. In 2020 she created ButterflyLiving and a Bible Study titled “Identity” which is available on Amazon. To learn more visit maryarmand.com.