Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Letters Topic #3: Perseverance

I like to preach about risk-taking, about being a radical disciple of Jesus Christ.  Early in my pastoral ministry, I used to think that everyone's problem in their relationship with Jesus was their lack of willingness to make sacrifices and take risks for the sake of the gospel.  Now, I am beginning to wonder if I only had part of the story.  While risky faith is important, perseverance is equally important.  It is not enough to set sail, we have to finish the journey.  The Bible has much to say about God's faithfulness toward us and His desire for us to be faithful to our commitments.  As I lead a group of Christ-followers in 2010, I notice that one of the major challenges that we face in our journey toward maturity is persevering in our commitments and being faithful to our word. This Sunday, June 6th, I will preach on how Jesus Christ can help us become a people who regularly persevere.  In anticipation of that topic, I thought I would throw out a few reasons we fail to persevere...

1) Lack of Clear Priorities - when we are not sure what is most important in our lives, we can tend to say "yes" to every opportunity that comes along.  And of course, if we say "yes" to everything, we are really saying "no" to what is most important.  We all know this in general terms, but if we have not written down explicitly what our most important priorities are, then we don't know how to evaluate all the opportunities that come our way.  In order to persevere in our commitments, we have to limit our commitments to what is MOST important.

2) Fear of man - as a follow-up to point one, we need to admit that we all struggle to say "no" when someone asks us to help.  Most of the time, it is driven by compassion and a desire to help, but sometimes it can be driven by the fear in our hearts that the person asking us may reject us and not like us anymore.  In this way, a fear of not getting man's approval can cripple our perseverance.  We are usually less willing to say "no" on the front end that we are to say "yes" at the front end and then follow it up with a "no" when we realize that we have over-committed.  I think this is because we believe other people will be more understanding if we tried to say "yes" but had to back out because of other commitments.

3) Boredom - we are an entertained people, aren't we?  It drives me crazy when one of my children goes from one activity to another and then asks me, "what's next?" as though I were their personal entertainment machine.  Yet we have all been impacted by immediate-gratification culture.  We want to enjoy something, and we want to enjoy it now!  If something bores us over time, we move on to something new.  This seems harmless when it is a video-game, but what happens when it is a spouse?  Our limited endurance for boredom has had terrible consequences in the area of personal perseverance.

4) No Vision - another reason that we give up so quickly is that we forget why we are doing what we are doing.  If we lose vision and feel like we are just going through the motions, we will quickly grow weary with the follow-through.  How many of us have signed up to do something or said 'yes' to something when we very excited only to see the passion and joy leave as we got into the long-haul?  This is so common that we even have a name for it - "burn-out."  Why does a fire burn out?  Because it loses it fuel (the wood) or can't get any more oxygen.  The fuel for perseverance is vision - remembering the big picture while we are faithful in the small details.

What are your thoughts on why perseverance is so hard?

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