Monday, June 07, 2010

Questions About Perseverance

I preached yesterday on our call as believers in Jesus Christ to persevere (look at Galatians 6:9, Hebrews 12:1, and Matthew 5:33-37).  I had never preached on that topic, and I found it especially challenging and helpful to my own maturity.  I've talked to many people since yesterday who said they had never heard a sermon on that topic and were thankful to hear what the Scripture teaches.  We only answered questions after first hour since we baptized after second-hour yesterday.  As I've done other weeks, here are some answers to questions that came in...

1) How do you discern when to pray and wait, or pray and take action?  This is really a question about discerning God's will.  My general rule of thumb on discerning God's will is that we pray (try to discern His voice), we read Scripture (to make sure that we are not missing something that is obvious), we listen to godly counsel (a lot of Scripture encourages us to seek wise advice), and then we act.  Sometimes we can use "I'm praying about it" as cover for procrastination and laziness.  We need to make sure and guard against that temptation.  If my Bible teaches it and godly men and women around me encourage it, I should seriously consider it.  All that being said, we do need to make sure that we don't over-commit ourselves to the urgent at the expense of the important (a major point in my sermon yesterday).  If we say 'yes' to everything, we will eventually say 'no' to something.  We have to be discerning about what is most important for us to give ourselves to, commit to those things, and then follow-through.  This raises other questions...

2) What do I do if I have already over-committed?  How do I respond to this message to persevere if I am already over-committed and I simply can't keep up this pace without killing myself?  The first answer to this question is to remember NOT to get in this situation again.  Remember that you can't please everybody all the time and that each of us have to make priority decisions every day.  If you get trapped into being a people-pleaser all the time, you will constantly find yourself over-committed.  That being said, the question is what to do when I'm already there.  First, I would say that you have to realize that your lack of perseverance will impact somebody else.  If you are going to back out on something you originally said you were going to do, you need to make sure and help find someone else to do what you had previously committed to.  Don't just drop the ball - hand it to someone else.  Second, consider if you can keep your commitment if it is short-term with the knowledge that you will not re-up your commitment after you are done.  It is easier to be out of balance for 8 or 12 weeks if you know that at the end of your commitment, you will have learned your lesson and can stay balanced for a longer period of time.  Finally, if you absolutely have to break a commitment to someone, don't act like it doesn't matter.  Own your own faults and commit to learn from your experience.


3) How do you cope with other people’s failure to keep their promises, when you are the one who was let down?  What if you are on the receiving end of someone not persevering in their commitment?  What if you end up carrying the weight of the family, your job, your ministry because someone else did not follow through?  This is a very real situation that we all face from time to time.  In my response, I think we need to hold two principles in tension: grace and truth.  First, we need to be gracious - we should realize that we have let others down before, and that if Jesus had waited until we persevered in all of our commitments before He rescued us, we would still be waiting.  In other words, as with all sin, we are called to reflect the forgiveness that we have received from Christ.  In addition, however, we need to be people of truth.  We need to challenge other believers to keep their word.  We need to let others know how their lack of commitment will impact our life.  When we don't persevere, other people are hurt - that is the simple truth.  And as a Christian community, we need to do a better job of having honest conversations with each other about follow-through.  We can be gracious and still call others to a higher standard of integrity and perseverance.  Ultimately, I think we should learn from our painful experiences with broken promises to not break promises ourselves.  May God help us all to be men and women who keep our word.

2 comments:

Dominic Powell said...

Keith,

Thanks for posting this column. Even though I was not privileged to hear your sermon, I'm glad you are speaking on an issue which has great impact on us all. In the field of music ed. where I live, faith, and family, I think we also have to be aware that certain personality types tend to gravitate to the positions of influence, or those that require more effort in the church or workplace. These types (myself included) have to make sure we leave time in our schedule for the unexpected, and that includes time for reflection/prayer as well as being available to others in need. As my pastor said when I was a young man, "Leave time for Murphy's Law--If anything can go wrong, it probably will (at some time or another). At those times, God expects us to be on our hands and knees seeking his guidance, and if we don't, we can expect the ride to get more bumpy. I recently re-read the story on David taking the census in I Chronicles 21. This is a great example of a well-meaning man who put his own understanding and need for security above complete dependence on God. It only takes a moment to plunge into the abyss with deep consequences. God bless, brother!

Keith Ferguson said...

Dominic,

Thanks for your insights - they are very helpful. Hope all is going well in your world...

Keith