The Power of Perseverance

3rd in a series

God doesn’t expect parents to get everything right. But He expects us to keep trying!

“As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” – James 5:11 (NIV)

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines perseverance as “persisting in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement.” Whew! Some days that sounds awfully close to my definition of fatherhood. There is a subtly dangerous idea floating around out there that sees real fatherhood as a succession of victories; crossing the fathering finish line as some Olympic Athlete to be presented with the gold medal of DAD. That idea not only sets up all earthly fathers for a fall, but it also shoots the truth of the heavenly Father’s providence right in the foot.

What if real fathering looks like crossing the finish line more akin to a Velveteen Rabbit instead of an Olympic Athlete?

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.”
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit (Doubleday, 1991)

What do you do when you raise up a daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord and then one day during her 15th year, she whispers through tears, “Daddy, I’m pregnant”? I mean really, what do you do? If your fathering model is the Olympic Athlete, then you’ve just been disqualified from the race. I mean, what kind of father allows his daughter to get pregnant? But if you see fathering in a Velveteen Rabbit kind of way, then you persist in that undertaking in spite of opposition or discouragement; also known as perseverance. As disappointing and confusing and heart-wrenching as that moment is, you hold her close and whisper through tears, “I love you, my daughter. God will carry us through this.” And because God is full of something called compassion, then that child she’s carrying may bless generations to come, like Moses, or that child may just bless your heart beyond your wildest imaginations and you’ll wonder what you’d do without that child in your life.

What do you do when your youngest son asks for his inheritance early and sets off to a distant land, turning his back on you and all you hold dear, which is essentially saying, “You might as well be dead, Dad; I don’t need you”? I mean really, what do you do? If victorious fathering is your benchmark, then you might as well leave the keys with the older brother and go off under a tree and wait for the vultures to start circling.

But if Real fathering is the desire, then you persist in the enterprise in spite of counterinfluences; also known as perseverance. As lonely as that moment feels, you turn around and take out the trash or pay the mortgage or feed the sheep or sweep out the barn. And while you keep doing what fathers do, you stay aware that perseverance must finish its work in you so that you will be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 5:3,4). And if you keep entrusting yourself to the Good Father, then there’s a chance, always a hope, that one of these days, when you least expect it, there will be a knock at the door that you’d know anywhere. And you drop the trash or trust the sheep to find some grass for the time being, and you run willy-nilly-velveteen-rabbity through the house and out the door and fall to your knees in the grass you’ve persisted to mow because that’s what fathers do, and you whisper through tears, “My son who was lost has now been found; he was dead, but now he lives.”

I realize that may sound too good to be true, but if we fathers persevere, then no telling what the Lord may bring about. Don’t forget, the Lord is full of something called mercy, which endures forever, and forever can persevere beyond young prodigals or jealous older brothers or pregnant-too-soon-daughters, death or life, angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers, height or depth, or anything else in all creation.

Gentlemen, being faithful in persevering as a father can find you standing before the Father one day, with hair loved off and droopy eyes and shabby joints. You’ll hear Him whisper through tears of pride a phrase that’s worth more than gold: “Well done. Enter into your rest.”

Copyright © 2008 John Blase.

Failure: The First Step to Victory

Romans 7:15-21

The Christian life involves encountering certain paradoxes that challenge our thinking. A prime example is Jesus’ comment that “the last shall be first and the first, last” (Matt. 20:16). Hard sayings like this may seem illogical and confusing until we remember that we’ve been called out of this world into a new way of living.

Self-effort, which is standard operating procedure for the natural man, must be abandoned by the Spirit-filled believer. That is why the Lord sometimes allows us to experience failure in our pursuit of holiness. He wants to show us how totally dependent we are on Him. When seen in that light, our human failures can actually be viewed as friends to instruct us rather than enemies to be resisted.

This perspective is not easily obtained. From earliest childhood, we are urged to work hard, strive for excellence, and do our very best. We are told to set goals and then pursue them with diligence and determination. While these virtues are useful when conscientiously employed, they can actually betray us by suggesting that our salvation lies in them. They whisper to the human ego, “You have all that it takes to be successful.” Gradually, if we pay attention to these voices, our confidence begins to shift from trusting in the Spirit to relying upon the flesh.

God will not accept our dependence upon anything or anyone besides Him. If necessary, He will engineer circumstances in order to defeat our best efforts and humble us until we fully learn to live by faith—in total reliance upon Him.

The Watchers

“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17)

Who are these mysterious “watchers” who are so concerned that we know that “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), sometimes even including the “basest of men?” They are mentioned in the Bible only here in the fourth chapter of Daniel (see also vv. 13, 23), all three times evidently synonymous with “the holy ones,” beings who come down from heaven. Such phrases could apply only to angels, created to serve the Lord and the “heirs of salvation” (Psalm 103:20; Hebrews 1:14).

The word is used here in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and period of insanity. Although it is used nowhere else in the Bible, it occurs frequently in such apocryphal books as “Jubilees” and “Enoch,” where it refers both to God’s holy angels and to the fallen angels, who have direct interest in people on Earth as they “watch” them—even on occasion directly controlling events that affect them.

In any case, the Bible does indicate that “the angels desire to look into” the outworking of the gospel in the hearts of men (1 Peter 1:12), and that “unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10). Children, as well as adult believers, also seem to have guardian angels who “watch” them (Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:9-15).

This is a mysterious subject because we cannot see these “watchers,” but we at least need to know they are there. In fact, we can praise God that “the angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7). HMM

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.—Psalm 119:54.
My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:19.

How must the pilgrim’s load be borne?
With staggering limbs and look forlorn?
His Guide chose all that load within;
There’s need of everything but sin.
So, trusting Him whose love He knows,
Singing along the road he goes,
And nightly of his burden makes
A pillow, till the morning breaks.
LUCY LARCOM.

THEY live contented with what they have, whether it be little or much, because they know that they receive as much as is profitable for them; little, if little be profitable, and much, if much be profitable; and that they cannot tell what is profitable for them, but the Lord only can, who has an eternal end in view in all things which He provides. EMANUEL SWEDENBORG.

I hope you will learn, what I am always hoping to learn, to rejoice in God continually, knowing that He is really ordering all your circumstances to the one end of making you a partaker of His own goodness, and bringing you within His own sympathy. THOMAS ERSKINE.

Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown

Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Revelation 3:11

If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. — Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. I will; be thou clean. — Faith as a grain of mustard seed.

Cast not away … your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. — Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. —Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD. — The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. — So run, that ye may obtain.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.

Matthew 9:21. Matthew 8:2,3. Matthew 17:20. Hebrews 10:35. Philippians 2:12,13. Mark 4:28. Hosea 6:3. Matthew 11:12. 1 Corinthians 9:24. 2 Timothy 4:7,8.

See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil

See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15,16

Take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. — Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. — Abstain from all appearance of evil.

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. — Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if we do these things, ye shall never fall. —Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching.

Joshua 22:5. Colossians 4:5,6. 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Matthew 25:5,6. Matthew 25:13. 2 Peter 1:10. Luke 12:37.