How many times this week have you wanted to throw in the towel?
It may be a relationship with a spouse, a parent, a child, a co-worker. It may be a job that you just can’t figure out or seem to fit with. It may be a sin that you are weary of fighting. It may be your sobriety. It may be your faith. Sometimes you just feel done, huh?
I have only lived 44 years, but I see the pattern. It is hard to go the distance. I have seen people totally dismantle their lives for the sake of not going in the same hard direction. It seems that it is an abrupt about-face from the outside. You see someone ditch their faith or their marriage or both. You see someone who used to have a steady rhythm begin to thrive on jazz. You sit in disbelief, but are you really surprised? Did it all happen in one fell swoop?
Those who endure…they are few and far between. No one wants to be a quitter, but everyone thinks about it.
Endure: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity syn: ceaselessness, continuance, durability, persistence
Persevere: to persist in a state/enterprise in spite of counter-influences, opposition, or discouragement. To carry on, persist. To continue trying even after rejected. Synonyms: endure, hold fast, press on, proceed, stand firm, be resolved, be determined, see it through, stay the course
It seems that to endure and to persevere you need a real purpose. Life is hard–“you can do hard things” is a mantra I say a lot around my house. Do I do hard things for the challenge? Nope (I know some of you do) A good challenge is not worth that to me. Do I encourage my boys and myself to do hard things to build stamina for the “graduate” level hard that is to come in life? Yes. If I cannot do the little things to build my strength, I am in trouble when the earthquake comes that shakes my very core. What we choose day in and day out either builds our stamina toward perseverance or weakens our muscles of commitment. We feed ourselves with messages and reminders and statements of what is most important. For example, how are you building your core worldview? Is your life about what it makes you feel, what you experience/enjoy, what’s fun? You might be depositing into a life of decisions built to avoid pain. You may think you don’t deserve it and any situation feeding into that that you should escape. Is life about pleasure or something more?
We are getting deep.
Antonyms of persevere: cease, discontinue, give up, stop, leave, quit
A few mornings ago, I was reading a passage of Scripture from 2nd Timothy, and one part of a sentence screamed at me. “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessolonica.”
Demas is mentioned briefly in 2nd Timothy 4:10(64-65ish AD), but I can read in-between the lines. He has a story. So, I cross-referenced him. He was mentioned two other times in Paul’s letters to Philemon (written around 61 AD) and to the Colossian church (62 AD) as a fellow laborer sending greetings. To give some perspective on 2nd Timothy, Paul was imprisoned in Rome and would be put to death soon. It was a very personal letter written to Timothy to encourage him to continue on in faithfulness and endurance amidst suffering and persecution as Paul would not be there to encourage him on. In the setting of the letter, it is no mistake that Demas was mentioned. He had chosen not to endure for the sake of the Gospel. Paul, imprisoned, was abandoned by Demas and Luke alone was with him while he faced death but kept doing the work of the Gospel.
Paul’s personal message to Timothy passed to us…“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17
“For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:2-3
Ever asked around for advice until you got the kind you wanted that fit with your desires? Like a child looking for the weak parent to say yes, we search out someone who is going to make us feel good about what we want or what we don’t want (the hard). All of us do it, and the further away from the grounding of Truth, the easier it is to swallow down and to justify ourselves and for it to seem not just okay—but good. It seems that Demas decided to pursue his wants in the world, and he did not persevere in the hard or in the Truth. He had the gift of God’s word to understand and to be equipped, but he was feeding his desires in the other direction.
So, it seems clear that your relationship to The Scripture through the Lord and endurance go hand in hand in your spiritual endurance. Your decision to press in comes every day. Just like Demas, you choose what you gaze on and build love toward. Are you building more of a love for the things of the world or the things of God? Scripture is the place that God has revealed His character, heart and ways. Are you in it? Are you submitting your feelings, thoughts and behaviors to His truth and to His ways and being transformed in Him or are you seeking what feels right and good to your desires at the moment?
And… in other areas like marriage, parenting, work, what desires are you feeding in those areas? You will find people out there to feed into what you want to throw in the towel on, but that is not necessarily the wisest decision. Nothing worth it is easy. So, seek the scriptures, seek wise counsel that is willing to ask you hard questions, and be aware of your tendencies in the midst. I encourage you to count the cost of endurance because there is great reward.