Going the Distance

The Long Road Ahead

Revelation 3:10-12 (NLT)  “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

From time to time, I have the privilege of teaching in our church. To share the Word of God like a warm bread basket of fresh rolls with others is an overwhelming responsibility that I find great pleasure in just like having guests over to eat a good meal together. However, there are times when the fresh word given to me from the Word of God and served up by His Spirit is not received as “I” think it should be. Like seeds falling on pavement or water splashing from a rock, last night was one of those times. While preparing, I sampled the thoughts and ideas for my own life and could see areas that the Lord was enriching me but when offered to others it was rejected like stale crumbs to be discarded. My heart was heavy. I was ready to leap off the platform when it was over.

It would be easy to quit. Give up. Never put myself out there again. It is not God’s Will. I know what I am supposed to do but struggle with not doing it. Immediately I begin to evaluate me. My “performance”. Maybe I should yell more. Jump around a little. Be more dynamic. Be more like this preacher or dramatic like this teacher. What if it is not about me at all? Well…now we are getting somewhere. What if everything was exactly as the Lord planned it last night? What if the lesson for me is perseverance not to make a better performance but to continue through the process until His Word prospers into His Purpose and His Plan?

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere…” To persevere is to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success. It means to persist in anything undertaken even when faced with difficulty, obstacles or discouragement. To continue steadfastly. It doesn’t sound fun. It requires overcoming our flesh and pride to attain God’s Best. I want to live in the Presence of God. As close as humanly possible before crossing over into forever. In order to do this, perseverance will be a characteristic that the Lord works to develop in my life. I must persevere to reach my desired destination.

2 Kings 13:16-19 (NLT)  Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”

The King Jehoash of Israel came to Elisha on his deathbed. He was perplexed by the Arameans. Elisha put his hands over the king’s hands and shot an arrow. The arrow directed by God’s Hand illustrated victory over Aram in the immediate battle. However, there were more to come. The king was instructed to take the remaining arrows and strike them on the ground. I am quite certain that his royal majesty did not understand the significance and maybe felt a little silly hitting the shafts against the ground. He stopped after striking the ground three times and Elisha with his last bit of strength became angry. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” Why? It is perseverance that leads to overwhelming victory. When things go beyond human comprehension and walking by faith not by sight becomes a requirement, what is your response? What do we do with the promise of victory? Overcoming? Healing? Prosperity? Pursue it for a season and then give up? Press in for a lifetime?

2 Kings 5:9-11 (NLT) So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me!

What do you do when life does not go as expected? When the healing doesn’t come overnight? You are not given a means of escape? When the hits keep on coming? Do you give up? Naaman had leprosy. He came to Elisha’s house for healing. The Man of God gave him simple instructions. But rather than immediately heading off to the Jordan River, Naaman became offended and walked off in anger. The Jordan River was not a clean spring of clear water. Oh how our pride tries to stay alive when it is time to persevere. What condition is lingering because obedience is wavering? What if you did what the Lord said and defied human logic to hold on by faith? What if your promise is not held up by the Lord but you refuse to press on?

Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT)  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Walking out of church last night feeling defeated, I ran into the pastor. He had spent the evening with the youth. He asked about the service. I said, “Tough crowd.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I didn’t have to ask about his small group as the kids came pouring out excitedly chattering about their experience. I have the same privilege next week to continue this teaching on the Word of God. (with a slight sigh) I know that the Lord has a word of encouragement and instruction for our people. I know that I am the one to deliver it. But honestly it is way easier to share these things in a blog sent out to hundreds of people without consciousness of their reaction or response. It works for me. But for obedience tells me that in six short days, I will climb the same steps. I may even get the same response from the people. But the acceptance, affirmation and approval of others is nice but not needed. I must focus on one thing. One thing only. “The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

I must forget the past. I have to look forward to what lies ahead. I must press on (persevere) to reach the end of the race. I want the heavenly prize. To hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To have something… anything to lay at His Feet will be worth it to me. The world can keep its applause and willy-nilly emotions. Just get me there, Jesus. Holy Spirit lead the way. I will be faithful to the end. I will go the distance.

Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

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