I introduced the series by explaining the Bible makes it clear that every believer is a builder. Every Christian is a person in construction as well as under construction.
In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter explains that by our dependence upon Divine heavenly resources (vv 3-4), and by our diligence in the human process (vv 5-7), we are called to build upon the foundation of our faith in Jesus a superstructure of Christian character using the building blocks of virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. The Biblical footing, spiritual flooring and moral framing of this building will enable us to be effective and productive for God (vv 8-9), which will eventually result in His bestowing and our receiving an abundantand extravagant reward (vv 10-11).
In previous articles we have already examined the building blocks of virtue, knowledge and self-control. In this article I want to consider the building block of perseverance.
The word that the apostle Peter used is the Greek term hupomonēs (perseverance). The verb form is hupomenō (to persevere). The term is a compound word: hupo means “under,” and menō means “to remain.”
In ancient Greek the word was commonly used in a military context, usually to refer to a soldier who had been severely wounded, but who would bite his lip and grit his teeth and silently and patiently endure the physical pain and emotional strain with which he had been afflicted. It was also used to describe a courageous and tenacious warrior who unwaveringly stood his ground, or a dogged and determined fighter who would roll with the punches and take it on the chin, but who firmly refused to throw in the towel and give up and give in.
Perseverance. This word is found at least forty-eight times in the NT in both its noun and verbal forms. Sometimes it is translated by our English words “patience” and “endurance.” Other times it is rendered “perseverance.” That is because there is both an active and a passive aspect of hypomonē. On the one hand it means “to endure passively.” But, on the other hand, there are times when it may also mean “to persevere actively.”
Biblical perseverance can be further explained by studying some Biblical examples and spiritual principles of this “building block.”
Three Examples of Perseverance
The Greek word hypomonē is liberally sprinkled throughout the epistle of James. In James 1, the name of one OT saint in particular, Job, is singled out and submitted as a laudable example of a man who knew what it meant to persevere.
My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the
Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count
them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of
Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is
very compassionate and merciful (Jas 5:10-11, emphasis added).
Job was a man who persevered in spite of incredible trouble. He held his ground. Indeed, the word perseverance is also found in its various forms at least 14 times in the Greek translation of the OT book of Job.
Paul knew how to persevere as well. For example, he wrote in 2 Corinthians, with reference to his ministry there, “truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Cor 12:12, emphasis added). The truth of the matter is that ministry is not easy, even for Paul. In fact, it is often accompanied by, and only accomplished with, much agony.
In 2 Corinthians 6 there is yet another catalog of the kinds of circumstances that are normally part and parcel of the agony of Christian ministry. The one quality that tops the list in v 4 is patience: “but in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: and much patience…” (2 Cor 6:4, emphasis added).
Finally, in 2 Cor 4:8-9, Paul wrote, “We are hardpressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” Why not? It is because of what he would write just a few verses later: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).
Paul knew that a day was coming when he would stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be rewarded for that which he had accomplished. He also knew that he needed to persevere in his walk with the Lord and in his work for the Lord, if he would receive an abundant and extravagant reward.
The patriarch Job and the apostle Paul serve as good examples of men who knew how to persevere. But, of course, the best example ever of perseverance is none other than our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In Heb 12:1-3 we read,
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily
ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before
us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for
the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For
consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself,
lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (emphasis added).
As Jesus was nailed to that old, rugged, Roman cross, those who stood around Him sneered at Him. They teased and taunted Him. They bantered and badgered Him, saying, “let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him” (Matt 27:42).
It is human to come down, to desert one’s post, to give up and walk out, to go “AWOL.” But it is divine to stay up and put up, to hang tough and to finish well, to persevere. Jesus did.
In Luke 9:51 we read concerning the Lord, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (emphasis added). Jesus demonstrated His dogged determination, His unflinching resolution to stay the course and to finish His race. He persevered.
Furthermore, Paul prayed, “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thess 3:5, emphasis added).
Three Spiritual Principles
Job, Paul, and Jesus are three powerful examples of perseverance. However, there are also three spiritual principles by which perseverance may be further explained.
First, there is a sense in which perseverance is dictated by faith.
What I mean by that statement is simply that perseverance is commanded in the Bible. It is demanded of God’s people. If you are a follower of Jesus then you have a divine order to persevere. It is not an “elective” in God’s school of discipleship. It is an imperative. It is not optional. It is essential.
In his first letter to his young son in the faith and pastoral protégé, Timothy, Paul reminds him that as a man of God he is called to pursue, among other things, patience.
Likewise, according to Titus 2:2, the young preacher was admonished by Paul not only to teach the older men to be self-controlled, but also to be “sound in faith, in love, in patience.”
Similarly, the author of Hebrews challenged his readers: “For you have need of endurance,” and “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 10:26, 12:1).
This perseverance is dictated by faith—the kind of faith demonstrated by Job when he said, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Second, there is a sense in which perseverance is stimulated by hope. Notice the repeated use of the word “wait” by David in Psalm 25. “Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed…On You I wait all the day…Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you” (Ps 25:3, 5, 21). David’s perseverance was stimulated by hope. David reiterates that same theme in Psalm 37, “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (Ps 37:7).
So, when we pray and we sense His immediate answer to be, “not now, but sometime later,” or “not this, but something even better,” then we can say, “That’s okay. I will wait patiently for Him, because my hope is still in Him.”
That is precisely what keeps me going. My perseverance is not only dictated by faith, but it is also stimulated by hope.
Third, perseverance is also motivated by love. It emanates from love.
In summary, perseverance, which is probably best defined as a combination of passive endurance and active perseverance, is also further explained by these three principles: it is dictated by faith, stimulated by hope, and motivated by love.
So, how is perseverance obtained? Why do we even need it?
One of the primary reasons why we need it has to do with this place in which we live: the world of man.
According to Rom 8:20, it has been subjected to frustration because of sin. Furthermore, as Paul states in 2 Tim 3:1, “in the last days perilous times will come”—i.e., things are going to get worse. How bad? It is going to be so bad according to 2 Tim 3:12, that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Such times are going to demand perseverance.
A second related reason why we need perseverance not only has to do with this place in which we live, but with His purpose for each of our lives. It has to do not only with the world of man, but also with the plan of God.
You see, although we, too, as part of God’s original creation have been subjected to frustration because of sin (Rom 3:20), as part of His “new creation” we are predestined for “glorification”
because we are His sons (Rom 8:30). In fact, His plan is that we be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Rom 8:29). Glorification is God’s ultimate, eternal purpose for His children. But it also includes an intermediate, temporal process of maturation, i.e., “growing pains.”
To be sure, there are times when we cry out, “Dear God, why did You let this happen to me?” Well, here is one reason: It is because suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character (Rom 5:4- 5), Christ-like character. And that is God’s ultimate, eternal purpose and plan for us—that we might be conformed to the likeness of His Son.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, explains it like this, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas 1:2-4, emphasis added). Maturity is God’s ultimate purpose.
Those are the reasons why we need perseverance. But that leads me to a second question: are there any resources by which we may obtain it?
God Will Provide
I have some good news. It is found in the opening verses of our text for this entire series: 2 Pet 1:2-11. The Apostle Peter wrote, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3).
Everything? Yes, everything.
Do you need perseverance? God will give it to you. You have at your disposal the heavenly resources of His divine power and these precious promises. You see, He is the source of perseverance Himself. And, by the way, His supply is unlimited. Indeed, in his letter to the saints in Colossae, Paul explained that believers can be “strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience…” (Col 1:11 HCSB).
Therefore, when it comes to perseverance in your walk with the Lord and in your work for the Lord, you can have it, because he most certainly wants to grant it.
And just what are the rewards when you have it? James said, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure” (Jas 5:11). There is blessing for persevering.
Some of those blessings are temporal, affecting the here and now. They are related to our maturity in Christ. Again, it was James who said, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas 1:4).
Persevere—and you will enjoy the temporal rewards of greater maturity in Christ and a greater ministry for Christ. Please do not forget that in v 8 of our foundational text in 2 Peter 1 we are told that if we possess this quality of perseverance (along with the six others, of course) in ever-increasing measure, that we will be effective and productive (that is, we will be useful and fruitful) for the Lord. In the words of Jesus in Luke 8:15, it is by “persevering” that we can produce a good crop. So, “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal 6:9).
Furthermore, the more “fruit” we bear, the greater our reward will be—not just here and now, but also then and there, when we stand at last before the Judgment Seat of Christ. For, you see, some of the blessings of persevering are not only temporal, but they are also eternal! That is one reason why Paul would write, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18).