There’s nothing more tantalizing than a half-accomplished goal. You’ve made significant progress toward the end, you can even see the light at the end of the tunnel. But you’re not there yet. Somehow that tunnel exit seems to get farther and farther away. And after all this time, you’re still in the middle, still not done, still have not seen your dream or expectations fulfilled.
I’m still dealing with this cold-thing. It’s been going on for 3 weeks. It’s not anywhere near being the full annoyance of a regular cold; no constantly dripping nose, no continuous coughing, no energy-draining achiness or congestion. Yet there’s still this trace of throat irritation that refuses to go away. And, frankly, it’s been bugging me — beyond the minor physical discomfort. It’s been like a weight around the neck of my faith. Where’s my full healing?!
As I was talking this out with God this morning, the thought came to me that I haven’t been persistent in my resistance. You know, the Krav Maga rule of using any available tool as a weapon. I’d reached a point of near-comfortable compromise. I wasn’t hurting, I was functional, the sore throat was barely noticeable except when I get up in the morning before my first cup of coffee. I’d become complacent. As for fighting on two fronts, I’d stopped being diligent with the vitamins and echinacea (physical aspect), and I’d grown lax in speaking Scripture to myself — and to it (spiritual aspect). And as a rule, if you don’t continue to work out, if you are not persistent in your training and conditioning, you become weaker. You lose your advantage, and your enemy can more easily get the upper hand. (Krav Maga again.)
Of course, this is just a wimpy real-life illustration. The principle is true across the board for all kinds of situations where reality hasn’t quite lined up with a promise God gave you, where faith hasn’t yet turned into fact. As my pastor recently said in one of his sermons, “the gap between vision and reality is filled by commitment.” Commitment, persistence, is the driving force to move you from faith to fact, from what you’re believing to its accomplishment.
1. Persistence in faith: continually, aggressively reminding yourself of God’s promise, speaking the Truth (God’s truth, with a capital T) to yourself and to the mountain in your way. Reality is subject to change. The entire universe (including your tiny circumstances) is subject to change. Everything is. Except God and his Word. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Lk 21:33; Is 40:8) “Facts” are temporary. Truth is eternal. And if we are persistent enough in the Truth, that Truth will ultimately change those facts. And frankly, as puny human beings who constantly get distracted and lose faith, we need to constantly remind ourselves — provoke ourselves — with the Truth to keep us focused in the right direction.
2. Persistence in action. Same principles over and over: Faith without works is dead. We need to constantly be pulling the triggers in our natural circumstances, doing our part to help release God’s power. We rely on God’s power for results, but he will not do our job for us. That’s why we can’t afford to grow lax. “Be not weary in well-doing for in due season you will reap a harvest if you faint not” (Gal 6:9).
Persistence in faith is not denying the existence of facts that contradict it. Faith is the internal chutzpah to stare in the face of facts and say “Nevertheless!” Like Abraham in the Old Testament. God made outlandish promises to him (and you think your dreams are big?), but Abraham was old and childless. Nevertheless, “he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead … yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God” (Rom 4:19-20).
Abraham is our model. He was a man of faith and a man of action. He knew the key: he didn’t hide from the facts; he faced them. And persistently praised God for a reality that had not yet materialized — and was actually impossible. He was persistent in faith. And although we are not told specifically, I bet Abraham never stopped loving his wife Sarah, never stopped trying to have a son, as God promised. Eventually, even he grew impatient and tried an alternative solution with Hagar to change his facts. And there were consequences for his overstepping. But ultimately his persistence paid off. And every nation on earth has been touched as a result.
So, when we’re stuck in the middle of a seemingly endless tunnel between a promise and reality, between faith and fact, persistence is the locomotion that ultimately gets us there.
Just something to consider over your morning coffee …