I have always thought perseverance is the boring virtue. I mean, let’s face it: love is beautiful…gentleness has a soft warm glow to it…integrity is noble and strong…even patience has a certain sense of satisfaction to it. But perseverance is just ordinary. Keeping on with the everyday of what you’ve been given, and then doing it all again tomorrow. Even when it’s hard. Even when no one notices. Even when it’s not where you want to be. Perseverance is a slow steady progress that is easy to disparage. It’s like in Aesop’s old story about the tortoise and the hare, where the fast hare is so confident in his abilities to win that he doesn’t even take the race seriously.
And really, who wants to be like the tortoise in the story? No one wants to keep plodding along slow and steady when there are others out there flashing by, to the cheers of the crowd. (And wouldn’t we all rather have life come easily, with plenty of time to play in the meadow and take naps?) Sure, the tortoise won the race, but it wasn’t even through any skill or cleverness or strength on his part. All he had to do was keep on going. Anyone could have beaten the hare with that kind of mindset. But of course that is precisely the point. Visible skill means nothing if it makes you careless. Confidence and charm are pointless if you are going to quit running in favor of indulging yourself, before you hit the finish line. In the long run the character quality of perseverance may matter more than buckets of talent and ability, and not just in results. God says it’s actually a matter of who you are becoming on the inside.
Specifically, God says dull old perseverance is a building block of our character. When life gets tough and we find that things don’t come naturally to us, we get to choose whether to run away or to face the pain and let Him use it to grow us. The Apostle Paul drew a straight line to connect our hard times and strength of character, encouraged the young believers this way: “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) It is that nitty-gritty virtue of perseverance that makes the difference. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Perseverance is the holding-on strength that takes us from the growing to the good set before us. And it comes by the Holy Spirit at work in us with His power, just like all the other virtues. I need the help, because my own determination wears out after awhile, especially when life gets difficult and complicated.
Perseverance is what makes you give grace to that person and try to communicate better, to work together, instead of walking away….even though your heart is hurting. Because healthy relationships matter.
Perseverance makes you clean up one more mess….drag yourself out of bed one more time….listen to one more story of playground drama… when what you really want is just eight solid hours of sleep, or a quiet cup of coffee on the porch. Because you know they are worth it.
Perseverance is what keeps you praying long and hard until you have God’s answer. No matter how long it takes. Because you trust His love and His power and His timing.
Perseverance pushes you to face another day of the same old thing: of errands and phone calls and workday and chores that will need to be done again tomorrow. Because these hidden acts of service laid down with love and prayer are building a home and nurturing lives that will last beyond this world.
I guess the older I get, the more I value the simple virtue of slow and steady progress. Perseverance is about focus and determination– being willing to make many small right choices over and over, because you have your eyes out ahead on a bigger goal. It’s having faith that all those smaller, more boring choices are adding up to something wonderful just because God says so. It is simple obedience in the everyday, according to Paul: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) Hang in there and keep on going– as old Aesop the storyteller said, “slow and steady wins the race.” And this Faith-race above all, is worth winning.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)