1 Samuel 30:1–20, 23
The first law of spiritual success is to worship. Be a worshipper before everything else.
The second law of spiritual success is to give thanks. Maintain at all times an attitude of gratitude.
The third law of spiritual success is to keep on keeping on. It is to persevere.
What is perseverance? Here are three definitions.
– Newt Gingrich “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
– Jacob A. Riis “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
– Albert Einstein “Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.”
The Bible shows us the example of David chasing the Amalekites. And Peter tells us in his letter why it is important: 2 Peter 1:5
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Perseverance, says Peter, is one of the qualities that enable us to live productive and useful lives. Or as Sir Winston Churchill said: ‘Never, never, never give up.’
One of the things that the Bible tells us is that when we keep on keeping on God gives us the strength to continue. When we have run out of our own strength, he will give us his strength. This is what we heard in our reading this morning. When David was desperate, he found strength in the Lord. Without God he couldn’t continue.
God’s blessing comes to us when we don’t give up but go beyond our own strength.
James 1:12 “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Hebrews 10:36 “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”
Your spirit will flourish if you persevere with following God.
Your spirit will not flourish if you go to church, sing some songs, and think that in this you have completed your Christian duty. It is not easy to be a Christian. We need to persevere and persist in spite of all the obstacles. Our task is to lay hold of God’s strength and keep on going no matter what happens.
This truth is so clear that it may surprise you that some people give up. They find that they cannot persevere, and they quit before they have completed the race.
Here is an example: Every year in the United States four thousand new churches open their doors, and seven thousand churches close. Every month in the United States 1,700 pastors quit. Around the world, we have no idea how many people every day stop following Jesus. A new report out last week gave ten reasons for this failure to persevere, but this week and next I should like to focus on just four and look at some ways to keep on keeping on when it gets tough.
Reason number one for people falling by the way is that they become discouraged because of the trials and tribulations, troubles and difficulties in their life.
Perhaps you have read the book The Road Less Travelled by psychiatrist Dr Scott Peck. He opens his book with the sentence ‘Life is difficult.’ Dr Peck says that coming to terms with that fact is essential, and in fact accepting it means the battle is already half won.
You may have noticed that problems and troubles never travel alone, but have a strange way of coming together in gangs. Or as Shakespeare put it: ‘When sorrows come they come not single spies, but in battalions.’ For all of us there are some days when just surviving is the best we can hope for, and excelling is but a distant dream.
And so it is that perseverance becomes essential. Perseverance is the key that unlocks the door of hope. Because life is so often tragic, and no one can fully explain why troubles come along in groups.
Jesus makes us a promise about troubles in John 16:33 – ‘Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.’
If you have ever heard someone boldly declare to non-Christians, ‘Come to Christ and you will have no more problems’ then please show them this verse. It is false advertising to say that. What we are able to say with full confidence is this.
‘Come to Christ and you will have Jesus to help you face every problem.’
When you become a Christian, some problems increase. Some things get worse, not better. Family or friends may mock you. Your suffering may be completely without merit and totally undeserved. Job 5:7 says: ‘People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.’
How do you explain the young mother bathing her two small children who slips on the wet floor and knocks herself out – when she awakes both her children have drowned.
So many people today are so unhappy because they fail to realise what human existence is all about. So many people see life as something to be enjoyed. But it isn’t!
Life is a task that we have been assigned. We’ll never find meaning in our lives, we’ll never find happiness, while we neglect that task. Many people give up and lose their faith because when difficulties come they have the wrong view of life.
For example, there was a professor at Christian university in America who was hit by a lorry and had his leg broken. He announced afterwards that he was no longer a Christian because he could not believe in a God who would allow that to happen.
Is your faith in danger because you think God should spare you all difficulties and troubles in life? Can’t you see what an absurd world it would be if only people who were atheists had traffic accidents, caught colds or fell down stairs. And for people of faith the laws were suspended. Of course God intervenes at times and he answers prayer, but he doesn’t suspend his laws on a whim. When Jesus was nailed to the cross, the people said: ‘He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, “I am the Son of God.” ’
If this were the case everyone in the world would go to church and everyone would ignore the laws. But Jesus said ‘take heart’. He said ‘you will have troubles, but take heart’. Jesus overcame all of his troubles and difficulties, including that little problem of death. Jesus overcame the world, and Jesus is able to provide us with the inner strength to overcome every obstacle that confronts us.
All you have to do is provide the willingness, and Jesus will provide the power.
If you are willing to persevere, Jesus will make sure that you can persevere.
The third spiritual law is to persevere. To keep on keeping on hand in hand with the one who has overcome the world.
We’ll look more at this law next week.
For now, don’t give in. Never, never, never give in.