1 Samuel 29:1 – 30:5
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.
I want to spend just one more week talking about perseverance and then we can move on to the fourth law of spiritual success. We have talked about some of the things that prevent us from persevering. Opposition, trials, persecution, our doubts, our own sins.
Two young frogs were hopping along, not looking where they were going, when they hopped right into a big jug of cream. They swam around in the cream for a while and then tried to hop out. Each time they tried they fell short and slid back into the cream. It looked hopeless. They could never jump high enough out of the cream to escape. One one young frog gave up and slid under the surface, where he drowned in the cream. The other frog kept trying even though every time he jumped he failed. But what this frog didn’t know was that all of his kicking and swimming was changing the cream. And after the longest time of failing, the cream turned to butter and he could easily hop out.
Of course, the moral of the story is ‘don’t give up’. Persevere.
Other great examples of perseverance come from the Bible. Take for example the prophet Jeremiah. Poor bloke had an awful life. It started off with God giving him a warning and a promise.
Jeremiah 1:19 – God said to Jeremiah “They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers[12:6], beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet[20:1], imprisoned by the king[37:18], threatened with death[38:4], thrown into a cistern by Judah’s officials[38:6], and opposed by a false prophet. It went for years and years until God’s promise was fulfilled. When Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 586 BC, he ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well[39:11].
How did he endure? I don’t think he knew how long it would last, because God doesn’t tell us things like that. So he didn’t make a plan. He didn’t have a mark on the wall for each year he would have to persevere, and cross them off as he counted down.
I think he woke up at dawn each day and saw the new day as God’s day. He didn’t wake up to face persecution. He woke up to meet with God. He didn’t get out of bed so that he could endure more mockery and suffering, Jeremiah got out of bed so that he could be with God.
This is the secret of perseverance. We are not focused on the long road of pilgrimage that lies ahead. We are not constantly thinking of how far we have to go. It’s a long way on the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, but when you are walking the Way of Saint James you look only as far as the next step and one day you wake up to find that you are there.
The secret is to not look with dread at the long road ahead, but to look with delight and expectant hope at the present moment.
When my son was small he used to spend endless hours building things with his toy bricks. He created Logo castles, Lego villages, Lego fortresses, and Lego space stations. He copied what he saw in the world around him or in books, and it was easy building these things. You wanted a space rocket, just give him two minutes and he’d give you one.
But in real life it isn’t so easy to build these things. It takes a lot more effort and skill and resources to make a real space station. Some people are playing at being Christians, but to be a real Christian requires strenuous effort, discipline and resolute will.
The first woman across the finish line in the 1980 Boston Marathon was Rosie Ruiz. She received the winners garland and was greeted with cheering crowds. But someone soon noticed something strange about her. She wasn’t fit. She didn’t look like a runner.
And it was soon discovered that Rosie had run only the last mile. She was playing at running a marathon.
There are Christians like this who turn up in the service on Sunday, but the rest of the week they do not persevere in prayer. They don’t engage in a personal life with Jesus every day of the week. They don’t wrestle with their faith and call out to the Holy Spirit. They don’t go through the tough times with prayers and tears, they don’t stay faithful in the lonely anxious hours.
Rosie Ruis was a sociopath. These people are ‘religio-paths’.
Paul was determined not to be like that. He says in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 –
‘So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.’
In our reading this morning we heard about David, who has had to flee from the land where God has said he is to be king and live with the enemy. It’s not a good place to be but he is ever a man of faith. David goes off with the king to fight against the king’s enemies, but the other generals don’t trust him and the king has to send him home.
And when he gets home he finds that other enemies have stolen his wives, and the wives and children of all his soldiers. Their entire village has been pillaged and everything taken. Can you imagine their feelings when all they have done is to be loyal and faithful, and this is what happens. They cried until they had no tears left.
The story tells us how angry and bitter the men were, so angry that David was in great danger. They were about to kill him. Verse 6 – ‘David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him.’
It is at this point that David shows us how to persevere when everything has gone wrong and even your friends have turned against you. Verse 6 still – ‘But David found strength in the Lord his God.’
David didn’t quit and run away, he ran to God. He was depressed and defeated. ‘But!’
And so he became the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.
David didn’t think about the problems he faced. David didn’t think about the injustice of it all. David didn’t think how unfair it was. David didn’t think that God had abandoned him. Instead, David thought about how great God is, how faithful God is, how powerful God is, how God always brings good out of evil. So David turned to God and filled his mind and heart with God.
Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?”
And the Lord told him, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!”
And he did, all the wives and children and possessions were recovered after a long and hard chase. Endurance and perseverance claimed the victory.
No matter what happens, God always gives us the strength to cope. So no matter what happens we must turn to God. This is not a game, this is a struggle of life and death. It takes enormous effort on our part. When it gets so hard that we cannot go on, we can rely on God for the strength we need.
So never, never, never give up.