“I don’t really have any dreams.” My friend spilled this confession as we tried to piece together future possibilities and life directions one lazy Saturday. I had long been embarrassed that I was in the same place, hiding my cultural heresy of dreamlessness. “I don’t have dreams either!” I said....
What battle is making you weary right now?
If you work in an environment where everything is affirmed except faith in Christ, you may find that, over time, the ongoing erosion of an increasingly hostile culture begins to wear you down.
If you are going through a stale time in your marriage or facing difficulties with a rebellious son or daughter, you may find that, over time, your energy drains and it is harder to keep going.
Maybe you have been battling against a particular sin and, for a while, you made progress. But then the old temptation reared its ugly head and, having fallen again, it’s hard to find the energy to get up and press on.
Or perhaps, after serving in ministry for some time, you feel that you are running out of steam. Anyone who serves God wholeheartedly will know what it is to come to a place of saying, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” So how do you stay the course when you are tired of the battle?
The church in Thessalonica was born in great difficulties. Some bad characters started a riot, and Paul had to leave the city during the night, knowing that he may never be able to see the brothers and sisters who professed faith though his ministry again (Acts 17:5,10).
Paul wrote two letters to the Thessalonians. In the first, he grounds these believers in their new found faith and in the second, written some time later, he focuses in on what it takes to persevere. “Never tire of doing what is right” gets to the heart of Paul’s message in this second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:13).
There’s a marvelous nugget at the beginning of 2 Thessalonians that helped me when I saw it and has continued to help me, especially when I get tired of the battle. Paul says,
Your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance… (2 Thessalonians 1:3,4 NIV)
There’s a helpful old adage that when you see the word “therefore,” you should ask what it’s there for, and in this case, it is making a connection that is especially important: The faith of these people is growing, and their love for each other is increasing, and therefore Paul boasts about their perseverance.
Perseverance is the fruit of growing in faith and increasing in love. Deepening your faith and renewing your love will enable you to stay the course even when you are tired of the battle.
This connection is evident from other Scriptures as well. Think first about love: Love is patient. By nature it always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4,7). So when I need more patience with other people, the way to get it is by loving them more.
I once had a conversation with a godly leader who had led a Sunday school class for many years. He was tired, and when we met for breakfast he told me he felt it was time to move on. There was some sadness about the way he spoke, and so I asked some questions that led to him telling me about his frustrations with various people in the class.
After listening for a while, I said to him, “I think you are tired of these people, and here’s what I would like you to do: Ask God to renew your love for them. Pray for them, and see if God will rekindle the affection you had for them before.” He said that he would do that. We agreed to meet again in a month, and when we did, he told me that he had been renewed and refreshed and had completely changed his mind about stepping down from leading the group.
What had happened was both simple and wonderful: Increasing love had led to perseverance.
Growing in faith also produces perseverance, making it possible to stay the course when you are tired of the battle. As it is in the nature of grass to grow, so it is in the nature of faith to persevere.
I’ve found that the times when I get jaded and discouraged usually turn out to be times when I have lost sight of what the Lord is doing or lost confidence in what he is able to do in my own life and in the lives of the people I serve. Seeing that connection is really helpful because its points to the answer: Renewed confidence in God, and in all that he is able to do in you and through you, will help you to persevere even when you are tired of the battle.
Use this to improve your praying
When you know that faith and love are roots that nourish perseverance, it will help you to stay the course in prayer. Picture this scenario: You’ve been praying for an unbelieving friend or loved one for a long time, but nothing has happened and you’re getting discouraged. You can ask the Lord to help you persevere in prayer, but you might find it more helpful to get to the roots of the matter and ask him to increase your faith in his ability to change this person and to increase your love for this person with whom you may now be feeling quite impatient!
Or to apply this to the times when you get tired of the battle against a particular sin; ask the Lord to increase your faith in his power to overcome this evil in your life and to help you love him more than you love the sin that besets you. That strikes at the root of the problem! Growing in faith and in love for Christ will be the means by which you will be able to persevere in this battle.
Use this to sustain your usefulness
When I was starting out in ministry, a godly pastor gave me this wise counsel: “Ask God to give you a large heart full of love for the people you serve and a quiet confidence in what he is able to do among them.” For 35 years, his advice has proved consistently helpful.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne said, “It is not great gifts that God uses so much as great likeness to Jesus.” Ministry can get started on the momentum of gifts and enthusiasm, but it can only be sustained by faith and love. In order to stay the course, you have to love the people you serve and believe that God is at work among them.
Great gifts are never enough to sustain ministry in the long term. Some people are like rockets on the fourth of July. They go up with a big noise and a bright flash of light and then fizzle out after a short time. But faith and love will never fizzle out. Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away, but faith hope and love remain (1 Corinthians 13:8,13).
Use this to find strength in suffering
Think about the role of faith and love in Christ’s perseverance through his suffering. When people were taunting Jesus and calling him to come down from the cross, it was love that made him stay there. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
And Peter tells us that “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate…Instead, he trusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, emphasis mine). When Jesus was surrounded by darkness, he trusted himself into the hands of the father and placed in confidence in the ultimate triumph of God.
Seeing the connection between faith, love, and perseverance has helped me at the low points in my life and ministry, and it will do the same for you. Renew your confidence in God, refresh your love for others, and you will find that God strengthens you to stay the course even when you are tired of the battle.