“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)
Imagine you are watching a superhero movie. The villain has just captured the superhero in his secret lair, and no one knows what will happen next. Just then, the movie ends. What would you think? Would you feel cheated? Frustrated? It would be foolish to end a movie in the middle or cut off something before it is finished. In the same way, we must view our struggles in context with what God is doing, even when we don’t know where, if, or how it will end.
Here are some teachings and Scriptures that might help us understand what allowing perseverance to finish its work might look like in our lives.
THE LIE OF SELF-PRESERVATION
It is tempting to believe that our possessions define our standing with God. The lie of self-preservation says that when God begins to strip us, we need to clothe ourselves. When things start to fall apart in life, or we feel exposed in our sin, we want to preserve whatever is left. However, Hosea tells us that it is often God who purposely takes away from us so that we can have true intimacy with him:
“Otherwise I will strip her naked
and make her as bare as on the day she was born;
I will make her like a desert,
turn her into a parched land,
and slay her with thirst.
Therefore I am now going to allure her,
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt." (Hosea 2:3, 14-15)
God speaks about Israel as his bride. This excerpt shows God’s jealousy for his loved ones. If we are like Israel, the wilderness might be painful--embarrassing even, but even if it takes the wilderness to be alone with the true us, God will take us there.
Perhaps your reputation of the “nice” person has been shattered, so we settle to be the “funniest” person. Or maybe you sense you are losing friends, so you settle for just one person, though the relationship with this person might be unhealthy. Whatever it may be, actions motivated by self-preservation gives off a facade of control. God may actually be seeking to take certain things away. But we respond, “God, I know I’m weak in this area, but look what I can do!” “God, I know it’s hard, but I think I could still muster up enough energy to get through this on my own.”
When we give into this lie, we prevent what God actually wants us to do. There are times where God will deliver us from pain, yes, but sanctification will often come with the facing of your fears head on.This means we must allow ourselves to be fully given over to sanctification. We must choose the fullness of the cup of Sanctification, just as Jesus drank the cup of our atonement (Jer. 25:15-17).
THE HIGHWAY OF HUMILITY
The pathway to intimacy is humility. There is no other way because it is only God who knows what is best for us. What is humility? Humility is allowing God’s voice to be louder than yours in your life, and being obedient to it. It is trusting in His words, rather than your own.
Last Sunday, the Lord gave me a vision of me lying prostrate in a battlefield. I watched as people trampled over me to get to the other side of the trenches. At this the Lord told me, “Grace, you will be a carpet and a bridge for those to achieve their destiny.” This vision surprised me and broke me in that God was showing me once again that the pathway to His glory is marked with humility and obedience. In this generation, we are quick to be hungry for the blessings of God, but what about the humility of God? The only pathway to greatness will be through humility and obedience.
We see this in the life of Jesus himself. In Philippians it says, “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8)!”
If we want to be like Jesus, we must become like him in his death, and we must become like him in his humility.
SUFFERING IS HIS WILL
In BTM, we are praying for a mighty move of God in regards to stopping abortion in our nation. During the women’s retreat last week, God gave us a word of warning the women in BTM. If we are to really take on the call of living as women the way God intended it, we must repent of the ways we carry a mindset of abortion. What I mean by this is this: We must stop letting our own convenience and fear of suffering abort God’s plans in our lives. I am first to admit that it is usually not the Enemy that aborts my plans, but it is my own insecurity, fear, and pride that will prevent the fullness of God’s work in me. It is true that God works for the good of those who love Him. Do not confuse God’s good for what we may think is good. God’s will for you is laying yourself down (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Not for nothing, but for a cause. A divine cause.
THE GLORY TO COME
It was Oswald Chambers that said that in sanctification there is both a death side and a life side. Many of us focus so much on the death side that it makes us religious or masochistic. It is important to note that we choose to experience the daily deaths with Christ for the purpose of freedom in Him. We were created to have life--Christ’s life, and to the full (John 10:10). Death to self should not make us bitter or resentful towards God, for how can a dead person fight for his own right? It is a choice we make for the hope of new life and treasures in the Age to Come, and it is a choice that is worth every struggle. Every trial. And every endeavor.