We naturally admire people who persevere. I always think of Eric Liddell, who faced so many medical complications as a child that some thought he would never walk again. But Liddell grew up to become “the Flying Scotsman” and the winner of the men’s 400 meters at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. When Eric declined to race on the Lord’s Day, he was berated by the press and popularly mocked for his convictions. Most critics became fans, however, after Eric won the gold for Scotland. Eric Liddell became a missionary, and died at the Weihsien Internment Camp in China. His life exemplifies for us uncompromising service for Christ against a steady stream of obstacles and opposition.
If we truly serve Christ, we can expect our share of difficulties along the way. Sometimes these trials are predictable – at other times it seems there’s neither rhyme nor reason why great struggles come our way.
John 8 records a time when Jesus was teaching in the temple area during and after the Tabernacles festival. Jesus announced some tough truths in that environment: truths about life and death, sin and salvation, heaven and hell. As you might imagine, for many who heard what Jesus said, it did not go over well.
As a matter of fact, there was so much opposition against our Lord by the conclusion of the events recorded in that chapter that some among the angry mob even attempted to stone Him. Jesus left the temple area, but continued His ministry of teaching and healing – the mission to make God known for which He had come into the world. Christ would not be dissuaded from His objective “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Some treatment for the Light of the world.
You and I must expect some of that same treatment in our journey with Christ. He loves us so much that He calls us to share in the things that draw us closer to Him. And those storms of life can leave us feeling depleted, wrung out, and just plain exhausted (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually).
But here’s the amazing part: our weakness ends up being Christ’s strength! The Apostle Paul wanted that miserable thorn – whatever it was (and I’m kind of glad we don’t know for sure, so that we can relate it to our own) removed from his path, but God had a better plan (Second Corinthians 12:7-10). The thorn would stay, and Paul would learn Christ’s grace through “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” Sometimes in the form of an avalanche of all of the above.
Not exactly what we would sign up for, but all part of God’s plan to teach us the power of perseverance. As we perceive more and more of our own weakness, we learn to appropriate more and more of Christ’s power. We learn that perseverance is more than holding on to Jesus – as important as that is – as we discover that He is the One who is holding on to us.
Back to John’s Gospel, in regard to Jesus in that same account, John also records (8:20): “No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” You and I can take comfort in God’s providential care of us in every stormy trial we face. There is nothing touching us but that which God purposes for our good and for His glory. So breathe deeply. All is well.
“As he was saying these things, many believed in him” (John 8:30). O Lord, I want to be in that number.