What does it mean to persevere? The definition according to dictionary.com is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” In terms of our spiritual walk in life, persevering means that we are willing to “go the extra mile” when God calls us to. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 encourages us with these words: “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” I would argue that spiritual perseverance is a gift we gain when in relationship with Christ. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:41 “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” And Jesus never asks us to do anything that He wouldn’t do Himself. He is more than willing and able to “go the extra mile” with us. But, how do we go the extra mile when that mile seems to be leading us in a different direction than we had planned? Or, how do we go the extra mile when we have no strength left to take another step? How do we go the extra mile when the extra mile appears to be leading us to a place we have never been before?
By nature I am a goal-setter. I can definitely persist in a course of action, but when God steps in sometimes and redirects where I think I am heading, it challenges me. By now I think we can all agree that divine interventions are anything but easy. At one point in my life I was climbing the corporate ladder when all of a sudden I found out that motherhood was going to be in my future. That had not been my plan and I was soon to find out how very difficult it would be to go that extra mile when I was exhausted at 3am, physically out of shape and emotionally drained while holding a screaming baby with no idea what to do. Maybe you can relate. Have you ever been in a situation when God completely redirected your persistent course of action? Sometimes we can get so stuck in going our own way that we end up going away from God. Getting back on track requires us to go an extra mile or two. Jesus says over and over in the bible “follow me.” In Matthew 16:24 He says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Spiritual perseverance requires following Jesus, not persisting in our own course of action. To embrace the divine interventions in our lives, we will need spiritual perseverance.
Perhaps we want to go the extra mile, following Jesus with all our hearts, soul, and mind but our strength just isn’t there. We desire to go the extra mile, but taking another step just seems impossible. Life circumstances can be overwhelming with financial stress, relationship trouble or even physical hardship. But we can thank God that He does not leave us to walk alone. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-29 “”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He gives us rest when we are too weary to take another step in order to rejuvenate our souls and equip us for that extra mile. We can be assured from His Word that if He calls us to go the extra mile, He will equip us to do so. Psalm 18:32 encourages us with these words: “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” Embracing divine intervention is going to take spiritual strength.
Finally, going the extra mile can be scary at times, especially if it seems that we are being led to a place we have never been before –our own personal Nineveh’s. In this situation, going the extra mile often means taking a leap of faith. I remember several years ago when my family and I were forced to move due to financial conditions. We purchased a house in another area with no promise of jobs or place for our children in school. We had no friends and no idea what the new area had to offer. Within a day of moving, however, my husband found employment, and my kids were able to enroll in a school not too far away. Now, looking back, we see that move as one of the best decisions in our lives and yet at the time it seemed so overwhelming. Often God will ask us to go the extra mile in terms of places we have never been with Him before. The most repeated command in the bible is “Do not be afraid.” Fear can keep our feet from going into the new places God leads us –places where our trust in Him is without borders.
So, are you willing to go the extra mile –willing to follow Jesus, let Him be your strength and trust Him even when you are scared? He says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1) You know, the second definition of perseverance according to dictionary.com is “continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.” Let’s redefine perseverance as the willingness to follow Jesus, continuing in His state of grace, submitting to His purpose and finding strength in His presence despite difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.