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Overcoming Adversity Requires Perseverance

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There is no question that adversity and setbacks will come in life. How you handle them makes all the difference between success and failure. When complications, obstacles or unexpected circumstances appear to block your path, you must be equipped with resourcefulness and perseverance to solve each problem. Being determined to find a way over, under, around or through the obstacle requires “stick-to-itiveness,” or perseverance! You can move mountains, one truckload at a time if your level of resolve remains strong.

As radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger said, “We don’t find meaning in our lives from the lack of challenges or even misery. We find meaning in our lives by how we face these challenges.”

Fighting the battles

Just after becoming prime minister of Britain, Winston Churchill addressed Parliament on May 13, 1940. In his first address as prime minister, he soberly described the Nazi threat and rallied his people to face the darkest days of World War II with tenacity and perseverance:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war by sea, land and air with all our might and with all the strength God can give us…That is our policy. You ask, what is our goal? I can answer in one word. It is victory — victory, at all costs, victory in spite of all terror — victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival” (William Manchester, The Caged Lion, Michael Joseph, London, 1988, pp. 682-683).

With resolute, tenacious courage and perseverance, the British people rallied behind their leader. June 4, 1940, after the major defeat at Dunkirk, Churchill announced to his countrymen, “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight on the sea and the oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the hills. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall never surrender” (ibid., pp. 683-684). Against all odds the British people did fight with perseverance and, after the long hard Battle of Britain, they emerged victorious.

Some two decades earlier American President Calvin Coolidge also recognized the importance of persistent perseverance: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

But human effort alone is not enough. Most people never stop to realize that there is additional help available from a truly omnipotent source.

Do you have what it takes?

While mustering human perseverance can pay off, most people are still not as successful as they could be, because they fail to utilize one additional critical key in becoming a successful overcomer—God’s help and backing. On our own, even with extraordinary effort like that exhibited by the British people, we do not have everything it takes to learn from and master the challenges of life (John 15:4-5 John 15:4-5 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
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).

People trying to exist without the living Jesus Christ in their lives are missing the most practical and valuable asset available. God’s help and backing can produce major physical, mental, financial and spiritual dividends.

People trying to exist without the living Jesus Christ in their lives are missing the most practical and valuable asset available.

I am not referring to blind faith without any personal effort. We need to actively work to overcome obstacles and trials with persistent effort. God expects us to do our part. He wants each of us to use and develop the mind and ability He has given us, and that requires firsthand experience. We need to work like the solution depends on us while relying on God to direct our paths (Psalms 32:8 Psalms 32:8I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye.
American King James Version×
). This provides the added security and powerful backing only our Creator can provide. Active living faith produces effort and work (James 2:18-20 James 2:18-20 18 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
American King James Version×
). Someone once asked, “If you could hear God whispering to you, ‘I am with you,’ would you give up and quit?”

Yet there will be times when there is nothing we can do to solve a problem or overcome an obstacle. Often when circumstances are beyond our control, it is more difficult to persevere. But when we humbly wait on God and submit our will to His, we grow in faith and character. God may choose to simply work out circumstances to solve the problem, or He may allow the problem to persist to perfect our faith and increase our reliance on Him (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 8 For this thing I sought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
American King James Version×
). Regardless, we must persevere to the end.

God’s purpose in trials

If God is involved in our lives, situations, opportunities and even trials will have deeper and more purposeful meaning. God places our spiritual growth ahead of our physical comfort and success. So should we. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 2 My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×
, New International Version).

When we humbly wait on God and submit our will to His, we grow in faith and character.

When we persevere though trials and circumstances—which God allows for our good—godly character can develop. “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11 Hebrews 12:11Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.
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).

Overcoming trials can produce the character God wants. At the same time we can be comforted in knowing that God will provide a way out of them. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
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).

Building character

Paul summarized how the character-building process works: “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4 Romans 5:3-4 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
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).

The Bible pictures God as the master potter and we as the clay He is molding to be more like Himself (Romans 9:20-21 Romans 9:20-21 20 No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? 21 Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?
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; Isaiah 64:8 Isaiah 64:8But now, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.
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). Sometimes God chooses to knock off the rough edges to smooth out our character. In a sense we are clay images of God in the making, composed of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7 Genesis 2:7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
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). He wants us to be like Him in thought, character and deed.

Paul had to endure many hardships and setbacks (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which comes on me daily, the care of all the churches.
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). But he persevered though the ups and downs of life and encouraged his followers to do the same (Romans 8:37-39 Romans 8:37-39 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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). Paul, like Winston Churchill and the British people, knew that the reward in the end was worth the sacrifice and unrelenting persistence today. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 2 Timothy 4:7-8 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing.
American King James Version×
).

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