There is power in perseverance. Somebody observed that even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job. Perseverance is “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” merriam-webster.com). John Wooden is remembered as one of the greatest American collegiate basketball coaches in history. He won ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in a 12-year period as head coach of the UCLA Bruins. He knew a little something about how to win basketball games. He once observed, “It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” The apostle Paul, of course, is not remembered as a great basketball coach. But even casual readers of the New Testament know he was a powerful example of perseverance. He fought and ran for Christ to the finish (2 Timothy 4:7). In 2 Timothy 3:10-11, Paul is encouraging his younger friend Timothy to keep pecking away at his own God-given ministry in spite of serious difficulties and opposition. He reminds Timothy of how carefully he had followed Paul’s own perseverance and endurance in spite of the great difficulties and afflictions Paul suffered. Then, at verse 14, the seasoned old soldier of Christ urged Timothy, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” That verse comes on the heels of a strong warning that false teachers and deceivers will increase. Unlike these deceivers, Timothy is to be a man of God with fixed and deep convictions about Christ and the gospel. Paul goes on in verses 15-17 to point Timothy to the God-breathed Holy Scriptures as his Divinely given and complete source of spiritual strength and equipage.
But you must continue.” There is urgency in those words. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says the Greek word translated “continue” in verse 14 means “to remain, abide,” but also is “equivalent to persevere, cleave, hold fast to a thing.” A closely related word is used in Acts 11:23 where Barnabas encouraged new Christians at Antioch of Syria “that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Perseverance is not an option for Christians who would finish the game. We must continue. Many Christians are failing to persevere these days. Some have not continued reading the Bible. Some fail to “continue earnestly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2a). Some have not continued (dare I say have “forsaken”?) Lord’s Day assemblies of the church, mistakenly thinking that “virtual worship” is always a legitimate substitute for Holy Spirit-inspired assembling of ourselves (Hebrews 10:25). It is a normative part of the Christian life to be weary at times. Distractions, discouragement, difficulties, disappointments, doubt, discord, and the devil are part of the daily struggle we face. Throw some pain, fear, and anxiety in the mix and the downward drag can make quitting look like a great option. But as David Scoates said, “It’s always too soon to quit.” That’s especially true when talking about marriage, a friendship, and most
important of all, your relationship with Christ! Robert Strauss said (about persevering), “It’s like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when the gorilla is tired.” Jesus was tired by the time He got to the cross. He was bruised, battered, and bloodied – but He wrestled to the end. He didn’t quit. He endured. He persevered. He continued until He could cry in John 19:30, “It is finished!” My friend, Heaven is not for those who start the game but for those who finish. Will you finish? To do so you must continue.