I used to think that persistence was a mixed virtue. After all, when I kept asking my parents for things they eventually got irritated. My persistence came across as begging or nagging, trying to force them to give me what I wanted. “And hurry up, please.”
I struggled with Jesus’ parable on persistence in prayer. You know, a man receives a traveler but has nothing for him. He goes to his friend for bread. But it is night time and the friend doesn’t want to be disturbed. Jesus continued,
“Even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” (Luke 11:8)
My brain stuck with the idea of nagging. Persistence seemed like a spiritual muscle that needed to be strong enough to wrestle God for a blessing. It became about me; and I felt weak. I doubted that I had the discipline, endurance, or boldness to keep coming to God to receive from Him.
But Jesus’ lesson doesn’t end there. He promises that those who ask, seek and knock will see results. His conclusion hinges on the comparison between evil humans and the good Father. “How much more shall heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:13) Persistence works in human relationships but it will be more potent in our relationship with God. Jesus was pointing to the Father’s nature as the motive for persistence.
Jump back to the Old Testament to see how it worked for Elijah. What must Elijah’s servant have thought while he trekked across the mountain seven times to look for storm clouds? It wasn’t his idea. It was another example of his master’s strange behavior.
Elijah knew that God had given him authority over the rain as a statement to King Ahab about His sovereignty (1 Kings 17:1). For over three years drought had prevailed, then God said it was about to end (1 Kings 18:1; James 5:17). Elijah sent the servant and warned Ahab that rain was coming (1 Kings 18:41-46). Elijah understood God’s will. The complaints or mockery of his bewildered servant did nothing to undermine his confidence.
Elijah’s persistence showed his faith in the character and purpose of God. Persistence is an action statement, “I know who You are. I know what You are willing and able to do. I am asking, watching, waiting, and ready to receive Your will.” Persistence puts faith in the timing of God; waiting rather than urging God on or giving up. That waiting time is spent in the presence of God, fine tuning alignment with His will and ways to be ready when He answers.
You see, it is the motivation behind persistence that makes the difference. Persistence is not about me; it is about God. Persistence is not a spiritual muscle; faith is the muscle. It’s made strong by our knowledge of God. Are the nature and will of God so engrained in our thinking that we are convinced that He will answer us in His time? Our repeated coming to Him demonstrates that confidence. The absence of a wisp of an answer does not reduce the truth about God. Persistence is evidence that the muscle of faith in God is strong.
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