Perseverance in the Face of Adversity
"Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly- I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."
John Newton speaks these words in the film "Amazing Grace", which tells the story of William Wilberforce's fight to abolish the slave trade in 18th century England. Because of Wilberforce's passionate perseverance, many slaves were eventually freed from the horrors of the trade.
Long and difficult was the journey, however, Wilberforce became so affected by the evils of the slave trade, along with the many tiring years of arguing in congress; he almost threw in the towel. His mysterious illness also added to his spirit of defeat, resigning him to bed-rest for days on end.
If Wilberforce had given up his cause, the slave trade would never have been abolished for such a time as that. Despite thickening adversity, Wilberforce persevered to the end.
Think about times of adversity in your own life. What has been your natural response?
One area of adversity for me has been singing. What once came so naturally (and afforded me many theater jobs) has been a battle for the past few years. Singing, for some odd reason that I am entrusting to God, has become physically uncomfortable. As a result, my natural response is to avoid it by running the other direction when opportunities arise to use my voice.
Defeat is precisely what the enemy wants: Adverse circumstances arise; we flee in fear or defeat, and the enemy triumphs (interesting that he is called our "adversary" in 1 Peter 5:8). The last thing he wants is for God to be glorified through the trials in our lives.
Dependent perseverance in the face of adversity is glorifying to God. This kind of perseverance is not mustered from our own strength. It admits to our weaknesses, trusting the power of Christ to be sufficient for us. Read what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
The fact is, we are weak vessels! Power belongs to God, not to us. We are wholly dependent on our Savior, for life, breath and everything, including the salvation of our souls. We do not carry ourselves around in perfect, strong, powerful bodies. We are but humble jars of clay. But Christ, who came to seek and save the lost, lived the perfect life we could never live ourselves. We persevere by His strength and His power to defeat even death on a cross.
We proclaim not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, who is the image of God (v.5). Facing adversity in the Spirit means leaning dependently on the power of Christ and proclaiming His strength. Instead of thinking, "I can do this," may our prayer be, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). Christ purposes to manifest His power despite our very glaring weaknesses because everything, even our weaknesses, is for His glorification!
After singing at church last night, it occurred to me that maybe the Lord would never remove the discomfort I often experience. I believe He can, if that healing would most glorify Christ. But if not, His perfect strength is made all the more manifest in my weakness. And what most amazes me is the sound of my voice is healthy and strong, despite my seeming insufficiency. He is the supplier of all we truly need, to the praise of His Son, even when we cannot understand and adversity arises.
What are you facing today? May Christ be exalted in your weaknesses, giving you the power to dependently persevere in the face of adversity. Christ is indeed a great Savior!
Lord Jesus, Thank You for being the Savior of the world. I am totally dependent on You, and today I rely on Your strength. May Your life be manifested in my weaknesses. Help me to trust You despite adversity and to praise You in all circumstances.
[photo source: Ansel Edwards, Creative Commons]