Do you have the courage to remain steadfast?
Recently, I heard a challenging message by Christine Caine. In her hands she held an old roll of film and she explained how it had to be developed in a dark room before the images could be seen. The development process takes time and patience. The film must remain in the dark for a specific period of time before it can be brought into the light. If it is exposed to the light too soon, the images are ruined. Caine explained how often we enter a season of waiting and it seems dark and lonely. Yet, if we’re steadfast through that period of time it can enhance the image of Christ in our lives. The message was a call to perseverance.
There are eight major values that our church embraces. To us, they are pillars to sustaining a revival culture. Of the eight, the one that challenges me the most is “perseverance.” Regardless of what you list as values in your life and ministry, this much is for sure: you will have to persevere if you ever hope to accomplish anything significant for the kingdom of God. I believe that perseverance is most challenging value because in our American culture we loathe waiting. We have everything from express mail to microwave ovens and fast food to overnight shipping. We are impetuous people who desire instant results, and we don’t like having to endure trials, hardships, and difficulties. Most of us detest the idea of persevering. Yet, everything I read in the Bible indicates that those who finished well were those who endured the most, and they persevered until they experienced the breakthrough that they believed was possible.
Paul entered the city of Ephesus for the first time and found twelve guys who had been baptized under John’s ministry. After explaining Jesus Christ to them, they were baptized in His name and received the Holy Spirit. Being forced out of teaching in the synagogue by hardened and disobedient people, Paul began reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus and he did the same regiment for two years. He never stopped preaching the Word. He never quit or shrank back. One scholar indicated that Paul taught the Word for more than 3,000 hours over a period of two years. He kept sowing into the Spirit until breakthrough was experienced (see Gal. 6:8-9). A mighty revival broke out in the city of Ephesus, and people began confessing their sins and turned to Christ. They burned their cultic books and ceased practicing magic. The Bible says, “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (Acts 19:20). The Word of God became so widely known that everyone who lived in Asia heard it (see Acts 19:10). That is a remarkable report, but it occurred because one man refused to quit. Paul persevered until the kingdom of God came to Ephesus and made a transformational difference.
What about your city? I’ve pastored in Columbus, Ohio, since 1997, and we still have so much work to do. Our city hasn’t experienced a major breakthrough yet, but we continue sowing the Word. We’re making inroads into the community one life at a time. We’re praying for people to be born again, we’re crying out for bodies to be healed, we’re seeking God for marriages and families to be restored, and we’re pressing into His presence believing for a mighty outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on our church and every church in our city. We must persevere through trials and adversities, though. We have to believe Isaiah when he declared that we will pass through the waters and fire without being harmed (see Isaiah 43:2). Victory is always found on the other side of the greatest challenges if we’ll simply persevere and never quit.
The early church in the book of Acts was known for its perseverance. Read the accounts of these early believers. They didn’t cease proclaiming the Word no matter what happened to them. When threatened because of their boldness, they cried out for even more boldness (see Acts 4:29-31). When told to be silent about the faith, they refused to listen to any other voice but God’s voice (see Acts 5:29). When they were persecuted and flogged for their faith, they celebrated God that they were worthy enough to suffer for Him (see Acts 5:41). And in the end most of them were martyred for choosing Jesus over the world because they knew it was the only way to bring Jesus to the world.
What’s our excuse? What’s our reason for quitting? What prevents us from persevering? Is it because people are leaving our churches? Is it because the pastor preaches too long? Is it because the music is too loud? Is it because we got fired from our job? Is it because our prayer hasn’t been answered yet? Is it because people are criticizing us? What keeps us from persevering until the breakthrough is realized in our lives? The early believers were unceasing and relentless in their pursuit of God and in their mission to bring the kingdom to the entire world. They persevered and because they did, the Church of Jesus Christ prevailed.
My challenge to you is to determine this minute that you will not shrink back no matter what (see Hebrews 10:38). Don’t give up in your season of waiting no matter how dark and difficult your journey seems. Keep pressing into the manifest presence of Jesus—even if you’re surrounded by sleepy-eyed, passionless people. Keep believing God for signs, miracles, and wonders—even if you are criticized and called a proponent of “strange fire.” Keep praying for healing even though people are sick and diseased because the Word still says the prayer of faith will save the sick (see James 5:15). Believe God for that revival, trust Him for those marriages, continue to cry out for those prodigals, and remain faithful to your calling no matter what. Persevere to the end, my friends, and keep on sowing to the Spirit. Your harvest is upon you.