Message of Sunday, August 22, 2021 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
This opening story is about a friend of mine that I have spent time with in-person and mostly over the phone for the past several months. His name is Ray, and he lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I have kept in touch with him, at his request, for weekly phone calls and updates. (Ray was kind enough to permit me to write about him for this message.) We have talked through a number of issues that included a stressful job at Amazon and his pursuit of a job in Savannah working at a reputable aviation company, which would require relocation to the area. He is a very gifted person who knows his stuff when it comes to airplane engineering, but he also has shared with me his personal challenges. One of his biggest is his ability to handle stress. Another challenge has been his bouts with anger. I’m pleased to report that he has done much better with controlling his anger, and he is learning how to deal with stress, but all of this taken a toll on him back to his childhood. Fast forward to today…his expectation to gain employment received a setback when he had a heart attack about two months ago. It was a good thing that he was in excellent physical condition, but after we spoke about this, we agreed that his high level of stress had a significant role in his heart attack. It was now time for Ray to take better care of Ray. He is presently in rehab and is doing well, but he really wants to get back to work—but right now, he just can’t. His life recovery is much greater than what he can do for himself right now. God is fully involved in his healing, and he knows this, too. Not long before his heart attack, Ray decided that he needed to turn his life back over to Jesus.
So what we can see here is that even when you recognize that you need to focus on Jesus, tough things can and do still happen in your life. As we all live in a fallen world, it’s seldom a smooth process to get from the place you were coming from to where you eventually want to be. For example, going through rehab can be a very, very tough process. It’s downright hard sometimes, and your mind and body may be screaming at you to just stop or even give up.
Well, you can’t give up. You just can’t.
It is God’s desire that you keep after it. He is on the journey with you, and He desires for you to draw upon His Word, His strength and His guidance.
Psalm 16:7-8 CSB
7 I will bless the Lord who counsels me—
even at night when my thoughts trouble me.
8 I always let the Lord guide me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
Psalm 73:28 NLT
But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
One of the best things that Ray is doing right now is literally saturating himself in God’s Word, and it reminds him that he would not be here without God’s grace, His mercy and His healing power. Ray’s healing is both physical and spiritual, and it is for the long haul.
When you’re going through a tough time, it requires steadfastness. It requires action. It requires strength. Our true faith in Jesus Christ is not just for the short term—it’s for the long haul. It requires perseverance.
Let’s define perseverance for greater clarity: Perseverance (n.) is steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. 1
We mentioned last week the importance of living a life of perseverance in overcoming obstacles. That’s exactly what this message today is all about. You probably do not need to look very far to find someone who is going through difficulty, and you may not even need to look anywhere but your own situation. It’s all the more reason that we must exercise perseverance as we go through the painstaking process of healing and recovery: persistence in spite of difficulty, obstacles and discouragement. Let’s see what the Lord has to say about this:
James 1:2-4, 12 ESV
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
1 Peter 5:10 ESV
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Perseverance is nothing less than standing firm in your faith in Jesus. He is the focus that is necessary to persevere through whatever you are going through.
Our refuge and strength comes from the presence of Jesus Christ:
John 16:33 ESV
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Perseverance requires focus in the midst of trials and tribulation. It requires action and effort in our physical bodies, but we have to rely upon Jesus to facilitate the healing of our minds and bodies. In virtually every instance, our perseverance means we have to wait on Jesus. We are waiting on the Lord to give us what we need.
Psalm 27:14 ESV
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
To be clear, waiting on the Lord is not a passive activity. It is highly active and involves trusting that the Lord is giving us what we need as we persevere. He tells us to be strong and courageous while waiting on Him. Where have we heard or seen this before?
Joshua 1:6-7, 9 ESV
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their ancestors to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.
9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As we wait, let’s examine our involvement in the waiting process. In using the word “WAIT” as an acronym, here is where we should keep our focus:
The W in wait is to be WATCHFUL.
You must keep your focus on Jesus and His Word because, quite simply, it will keep you out of trouble.
Matthew 26:41 ESV
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
This is important because perseverance must involve faith and trust in Jesus throughout the process. When you’re hurting, you’re vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. Know your enemy and put on the full armor of God:
Ephesians 6:10-13 ESV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Standing firm in your faith is the essence of perseverance.
The A in wait is to be ATTENTIVE.
Proverbs 4:1-2, 4 ESV
1 Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
2 for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
4 he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
James 1:19-20 ESV
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
The living Word of Jesus Christ is your refuge in difficulty, and it works as a repellent to any attacks or temptation that Satan throws your way. Stay awake and pay attention to the presence of Jesus in your act of perseverance.
The I in wait is to INQUIRE.
When you are scuffling and looking for progress, you can readily call upon Jesus.
Matthew 7:7-8 ESV
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
James 1:5 NIV
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Our flesh will look for quick fixes and alternative methods as we go through our trials. God’s Word reminds us to go directly to Him for answers in prayer.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Your regular daily reading and meditation of God’s Word will build you up while you ask Him about what you’re going through. Even as you persevere, remain persistent in your communication with Jesus. As you wait for answers, His inherent nature is to comfort you in your fellowship with Him.
The T in wait means to TRUST HIS WORD.
God’s Word is truth, and He wants you to even go back to Him in prayer as you reckon with your difficulty. Remind Him of His promises and pray with specificity. He will always honor His Word. Your faith in Jesus will carry you through.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Psalm 28:6-7 ESV
6 Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
7 The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
Psalm 56:3 ESV
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
I’m very thankful for Ray’s progress. He has come a long way, but he knows that there is still a long road ahead of him, and it’s OK with him because the Lord is moving right along with him.
Isaiah 41:10 CSB
Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.
Be strong and courageous as you persevere in Christ.
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines.
1 Perseverance definition. (2021, August 18). Dictionary.Com. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/perseverance