Whatever we love, whatever we fear and whatever we believe in determines the values that we establish in our lives. The way we deal with our affections, fears and beliefs determines our ability to advance in the strength of our convictions. As we develop the character of perseverance with respect to our affections, fears and beliefs, we will prevail in the many constant spiritual battles that we face.
Are we fighting the good or the bad fight? Are we advancing or have we already abandoned the race? Have we kept the faith or have we already abandoned our convictions? By answering these questions we can determine if we have persevered or given up; if we have overcome or if we have been overcome. The effectiveness of our prayer life vitally depends on these answers.
When Jesus faced his last minutes of life here on the earth, in prayer, looking into God’s eyes, he could say with absolute authority, “Father, everything that you gave me to do I have done! Everything that you expected me to be I have been! I have glorified you on the earth, having fulfilled the work that you gave me to do. It is finished!” Jesus only yielded His spirit after declaring that He had completed His mission. He refused to die before that.
Through his work on earth up to and including his work on the cross, Christ summarized and established the highest definition of prosperity and success through his declaration “It is finished”. There is no true prosperity without perseverance. Death is not the greatest evil that can befall a person. The greatest tragedy and worse situation in someone’s life is not death, but a life without purpose. The purpose of God is a reference point for perseverance. Without this reference point and without perseverance, our lives will be wasted. How frustrating it is to look at all the years some people have lived and perceive that they are living a life with no eternal significance.
A fundamental element of prayer is to persevere with integrity to fulfill God’s will, and to finish the work that has been entrusted to us without getting discouraged, responsibly fulfilling the conditions of the promises that were designated to us by the mouth of God. Each step of perseverance is a hymn of worship. We glorify God by persevering! This is one of the principle aspects of worship! We can keep the doors of heaven open overcoming accidents along the way and advance towards the prize of the heavenly calling.
In order to persevere there must be brokenness. The fatal blow against death was the conclusion through the last words of Jesus: it is finished! A perfect ending! Words such as these can only be spoken from the cross! Perseverance is for people who are being crucified. There was no place for surrender in the life of Jesus. Through His perseverance Jesus crucified death and subverted its kingdom by interceding for the entire human race!
In perseverance possess your soul
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4)
Perhaps this is the most powerful declaration that anyone has ever made in history. The one thing that determines whether we are prepared to die or not, is if we persevere and finish the work that God has prepared for us. Christ’s words cut sharply across the heavy spiritual atmosphere that hung over him as he faced the cross. In spite of the darkness and gloom of the prophetic moment that Jesus had to face, this declaration slashed apart the darkness that tried to separate him from God the Father.
His ostensible posture of godly character decided the course of his life as he resolutely walked in the perfect will of the Father. He followed, pursued and succeeded in materializing the whole plan of God. Here Jesus illustrated the needed attitude and paid the necessary price to glorify the Father on the earth through his perseverance to follow through to the end and consummate the work and the call that the Father had entrusted to him. He was correct to declare, “It is finished.” Death did not interrupt his life on the earth. He completed his task, fulfilled the Scriptures, trampled death, accomplished man’s salvation and entered into eternal glory. Thus, he established himself as an eternally effective intercessor on our behalf:
Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors; And He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12).
The spirit of obedience is the essence of perseverance
There is no obedience without perseverance and there is no perseverance without obedience. This statement may smack of stubbornness but spirit of obedience is what makes the difference. Obedience distinguishes perseverance from stubbornness. The word obedience originally came from the term “to give ear”. Obedience is tied to our spiritual hearing. In order to obey we must hear. Without a correct understanding and perspective of obedience, we may exercise discipline in a harmful and abusive manner.
Christ’s statement in his priestly prayer (verse 4) includes three fundamental aspects of obedience:
“I have glorified you on the earth”
Obedience begins with the motivation to glorify God. The first aspect of obedience is motivational. It demands victory over the lust of acceptance. The difficulties of life normally flesh out boasting in all human motivation and this can fatally compromise the course of our life in all aspects. We must constantly attribute all glory to God if we want to see him work through us. The first enemy to be conquered is our ego and its devices, schemes and strategies of emotional dependence and boasting.
“Having finished the work”
Obedience is not just saying that you will do something and begin to do it. Obedience always implies finishing your work, persevering until the successful conclusion of everything that God has designated you to do. Many people’s lives consist of a collection of false or unmet promises or things that they began, but later abandoned. How many times have we neglected to persevere in that which God has entrusted to us? This is a sin against the spirit of the righteous man’s prayer, debilitating the character of perseverance and inhibiting faith. God certainly hears prayers, but He only responds to faith. Faith is a progressive conviction that depends upon the dynamic interaction with the revealed will of God.
“The work that you have given me to do”
Obedience also implies not doing what God did not command you to do. Jesus fulfilled the work that the Father gave Him to do and not that which the Father did not give Him to do. This may seem to be an obvious detail, but it is amazing how so many people are doing so many things other than what God has commanded. In this way, we become potential candidates of doing the work of God without God and even in opposition to God.
A position taken up in these three aspects revolutionizes our spiritual life. We supernaturally gain a deep discernment in prayer that makes it sharp, cutting and penetrating against the resistance imposed by the spiritual world in the critical moments of life.
The crucifixion of Jesus
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Jesus concluded His life on a cross, with no apparent sign of success. He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9), crucified naked between two thieves he lost his reputation, did not study in any great or famous schools (John 7:15), spurned political success and a life of palace courts (John 6:15), manifested God’s power by leaving his in heaven (Matthew 26:53), yet completely fulfilled God’s will for his life. This is a strange but genuine way of defining true success. He simply persevered completely in God’s purpose.
Jesus made it clear that through our perseverance, we will possess our soul. Perseverance is one of the most meaningful principles of victory. Through perseverance, you advance in the direction of that which you have already reserved for God. The sting of death we must conquer here is the lack of perseverance.
Which will we choose perseverance or abandonment? The choice is a matter of life or death! We can only fight against death through the cross. Either death crucifies us through our own abandonment or we crucify death through our perseverance!
The crucifixion of Paul
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6, 7)
When Paul wrote these words, he was already looking into the cold eyes of death yet he had no fear. The truth is that he was the one that was scaring death. The sign of perseverance produced a supernatural security. He knew what was awaiting him. (2 Timothy 4:8) He was able to turn death itself into an eternal opportunity to pour his own life as a libation to the Lord. Paul completely yielded himself to the Holy Spirit.