There are three things that affect our perseverance that define true success, guarantee lasting prosperity and sharpen our prayer life: our values, our fears and our convictions. These are the determining aspects of our walk with God.
Respectively, this presents three matters that we must answer personally to God: who do we really love? Who do we really fear? In whom do we really believe? Certainly, the answer to these questions, explains a lot about the level of effectiveness of our prayer life.
“I fought the good fight” – changing our values
The first aspect of perseverance is our values: What do we love? Where is our heart?
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
If there is a “good” fight, there must also be a “bad” fight. This conflict between the good and the bad fight is the collateral effect of our values. Perseverance loses its meaning when our values have been corrupted.
Who do we truly love, God or Mammon? Where is our treasure? We are servants of the one that we love! This is a law. Our intimate values are related to what we love. The efficiency of our prayers is deeply tied to our values. A spiritual distortion of our set of values concerning the character of God compromises our intimacy with Him and undermines the effectiveness of our prayer life.
That which we love compromises us deeply: (Hosea 9:10b). We mold ourselves to the values that we have chosen for our lives. We take the form and the manner of that which we love. Our set of values determines our character, and as a result determines our destiny. All transformation is preceded by a change of values. You cannot change a person without changing his values.
The Word of God clearly determines that there will be things that we love and things that we do not love. We must love what God loves and hate that which He hates. We can intelligently choose what we must love, resisting the flood of worldly sophisms by being a voice that cries in the desert where the convenience of sin prevails:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Mind and heart
There is a much greater distance than 18 inches between the head and the heart. I would like to evaluate this distance. Honestly, what are our values? Are we fighting the good fight of life? How can we generally determine our true values? It’s simple, by paying attention to the things in which we invest the greatest part of our time, money, life, effort, etc. In this way, we can easily detect our set of values and evaluate their relative nobility.
It is also fundamentally important that we confront: how we relate to the values transmitted by the gospel? Where do we hold these values, in the mind or in the heart? This question establishes the difference between the superficial and the profound, between theory and practice. There is often a great disconnect between intellectual and practical values that exposes our spiritual inconsistency.
It is common to see people with an enormous head disproportional to their own body and their stunted and sick heart. People full of rules and poverty of life, saturated with theories yet empty in practice, full of snobbish theology but devoid of experience, just as Paul said, “They have a form of piety but deny the power of God.” (Titus 1:16)
To better illustrate the situation, allow me to test you with two questions. We can form the first question in the following way: “Do you think it’s important to pray?” When we ask an individual or a church group this question everyone answers in the affirmative. Since it is a theoretical question, it is also a very easy question to answer or “irresponsibly answer”. This question will certainly reveal our intellectual values, our “religiosity”.
However, a second question touches our lifestyle, which is what defines the essence of our values. “Do you have a prayer life?” While this question is similar it is completely different while touching on the same subject, it demands a separate response. Because it is a practical question, it could be very difficult to answer because it requires us to pay a price. A lot of hypocrisy can be revealed through questions like this one.
When answers to these two questions don’t coincide, it indicates that we are facing a crisis of integrity with respect to the content of the question, whatever it may be. The first question isolates us from the commitment of character, while the second question confronts it directly. If we ask the wrong question, we will have the wrong answer. When we ask the right question, we perceive that we cannot assimilate the gospel merely in theory.
It is not enough to answer certain questions from God’s heart with the correct biblical theology. If we ask for example, what is the value of a life? What is the value of a human soul? Would it be enough to cite a verse of the gospel just like a child answering a multiplication question: “A soul is worth the whole world”? I don’t think so.
This may be the theologically correct answer, but perhaps the most inconsistent one that we can offer. We can only express the value of a soul by the price of the life that we are paying for the salvation of souls. This is certainly the answer that God wants to hear from us independent of our theology and accumulated degrees. This requires an effective prayer life.
I have learned that the best place to be is in the center of the God’s will. My set of values still needs to be transformed. The things that we love will determine if we are fighting the “good” or “bad” fight of life and if are perseverance is worthwhile or not.
“I finished the race” – conquering our fears
The second aspect of perseverance deals with the ability to face fear and laziness. Who do we fear?
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
The greatest obstacles in the course of a life are internal. It was not the fortified cities or the military acumen of the inhabitants of the Promised Land that defeated the people of Israel when they spied out the land, but fear and unbelief. In other words, the greatest challenges are not our external difficulties, but fear and internal insecurity.
Family breakup, violence, abuses, daily stress and so many other harmful situations have imposed a chaotic backdrop of insecurity, fear, and even panic. Many people have already gotten used to living under social and spiritual intimidation. They are addicted to fear and various aspects of their lives have been blocked. Traumas and complexes destroy our initiative and dull our capacity to take risks in favor of fulfilling the will of God. Besides castrating our development and preventing advances in life, all paralyzing fear destroys the spirit of prayer. In order to persevere we must be bold and overcome the oppression imposed by fear.
There is a type of fear that works as a safety valve and alerts us to dangerous situations. This is a protective fear, but it must be limited in a healthy manner. Its message must be correctly received and followed. However there is another type of fear that is spiritual and is based on intimidation. It is not wrong to feel fear, it is wrong to be manipulated by fear. When fear overcomes our convictions we begin to frustrate the plans of God.
In these last decades the world has grown to understand the power of terrorism as a strategy of war. What is terrorism? It is when someone through an act of atrocity makes a threat greater than what they represent. Terrorism is an optical illusion. It is when you believe an enemy even more than he believes in himself.
Who is the greatest terrorist? Satan. He has no power yet causes us to believe that he does. The truth is that all the disadvantages are on his side. This makes terrorism and intimidation his principal weapon to combat people’s peace and faith. He seeks to establish a general climate of violence and insecurity through which he remotely controls society.
Satan spreads fear, acting, controlling and manipulating through intimidation. This can deter us from completing missions and tasks that were entrusted to us resulting in personal discredit and dismay with our relationship with God.
Spiritual fear can be defined as faith in the enemy and in his life. Fear is not spiritually neutral, in reality it is a negative faith. There are people who have is surprisingly “great” faith, however it is a negative faith. They strongly and intensely believe that nothing will work out, that they can do nothing, that they will never succeed and that the worst is coming, etc. They have been totally undermined by intimidation. They are easily conformed to this present age allowing the visible contrary circumstances to mold them. They live an existence of confessing defeat.
Fear is nothing more than faith in misfortune. Through fear, we set up our own defeats and edify the will of the kingdom of darkness to the detriment of our advances in God.
“I kept the faith” – keeping our convictions
The third aspect of perseverance is maintaining a positive balance of faith. Whom do we believe in?
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith (1 John 5:4)
You have to believe first in order to overcome afterward. Faith is already the victory in itself that overcomes the world whose prince is Satan. What we believe determines our character of perseverance as an intercessor.
The ability to maintain our convictions, assimilate the truth and fight expectantly in prayer is fundamental in the knowledge of God’s character and in the cross of Christ. It is common to see people who have gone through many things to lose their faith, give up on people, break promises and abort the divine plan. Disappointments along the way have an incredible potential of destroying our confidence, producing amnesia with respect to God’s promises leading us to neglect principles.
The matter here is not merely ceasing to believe in the truth of God. When this happens, we simultaneously begin to believe in many satanic lies. That is the way we become spiritually insane. For each truth of God, Satan has a very convincing argument. There is no middle ground or “no man’s land” between the truth and a lie. Whether we like it or not our faith will be the direct result of this conflict.
The transformational dynamic: believe and be
Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them. (Psalm 115:8)
This verse expresses an important spiritual principle: “We are what we believe.” It is impossible to lift up an idol and not trust in it. The definition of an idol is anything that occupies the place of God. Idolatry destroys dependence on God. When we trust in an idol, we assimilate ourselves spiritually in its essence. We impose upon ourselves the spiritual process of similarity with respect to that which we idolize. Therefore, our spiritual identity is intimately tied to that which we believe.
The Bible talks about Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of lentils, a tasty red soup. He put food above his birthright, despising his divine purpose. He earned the name of Edom, which means “red”. He became red just like that bowl of soup. Edom passed on this identity to his descendants forever.
Someone once said, “Don’t tell God how big your problem is tell your problem how big your God is! Many people have a tendency of believing in their problems more than in God. It is very common to see people who because of idolizing their problems are afflicted with a deep distortion of spiritual identity, or in other words, more than having a problem, they become a problem. They take the form of the problem. They live in accordance with the problem. They constantly confess defeat. The problem has become the center of their spiritual life, taking the place of God. They go to church but instead of worshiping God, they worship the problem. They still pray, but their faith still rests on the problem.
The religious hypochondria that stems from unbelief explains why so many people are spiritually bound slaves of long prayer lines for healing. Our positive process of transformation depends upon what we believe. We are spiritually conformed to the image of what we believe. Spirituality is the result of a continuous conflict between the truth and a lie, a visible and invisible reality, adverse tests and the faithful promises of God.
We must ask ourselves what we really believe in most, the truth of God or the lies of the devil, the flaming arrows of resentment or forgiveness, God’s solutions or the adversity of the adversary, God’s promises or the spirit of condemnation. The level of our spirituality depends on the result of this conflict, which will be either a collection of defeats, emotional breakdowns, complexes and chronic problems or a life of victory that emerges and fulfills the will of God.
Our attitude and response to each difficulty, test or conflict we face must result in the divine witness of approval that brings effectiveness to our prayer life.
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.