Perseverance. I have been struck recently by how much the notion of perseverance appears in the Scriptures. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise me, but it just isn’t one of the first things I think of when I contemplate what the Scriptures are about. Faith, hope and love, the promises and faithfulness of God—these are the things I first think of. Yet the theme of perseverance comes up again and again, I take it because the Bible is speaking all of these truths not to a sprinter, but to the Christian who is running a marathon where endurance is the name of the game.
But how do you persevere when life feels flat? When church feels dull and your walk with Jesus feels even dryer?
We know that the Bible contains the riches of God’s word and promises. Sometimes, though, these riches feel distant and hard to access. It may be that changing up how you read and study the Bible will be a helpful and relatively easy way to bring God’s word to life again and thereby provide a small-step antidote to dry, dull faith.
For my birthday this year I was given Tim Keller’s My Rock; My Refuge daily devotional on the Psalms. I have subsequently gifted this book to many people. Why? It was the change I needed. It gave me something new to read and I have benefitted from it immensely. Keller offers a short section of a psalm each day followed by one or two paragraphs of his own reflection on the psalm and a brief prayer. It covers all the psalms over a year. Its conciseness (just one page per day) means it’s easy to read and therefore it’s easy to keep a regular pattern of reading the Bible. I have found this change of reading something new and hearing a new voice in thinking through the Scriptures has warmed my heart when it might have been in danger of becoming lukewarm.
Along the way one recurring theme has stood out to me. There are many people and events and thoughts clamoring for our attention. Keller contends that we need to fight the busyness of our schedules, the distractions of our minds, the sinfulness of our own hearts and the disdain of the world, as all these things can preoccupy us and leave our walk with Jesus feeling joyless and flat rather than joyful and alive.
What is the solution? To find joy in the Lord. Rather than find fault in the church, or fuel our anxieties about the world, or feed the selfish deceptions in our own hearts, we are to fight to find joy in the Lord. Regular time in the Scriptures helps us in this daily battle.
When the Scriptures are present in our lives everyday, they interpret our moments, guide our choices and strengthen our hearts. They preserve us because they remind us of the great blessings in Christ. It is in him that we have been forgiven, adopted by God, made righteous in his sight. It is in him that we have been given the Spirit and assured of our resurrection into glory unimaginable!
These snippets from Keller’s book particularly touched my heart recently, even if it was just because of a chance present given to me.
I am aware that for many people dry and dull faith has come about because of extremely difficult circumstances—from difficult diagnoses and declining health, to relational conflicts that contain deep hurts, to unexpected deaths in the family and unwanted contact with our emergency services. These friends often have nothing else to cling to, nothing else to depend on other than the promises of God. They need these simply to keep going; to take one day, one hour, one moment at a time—to keep persevering.
Of course there are other elements that help when life feels just so hard or painful or tedious: regular fellowship with believers, practical support and multitudes of prayers. There isn’t a magical cure to the hardness of life, or to the flatness we may feel. Rather we need simply to keep going, just as Christ has kept going with us. Finding new ways to do the small things, like regular personal time with God, can play one small part in persevering until we reach God’s perfect world to come.
 Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, My Rock; My Refuge: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psams’, Hodder & Stoughton, 2015.