The ATTITUDE of PERSEVERANCE
“God, I’m Here for You”
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 45 NLT
I’m now writing from the hospital, 4th floor, room 4206. 27 days and counting. I’m bored. My first thought waking and feeling the heavy weight of boredom was not to claim my sluggish weariness, tainted with indifference, as an opportunity to hear from the Lord. It’s true: a current mantra of mine is to treat everything as an opportunity for God to honor His Word and work whatever is happening around me, to me, or in me for my good. That lovely and true thought didn’t rise to the level of consciousness this morning. I was bored. The phrase same old same old drifted wearily through my mind, with no felt joy or passion waiting in the wings. My diagnosis? Acedia, the inability to care about anything.
I sat in it. Same old same old seemed a kinder phrase when I remember driving from home to my favorite breakfast spot, a restaurant with a 6 page menu and a white board listing 4 daily specials, all food worth whatever the price. In that setting, same old same old is comfortably and even gratefully attractive. No boredom attached.
By hospital standards, I slept well last night. A large, hard to miss bright yellow digital numbered clock on the wall facing my bed demanding my attention told me it was 7:06:32am. I groaned – it was time to get up – to do what? My mantra slipped into my stream of thought. Is there an opportunity here? The thought barely stirred me.
I laid in bed, with only sufficient motivation to consider getting up at 7:30:00 to accomplish necessary chores, among them brushing my teeth. I moved slowly through my morning routine, climbed back in bed, looked at the clock, it read 7:48:21; I closed my eyes and thought: what do I believe? What is true?
I’m a Jesus follower, and if He wants me to follow Him even when I’m bored – and He does – then it’s up to me to intentionally choose to remain open to His leading, to hearing His voice, perhaps in a Scripture, a good book , or in words floating into my mind. And I’m to remain open to whatever will release me to move, bored or not, in a God-honoring, Christ-resembling, Spirit-inspired direction. If that attitude qualifies me as a mystic, so be it.
Someone has said that God cannot resist entering a space opened to Him. As best I know how, I simply told God I wanted to receive whatever He wanted to give. I waited, not for long. And words close to these, unbidden but welcomed, came to mind.
“You’re fond of Paul’s words in Colossians 1: 11, urging you to experience My power to endure and be patient with same old same old seasons. You have come to believe, and have told others, that perseverance is required to remain on the narrow road journey to home. Staying the course will not always be easy. In seasons, dogged determination will be needed. Ponder that truth more fully”.
No, I didn’t audibly hear those exact words. But words to that effect came gently and firmly. I believe I heard God’s voice.
At 7:47:03, I got up, brushed my teeth, ordered a same old same old breakfast, then positioned myself at the little desk in my room, and stared at my Bible. Mark’s Gospel came to mind, with quiet force. Drawing from conversations with Peter about our Lord’s never frantic, always steady movement through His 3 years of ministry, Mark seems to highlight in his 16 chapters Christ’s unflagging perseverance, and, by example and teaching, His call to persevering, steady, restful but active discipleship. Restful? Yes, as needed physically. But true disciples find rest for our souls in glad willingness to never stop telling God’s LARGER STORY by the way we live and love, even when we’re bored.
I re-read Mark 10: 45. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (NLT).
Quite clearly, Jesus was serving a purpose beyond Himself. It’s not uncommon to hear people of every religious persuasion or those of none expressing their desire to live for a cause, to be part of something bigger than their own little individual worlds. It seems our transcendent God created each of us with a longing for transcendent God created each of us with a longing for transcendence, for something to be involved in beyond arranging our smaller story to coast along pleasantly.
With these thoughts on my mind as I reflected on what I knew of Mark’s writing, I was drawn to one episode in the life of Nehemiah. He was leading the Jews returning from exile to build a wall for their protection. The project? One grain of sand on a 100 mile beach, of no obvious importance in the history of the nations. But Nehemiah went to work, persevering through hardship and discouragement.
Then 2 enemies of the Jews, Sanballat and Geshom, invited Nehemiah to meet them at a neutral location, perhaps to discuss treaty negotiations. No doubt with the Spirit’s wisdom, Nehemiah realized they were intending to harm him and stall the building project making Israel easy prey. His response is classic. He sent this message to his 2 antagonists: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come” (Nehemiah 6: 3 NLT).
Following the Lord’s leading, I pondered those words of perseverance. Nehemiah wouldn’t quit because he knew the work he was doing was great. Really? One wall that never amounted to much? My question: what made building the wall a great work?
In what would have appeared insignificant in the big scheme of things to any observer, the wall was great for one reason: Nehemiah was telling the LARGER STORY of God, preserving a remnant from which the Messiah would come. No, Nehemiah didn’t know that, but he knew he was doing God’s work and, by faith I suggest, felt a fire in his belly to further what God was up to.
The ATTITUDE of PERSEVERANCE: God, I’m here for You. Believe that a LARGER STORY is unfolding under the mighty power of God, and the smallest way we can advance the plot is a great work: sacrifice for the sake of another, if needed, suffer for the sake of another.
Grudging perseverance is all we can muster if we see our work as insignificant. Glad perseverance becomes possible, not when we feel significant, but when we know what we’re doing delights God and furthers His purpose. Writing these words is a great work, even if nobody reads them. It’s been a good day.