A few months ago, I wrote a series about some of the lessons that I’ve learned trail running. But, I want to talk about something else that I’m learning as a result of running: perseverance. You see, even though I love to run, that does not mean that I love to run every week, or every day, or every step. Sometimes, I have to make myself run even though I don’t want to. That’s perseverance. Sometimes, I have to start running again because I’ve stopped for a time. That’s perseverance.
Perseverance is one of those difficult lessons. First, it’s difficult because it always involved something that is not easy. Second, it’s difficult because it’s easy to drift into thinking that it’s all about me or all by my power. Finally, it’s difficult because it’s easy to sit back and assume that God is going to make everything pleasant and perfect and desirable before I have to get started. But, perseverance isn’t any of those things.
So, in this short series, I’m going to look at some aspects of life in which the church is called to persevere… to stand fast… the keep on keeping on… to not stop.
The first of these is temptation. James writes:
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. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:12-14 ESV)
While temptation can come from many different directions, James points to our own hearts as the center of temptation. Even when the temptation is spiritual or worldly (systemic), it is the desires of our own heart (perhaps to control our own lives) that makes lure a temptation.
Here’s the thing: temptation is something that will come. It seems to be a given in Scripture. (Jesus said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come” – Luke 17:1) But, it is also something that must be withstood. Like other forms of perseverance, standing firm in withstanding temptation (withstanding firm?) is hard work. It is not something that is pleasant, and it is not something that we also want to do.
What does this have to do with the church? Well, withstanding temptation can be a community exercise. Yes, sin is often personal, but it is never ONLY personal. Sin and temptation always affect the body of Christ, whether we realize it or not and whether we know how it is affected or not.
We must understand and accept that when we yield to temptation we are harming the church. Then, we must be willing to ask for the church’s help in persevering in withstanding temptation. (If someone or some group judges you because you are tempted in a certain area, then find another group of brothers and sisters who will not judge you, who will accept you, and who will stand with you to persevere through these temptations.)
Yes, we need God to persevere through temptation. Yes, we need to stand firm ourselves when we are tempted. But, we also need one another. We can persevere together against temptation.
I’d love to hear your stories about how your brothers and sisters in Christ have helped you or others persevere through temptation.