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Some biblical principles for persevering

It reminds me of an episode that took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at the end of John’s Gospel. The risen Christ met his disciples there for a meal and a memorable exchange with Peter[i].

The latter had three times denied his master. Although he had repented and wept over his sin, the overwhelming sense of failure must have again invaded his soul. Sitting by a brazier once again shortly afterwards, the past drama could only come to mind. He must have no longer felt warranted to carry the task and the role he had been given. But Jesus breaks the silence and, three times, asks him the question of questions: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times Peter confessed his love to Jesus. And three times, the Lord reaffirmed his role and his mission. We cannot point out all the richness of this dialogue here, but a central principle emerges: Jesus places love for himself as what should be the source of perseverance, whether there is a result or not. And, good news, this love cannot be made with the strength of our hands!

The apostle John teaches us that we love God because he first loved us. Thus, if Peter was able to get up and persevere in his mission, it is because Christ took the initiative to join him in his reality and to offer him more than a lesson: his presence, his tenderness, his love, and his “sanctifying” care. These shake us at times but also make our love for him more true and deeper. Peter could attest to this.

Yes, we persevere because Christ perseveres with us, cost it what it will. The record of the New Testament confirms this: the key to our perseverance is not found first in a principle, but in a person and, so to speak, in the very nature of the Triune God. His mercies and graces awaken, lift up, and strengthen everyone who is united with Christ. Beyond the results, what matters to him is that we love him with all our being, by his grace and by his strength. The believer’s union with Christ is essential, as is an enlightened vision from his meek and humble heart to overcome our resistance to come to him as we are. The notions of hope, faith and calling are also essential for perseverance in our vocation. We cannot develop them here.

When there is little result, what should we do? Biblical wisdom invites us first to confide in God and then to question ourselves honestly, in the light of his word and as a team, about our practices and our beliefs, while being careful and open in our conclusions. Two different people in a totally identical situation could come to diametrically opposed beliefs about whether or not to persevere in a given place, service, approach, or role.

And let us remember, many results escape us… When the needy widow offered all she had to live, no one could really appreciate the depth of her gesture. Only Jesus knew the value[ii]. He sees what we don’t see. He invites us to discover with him treasures of faith and obedience that human sight cannot discern. One of my great weaknesses in my ministry is focusing on everything that I find inadequate and cultivating a certain dissatisfaction that prevents me from seeing the work of grace that God is doing. I often have to ask myself if I am seeing situations through the eyes of Christ.

If the result can be very different from what I think, what about the “time” of the result?! Often, God’s timing is not our own. I can lack patience, disbelief, take the lead, and go beyond his Word. But what have been the results? When Moses struck the rock twice, water gushed out[iii]. The result was there. Everyone threw their arms up to heaven. It seemed like a success … And yet you know the rest.

Where we are tempted to have results at all costs, let us remember that success according to God is defined above all by fidelity to his word and by love for his person. Let us also allow his gaze to be the one that matters most. Paul said to the Corinthians[iv]: “…But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you […]. In fact, I do not even judge myself.” Even what he thought of himself didn’t matter to him. And if his conscience did not blame him, he did not rely on this fact to justify himself either. He adds: “It is the Lord who judges me”. The opinion of the one who bore his sins preoccupied him above all else. When the results are not there, let us pray that this same attitude is reinforced in us!

Micaël Gelin

[i] John 21.15-19.
[ii] Mark 12.41-44.
[iii] Numbers 20.11.
[iv] 1 Corinthians 4.3-4.


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