Endeavour to persevere

Cherokee chief Lone Wadi represented his people in a delegation to meet the Secretary of the Interior on the eve of the American Civil War in 1861.

They were congratulated for lookin’ so civilized, and encouraged to ‘endeavour to persevere’.

In real life, this didn’t actually happen. Its some brilliant script-writing for Clint Eastwood’s classic western ‘Outlaw Josey Wales‘. But something like this probably did happen.

Ultimately, the Cherokee decided to fall on the side of the Confederacy and declare war on the Union. An inevitable response to the patronising encouragement of the Secretary of the Interior, and the historical behaviour of the Union.

The Cherokee were no fans of the Union who engaged in a conquest of the West. Cabinet ministers often say the most unoriginal things to sound like they care, seemingly unconcerned that they are easily spotted as fakes.

I can spot these types of people fairly easily: flim-flam men, snake-oil salesmen, carpetbaggers, politicians, self-help personalities.

The type of guys who assure others that better days must come (without a reason to offer that assurance), that a person can do anything if they put their minds to it.

Except, it wasn’t a carpetbagger tying to sell me something. This past week, three different passages from Scripture telling me that I have to have perseverance.

From the book of James (chapter 1):

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

From the book of Romans (chapter 5):

“3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

From the book of Hebrews (chapter 1):

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

2020 was a write-off, 2021 was worse, and if the calendar doesn’t roll around to 2022 and 2021 lasts forever, I don’t know what material difference it would make.

And yet, 2022 will roll around.

And yet, I (and we all) must persevere.

James writes of perseverance (or patience). “The ancient Greek word hupomone comes from hupo (under) and meno (to stay, abide, remain). At its root, it means to remain under. It has the picture of someone under a heavy load and choosing to stay there instead of trying to escape.”

James Chapter 1

Trials don’t inevitably lead to perseverance. Trusting God in the midst of it, this is what results in perseverance.

There is always a choice, to run away, or to run the race.

When God has been telling me this week that I need to endeavour to persevere, its not a line. There’s no hidden angles or agenda.

The writer to the Hebrews recounts the giants of faith throughout chapter 11, the great cloud of witnesses and it is in the light of their lives, the writer encourages us beginning in chapter 12 to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that trips us up so easily, and run the race that is laid out before us.

In my mind’s eye, I don’t picture sleek athletes at the top of their game, I picture athletes with disabilities (like at the paralympics), or a school sports day where there aren’t professional athletes, just kids doing the best they can with a willingness and a little bit of heart.

Nobody is streaking down the obstacle course, setting records. Not in 2021. Not in 2022 either.

I like what Hebrews 12 explains as to how we can run with perseverance: fixing our eyes on Jesus. He persevered, and so can we (in Him).

There is always a choice, to run away, or to run the race.

I hardly think about heaven and what and who there is there. But that is a large part of the joy that Believers can look forward to, fuel to keep us on the track.

Peace

In a moment of peace, I was hovering in the kitchen listening to Christmas music while the wife made pumpkin pie from scratch.

I can take a picture (and in fact I did), but a larger part of the appeal of pumpkin pie is the fragrance of pumpkin, cinnamon and ground ginger all mixed in together.

The sound of Christmas music, the smell of pumpkin pie being made…for a moment, it almost felt like Christmas was on the way.

All that was missing were loved ones who have gone on, and snow. The moment was therefore transitory, as brief as a snow cone under the unparalleled African sun.

The author, Habakkuk itemises a list of things that have gone wrong:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Habakkuk+3%3A17+-+18&version=NIV

I look at that list and I think: debt. Most of us don’t have a reserve of resources, or a plan B. If those things don’t work out, if the fig tree doesn’t bud, if the olive crop fails, we’re in a hole for some green. Habakkuk writes that ‘though’ all these things are facts, yet he will rejoice in the Lord his saviour.

Christmas approaches and the infamous reply of Hillary R. Clinton before the House Select Committee on Benghazi comes to mind:

“What difference at this point does it [Christmas] make?”

She wasn’t referring to Christmas of course. But the way she asked her rhetorical question, it could just as well be about Christmas.

In the light of my thinking ‘what is the point of doing Christmas?’, I was thinking about the Aaronic priestly blessing, a benediction I think is awesome:

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+6%3A22+-+27&version=NIV

The mythical Santa has his list of naughty and nice, but Christmas really evokes itemization for me: businesses in the red or in the black, items on sale. Presents or no presents? Who brings the chicken? Who brings the gammon? At whose house do we gather? In a year like this, what level of lockdown are they going to impose on us?

The Lord gives, and as Job reminds us, he also takes away.

I read the benediction in the light of the things God gives to his children and then takes away, like loved ones, or time spent, or any list of things that we have lost in the last year.

He has given so many things and taken many things away. But He has never removed Himself.

The LORD gives himself to his people. His blessing, and his power to keep us (we can’t sabotage ourselves out of his hands), His face looking on us, seeing us really, His grace, his countenance (seeing us not as we are in our sin, but in Christ), and his peace.

His peace, oh how we need his peace in the midst of a Christmas that has lost a lot of its shine.

He has given so many things and taken many things away. But He has never removed Himself.

Numbers Chapter 6

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-lord-bless-you-and-keep-you