Perseverance of a Lifetime

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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My first experience with perseverance was somewhere around age one, when I began to walk. Again and again, I fell down and I got up—or pulled myself up. Until the day I could walk without falling, I persevered.

Sometime later, I persevered on my bicycle. Now I moved from inching along on training wheels to confidence on two wheels: far easier than learning to walk.

Learning to play basketball brought many more experiences of perseverance. Our tiny town of 350 people had no high school or gym, so I spent hours and hours on the dirt court in the schoolyard. On two tamarack poles, my father hung two baskets the required ten feet off the ground. Games in Wisconsin meant a playing surface might be covered with ice or mud. To actually play in a gymnasium was thrilling. Nearby Pardeeville’s cracker-box gym was so small that players ran into the end wall after shooting a lay-up. Taking the ball out on the side lines meant standing between spectators’ feet.

My excellent high school basketball coach and, later, games in the Navy prepared me for a walk-on adventure at Baylor University. When I arrived on campus and asked when Baylor practice began, I learned that the scholarship players and walk-ons were already in their second day. Only scholarship players had been informed when to report to the gym. I showed up with 150 other hopefuls. In three days, that group shrunk to 17; and after several days more, we were 11. Years of perseverance were paying off. I was on the 1950 Baylor team that made it to the Final Four and played in Madison Square Garden—where I’d dreamed of playing when I was in junior high. I once made a thumbnail guess that it would take a talented player about 96,000 hours of practice from childhood to the NBA. That’s perseverance.

Moses, Joseph, Deborah, Esther, David, the Disciples after the resurrection, Paul, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, Jesus' Mother, Priscilla, Dorcus, and Lydia—all these people in Scripture knew what it was to persevere. In more recent days, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandella, Corrie Ten Boom, Albert Schweitzer, Simone Weil, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn have shown the world that perseverance can produce heroes.

Joseph persevered through terrible relationships with his brothers—through hate so intense that they nearly killed him and then sold him into slavery. Joseph was imprisoned, forgotten by friends, then plucked from jail through his ability to interpret dreams. He was eventually transformed by God so he could forgive his brothers and grow to love them. Through God’s grace and perseverance, Joseph changed and overcame (Genesis 37 through 45).

In the Bible, perseverance is more God’s work than a person’s ability to obey. In Revelation, the writer repeatedly urges Christ's followers to persevere and overcome (Rev. 2:7, 10, 11, 17, 25-28; 3:5, 11, 21; 14:12; 21:7-8). That power to hold on is from God, as Jesus tells us in John 15 in the parable of the vine and branches. Stay close with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit will do amazing things in and through you. The Resurrection is the giant truth for us that through Christ and His power, any one of us can persevere and triumph in a large, servant life. And Jesus will help us endure to that end. As Paul put it:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13)