Lessons in Perseverance

I’m not sure why it captured my attention so completely.

Sitting in my prayer garden, I had just closed the Bible and glanced downward toward some stepping stones that led to the bench.  An abundance of creatures share life in this setting and, among them are the ants that build dirt mounds and traverse the path.  They are a common sight, but this particular morning, the movement of one ant caught my eye due to the size of what he had scavenged.  Firmly within his grip was a dead spider whose body mass was far greater than the ant’s.  I was intrigued as to what exactly he was going to do with his find, assuming he was taking it back to the colony right there in the garden.  He had other plans.

Displaying a Herculean effort, he carried his catch over the stones and mulch beds on a path that led him to climb over the base of a chain link fence and into the grassy wilderness of the neighbor’s yard.   Twice along the way other ants challenged him for his treasure; one that was considerably larger than he was.  Yet he held his ground, and grip, and continued undaunted on his mission.  The distance and obstacle course he encountered was formidable, but nothing weakened his resolve.  At once, I realized I hadn’t observed this by chance.

Very early that morning my radio alarm had awakened me with the voice of Retired three-star Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin.  He was one of the original members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and ultimately commanded these elite warriors in combat operations.  Lt. Gen. Boykin spent 36 years in the army, serving his last four years as the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.  He is an ordained minster with a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encouraging Christians to become warriors in God’s Kingdom.  He is faithful in that mission.

Encouragement is exactly what Gen. Boykin delivered as he shared a message of how his faith in God strengthened him to fight for the country he loves.  Like so many of my brothers and sisters across this land, my heart has been burdened by the insidious encroachment of evil that is obstructing the path of free people. Gen. Boykin’s words lifted my soul and the tenacity of that little ant reinforced the message of staying the course when life is challenging.

If we listen only to the news pundits of our day, discouragement is sure to come.  It’s not that we should isolate ourselves from the troubles of our world, it’s just that we are not to be overcome by them.   Discerning our times and finding the courage to persevere when the obstacles of adversity persist requires both humility and boldness. Humility in the understanding that God is sovereign and boldness in proclaiming that evil cannot ultimately prevail against the power of Christ.  We are weakened only when we abandoned this truth.

Though most would never willingly join forces with evil, ignorance of the Word of God unwittingly empowers it.   We can neither discern nor defend rightly apart from knowledge of the Righteous One and the truth of His Word. The age-old battle between good and evil can only be won God’s way.

Ephesians 6:10-17 admonishes us with powerful words of hope.  “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  

Are you among those who are frightened and discouraged by our times?  It’s an easy mindset to adopt.  Life’s adversities are real, difficult and unrelenting.  On our own, we are inadequate for the challenge because we are not created to do life in our own strength. We are called to clothe ourselves with the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, to be emboldened by His love and empowered by His Truth.  Will it be easy?  No.  Nothing of great worth comes without great cost.  But it will be worth it.

Faith endures trials.  It overcomes obstacles because God’s grace is the all sufficient source that allows us to persevere when the journey seems too hard.  If the Lord endowed the lowly ant with great determination, surely He has empowered the people made in His image and trusting His authority with a far greater resolve to never give up!

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