Saturday, July 4, 2009

Persistence vs. Perseverance

My daughter and I went to our Weight Watchers meeting Monday morning in total dread. On the way to the meeting, we lamented over all of the slip-ups (O.K., deliberate cheats) we had committed over the past month. The scale would surely reveal just how badly we had done. Instead, to our surprise we found we had not gained weight during a whole month of missed weigh-ins. I had even lost a pound and a half! Persistence in exercise and many successful days of watching the calorie intake paid off, even in light of the bad choices we had made at times.

One thing our Weight Watcher lecturer, Heather, always stresses, is that persistence is more important than perfection. I need to hear this over and over again, for I am a legalistic dieter. Once I cheat, I usually count the rest of that day and even sometimes the entire week as a total loss. And spend those lost days eating whatever I want. As you can imagine, this plan in not conducive to weight loss! Instead, I need to put the "slip-up" behind me immediately and get back on the plan. Persistence wins the battle. Even in the light of a profound lack of perfection.

I wonder if the writer of Hebrews had this principle in mind when he penned Hebrews 12:1: "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

I am no expert in running. But I do walk. And I can tell you with great authority that if you don't keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will never get to where you are trying to go. This morning on my walk I ran into an old friend and spent a few minutes chatting and catching up. Obviously neither of us made any physical progress as we stood enjoying pleasant conversation. You have to be moving in a positive direction in order to cover any distance.

God called David a man whose "heart was fully devoted to God" (1 Kings 11: 4). Can you imagine Scripture describing you as someone whose heart was completely sold out to the Lord? Yet we know that David wasn't perfect. He planned a murder and had an adulterous affair. So why does God call David a "man after my own heart"? I believe it is because the general direction of David's progress was an effort to grow closer to the God He loved.

The Connecticut River flows from north to south through the heart of New England in its journey to empty out into the Long Island Sound. If you were to get into a canoe somewhere between Vermont and New Hampshire, and begin the journey southward, eventually you would find yourself in the Long Island Sound. However, if you had a compass, it might not always seem to be the case. At times, you might be moving in an eastward or westward direction. Sometimes you might even be moving northward! But the general, persistent flow of the river would eventually carry you to its mouth.

That is a great picture of persistence or perseverance: moving in a generally positive direction, despite the twists and turns your life might take at times.

Jesus compared following him to traveling the Narrow Road. Perseverance is crucial to the traveler walking in faith. As we walk the Narrow Road, there are potholes and uneven spots along the journey. We may even stumble and fall from time to time as our feet catch on those sins that entangle us. Yet our progress continues as long as we get back up, brush ourselves off, and begin moving again. Don't get discouraged about your lack of perfection. Just be persistent.

"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lied behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

This is my latest Dogwood Digest article. If you would like to subscribe to this free weekly email devotional, use the link on the right of this page. Thanks!


Sydney McFearless said...

Mrs. Coleman, I am having such a great time catching up on your writings, here! What a breath of fresh air you are! :) Thanks for writing.

Zoe Elmore said...

Julie, Love your perspective on Persistence. As a former WW client and instructor I know the process well. Keep up the good work and just b/c you "fall down one stair don't through yourself down the entire flight". Can't wait for the next update.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.