INTRODUCTION TO PERSEVERENCE:
WHAT IS OUR END GOAL?
“And knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.”
// 2 Peter 1:6
When we are learning to excel at something, when we’ve begun to master it, what more do we need but to keep going? To the virtue of ‘self-mastery’ (also translated as ‘self-control’ or ‘dominion within’), Peter admonishes us to add perseverance (steadfastness, patience, endurance). ‘Endurance’ seems the most apt term, following on the heels of self-mastery, because it makes us think of the value we place, as a culture, on ‘toughing it out’ or being heroic. We celebrate those who keep their focus, push through, and achieve their end goal. As believers, we need to know what our end goal is, for that is our central focus and it is for this goal that we endure hardship.
What inspires endurance in us more than when our favorite coach, our best friend, or our loving parent cheers us on and provokes us to endure hardship, for the sake of our goals? In like manner, our Father is our biggest cheerleader, celebrating every win and shouting out our names to encourage us to press on. If self-mastery is about being so focused on a singular goal that we lose sight of lesser goals that may distract us, then what endurance adds to us is an unending desire to press in, rooted in a passion for and taste of the sweetness of achievement. No Olympic athlete masters themselves for the sake of self-mastery alone; rather, they learn to govern their bodies, diets, etc., so that they have the stamina and energy and focus with which to endure their training and trials, for the sake of placing first in the Olympics – their end goal.
Our end goal is Christlikeness. Our Coach is the Holy Spirit. Our Father owns the team and funds its every need. Our star athlete, our MVP, is Jesus. Jesus’ playbook is the Bible. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our team members. Our audience is the great cloud of witnesses. We are here to master ourselves through the training and hardships we encounter, which the Spirit coaches us through, as we fix our eyes on the star of faith, Christ Himself. We are here to endure when we have tryouts, when the limits of our faith are tested. We are here to press past our barriers and previous achievements, to push toward our goal. Self-mastery must be wed to endurance if we hope to place in the Olympics of faith, let alone place first and win the “victor’s crown” as Paul puts it [see 2 Timothy 2:5]. Endurance fixes our end goal before our eyes and in our hearts, so that we will stick to the disciplines necessary to maintain self-mastery.
Endurance adds to us the sense of purpose we need to shape and form our faith, through self-mastery, into a disciplined expression that will place us among the great heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11. The writer of that book said that it is “with faith and endurance that we inherit the promises” [see Hebrews 6:12], so when our faith flags and when our endurance lags, when our self-mastery drags, we need only to remember the One who endured resistance and who persevered beyond the point where others’ faith had ever pushed, in order to ensure we will place among faith’s heroes. We need only to remember Jesus.
// Samuel Nicolosi