32 But remember the earlier days, after you saw the light. You stood your ground while you were suffering from an enormous amount of pressure. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to insults and abuse in public. Other times you became partners with those who were treated that way. 34 You even showed sympathy toward people in prison and accepted the confiscation of your possessions with joy, since you knew that you had better and lasting possessions. 35 So don’t throw away your confidence—it brings a great reward. 36 You need to endure so that you can receive the promises after you do God’s will.
37 In a little while longer,
the one who is coming will come and won’t delay;
38 but my righteous one will live by faith,
and my whole being won’t be pleased with anyone who shrinks back.
39 But we aren’t the sort of people who timidly draw back and end up being destroyed. We’re the sort of people who have faith so that our whole beings are preserved.
Quick: think of a few stubborn pests around your home that, despite your efforts to thwart their behavior, keep coming back. Hmm…who or what are these living things that you find repeatedly annoying? Be honest. Perhaps you thought about those deer that keep eating your sunflowers in the summer, or flour bugs you found in the pantry, or just the mold that creeps back in the tippy-top corner of the shower (and yes, mold is a living thing). Maybe you even thought of “So-and-so”, the semi-adult mutant that keeps leaving his/her dirty, smelly mess front and center. For the moment, I thought of the birds that often get the better part of the crop of a few blueberry bushes I have in July. Those birds usually beat me to the precious blueberries. Regarding your particular pest, how many times have you just thought, “Could you give me a break and just stop doing that?”
Perhaps these creatures, even micro-organisms, have much to teach us about being cheerfully persistent. First, the pests are persistent without worry. If I happened to get to the ripened blueberries before the birds, those birds would just move onto other bushes. Did not Jesus also say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26) The birds won’t be beating themselves up about their success or failure. Secondly, pests are just that, pesty! They do not stop, ever. But as humans, we make plans and schemes and then beat ourselves up when things don’t go as we’d hoped. We repeatedly try and fail, but unlike the pests, our failings erode our confidence in ourselves and/or our faith.
Even if we feel that we falter in every attempt to do what is right, we must continue on, in God’s holy name. God loves persistence. When we get up once again with God in mind, we are building in persistence. We are building in confidence by turning in faith to the One who holds us, no matter the outcome. As it says in verse 35, “therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which is a great reward.” In recognition of God’s persistence within us, God just wants us to keep seeking the divine presence. It is not how many times we try and fail, but that in our trying, we turn back to God, and then get up again.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
What is a part of your life that causes you to struggle? Where/how do you doubt in your faith or ability to trust God? Write these down in a prayer journal or phone a friend.
How about calling on God and giving your doubts over to our Lord?
Prayer: Merciful God, you are our steadfast redeemer. Like the birds in the air and the pests on the ground, we want to persistently know you. Thank you for being with us, even when we struggle. Help us to know your presence within us. Help us to be consistent in turning to you, even when we falter. Even in laying down, help us to get up in your holy name. Amen.