“Just give me one more Lord, just one more,” said the bloody and wounded soldier as he cautiously lowered his injured comrades to the safe asylum the sandy beach offered. The army medic used every ounce of strength, praying to the Lord to help just one more incapacitated fighter. The edge of Maeda Escarpment in Okinawa, where Desmond Doss wrapped thick rope around his fellow soldiers to lower the wounded to a secure location, is a steep cliff where active military needed a cargo net to climb up and advance on the Japanese. Desmond Doss jeopardized his own life for the sake of seventy-five men. He single handedly rescued the wounded under heavy mortar and gunfire. President Harry Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to Doss on October 12, 1945. Persistent and overcoming obstacles, individuals have accomplished insurmountable feats when they are used by the Lord’s Spirit.
There is a woman in the Bible labeled persistent. Jesus of Nazareth taught His disciples the principle of persistence with a widow who would not be so easily deterred. The black cloth covered her head and part of her face as she quickly walked through the small city. The dirty roads were becoming a familiar sight; it was almost as if she could find her dusty footprints from the day before.
Passing the usual carts and day ol’ bread, the widow draws closer to the judge’s home. Tiresome as the walk was, she deserved the payment received from her adversary. Everyday she had promised her husband she would not stop until the scoundrel had received justice. The widow would make good on her promise.
Banging on the door to the well-groomed abode, the widow called to the judge, “Give me justice from my adversary!” No response. She hammered the door again, “Give me justice from my adversary!” The home loomed before her; quiet and complacent it seemed larger than life looking up toward the open window. Tomorrow would be another day, another day to alert the judge to her persistent demand. Truth and justice is what she insisted and would not stop until she received her just payment.
“Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart, saying, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and had no respect for man. There was a [desperate] widow in that city and she kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice and legal protection from my adversary.’ For a time he would not; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will give her justice and legal protection; otherwise by continually coming she [will be an intolerable annoyance and she] will wear me out.’”
Then the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and avenge His elect [His chosen ones] who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [in providing justice] on their behalf? I tell you that He will defend and avenge them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)
Webster’s Dictionary defines persistent as: existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously; continuing without change in function or structure. Persist is defined as: to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning; to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position. The widow in Luke 18 was persistent. Luke explains, “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1) What I like most regarding our Savior’s words, “will He find faith on the earth when He comes?”
If you desire anything in life, the task at hand will require persistence. My husband and I enjoy watching testimonies of survival and overcoming tremendous obstacles. We often shake our heads saying, “How did they do that?” Many survived in extreme weather conditions, some survived test and trials through unforeseen consequences caused by others. One of our favorite movies is Cinderella Man with Russel Crowe. James “Jimmy” Braddock was a boxer who fell on hard times during the Great Depression of the 1920/30s. He broke his hand and was thought to never box again. Surviving cold winters and working on the docks, James Braddock was given a few fights to help the contenders prepare for upcoming competitions. Little did anyone know, including Braddock, he would go on to win the Heavyweight Champion of the World. He was known as the “Bulldog of Bergen, Pride of the Irish, Pride of New Jersey, and Cinderella Man.” He inspired many down on their luck. He never gave up, he never quit, and he persisted during one of the most challenging times in American History.
Soldiers, boxers, and survivalists are unsurprised persistent contenders. Some believe they just have it in them to be persistent and never give up, but that is not true. What of the missionaries spreading the Gospel for Christ? Corrie ten Boom’s story of persistent through tragic and horrific genocide rings as one of the most inspirational.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who harbored Jews during the Holocaust. She, along with her Christian family, were imprisoned for their actions and sent to Scheveningen prison to Herzogenbusch and finally to Ravensbruck concentration camp. She was held in solidary confinement and after three months given a hearing.
Corrie was sent to a women’s labor camp where hard work was a daily necessity. Her sister, Betsie ten Boom, died on December 16, 1944, and professed, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. Corrie was release ten days later only to find out she escaped the gas chambers by one week due to a clerical error.
These are amazing testimonies of persistence. It’s the I will not give up attitude, the I will fight to the finish, and the It’s ON attitude. I think the most amazing aspect, especially with Corrie ten Boom, is the tenacity to forgive after the horrific sacrifice to survive. She was able to forgive, through God’s grace, the perpetrators who tortured and killed so many innocent people.
How do we attain this persistent attitude? I believe the only way many can ever reach this desire is through prayer and scripture. “He will pay back to each person according to his deeds [justly, as his deeds deserve]: to those who by persistence in doing good seek [unseen but certain heavenly] glory, honor, and immortality, [He will give the gift of] eternal life. But those who are selfishly ambitious and self seeking and disobedient to the truth, but responsive to wickedness, there will be wrath and indignation” (Romans 2:6-8).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
“Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3). Jesus was persistent; persistent to shedding drops of blood as He called unto the Father for His will. Persistent to endure the mocking, shaming, spitting, whipping, cursing, pain, and death on the cross, Jesus epitomized the very definition of persist: to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning; to remain unchanged or fixed in a specified character, condition, or position.
We cannot quit. Christians are called to never cease in prayer, to be the peacemakers, to bless those who persecute us, to be salt and light, to spread the Gospel, and to never give up hope. All of these aspects of the Christian faith require persistence. How can we stop praying because we see no results? How are we to give up so easily when we get tired? Read this testimony of faith and persistence before we pray….
“William Carey was a young man in England in the late 1780s. William was obsessed with the conviction that the church must take God’s Word to every nation. At this time most Protestants were not active in missionary activity. (The Moravians and their pioneering efforts were the major exception.)
Carey kept urging his fellow pastors to set up a missionary agency, but they always seemed to have more urgent problems closer to home. At one meeting an elder pastor reportedly snapped at him: ‘Young man, sit down. When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without consulting you or me.’
But William Carey simply would not let anything stand in the way. The obstacles he faced were many and menacing, any one of which would have given most of us cause to turn back. A few examples:
Lack of Formal Training
William Carey did not go to school beyond the age of 12 when he became a cobbler’s apprentice. He was educationally unqualified. Yet he knew God had given him a great gift for languages, and this must be used to share Christ with other cultures.
When Carey was preparing for ordination in 1785, he was rejected when he gave his first sermon as a candidate. It took two more years for him to be eventually ordained to the ministry.
Indifference of Colleagues
William Carey’s missionary concern was ignored until in 1792. He produced one of the most important books in all of church history: An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians. In it he argued that Christ’s “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20 was not just to the apostles, but to Christians of all periods. It proved to be kind of the charter of the modern Protestant missionary movement. Carey showed that if Christians want to claim the comforts and promises of the New Testament, they must also accept the commands and instructions given there. Soon after the publication he delivered a famous sermon in which he admonished Christian leaders to ‘expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.’ His colleagues formed a missionary society and sent Carey as their first missionary to India, along with a Dr. John Thomas.
Carey and his wife Dorothy lost three small children. In India, Dorothy progressively lost her sanity and could not cope with the strain of living at a subsistence level in India. They had three other young children to raise. No one would have blamed them if they had decided to pack it in and sail back home to more familiar and comfortable surroundings, but they stayed on.
William Carey spent seven years in India before seeing his first convert. And then there was the problem of the persecution of anyone who became a Christian because it meant breaking caste in India.
At the time in India there were practices that Carey had to oppose as a Christian: children were sacrificed to the gods; widows were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres.
The Obstacle List Goes On
There was official opposition from the British East India Company, which did not want missionaries in India. There was the disastrous fire in 1812 at the mission printing plant that destroyed years of Carey’s translation work. There were repeated attacks of malaria and cholera, impoverished living conditions, insufficient funds to eke out even a minimal existence. Carey had to take up secular employment just to survive.
All For What?
Was it worth it? Beyond a doubt! William Carey formed a team of colleagues (the Serampore Trio) whose accomplishments elevated them to first magnitude in all missions history. Carey’s team translated the Bible in 34 Asian languages, compiled dictionaries of Sanskrit, Marathi, Panjabi, and Telegu–respected even today as authoritative; started the still influential Serampore College; began churches and established 19 mission stations; formed 100 rural schools encouraging the education of girls; started the Horticultural Society of India; served as a professor at Fort William College, Calcutta; began the weekly publication ‘THE FRIEND OF INDIA,’ (continued today as ‘THE STATESMAN’); printed the first Indian newspaper; introduced the concept of the savings bank to assist poor farmers. His fight against the burning of widows (‘SATI’ ) helped lead to its ban in 1829. We could go on if space permitted, but you get the idea. Equally important is the vision that Carey raised for missions. William Carey’s life inspired tens of thousands to give themselves for the spread of the Gospel.”1