Paul is a fantastic case study in perseverance. There are several places in his considerable body of work where this is evident, but a notable example of this is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed …” He wrote four phrases that highlight his unwillingness to quit.
- “Hard-pressed, yet not crushed.” God promised that we would not be overwhelmed in temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13. If we look at trials and tests correctly, they can produce joy (James 1:2-4). When we are tested, we can come out as refined like silver (Psalm 66:8-12).
- “Perplexed, but not in despair.” It’s incredible to think how Job could lose everything dear to him, yet not curse God (Job 1:26). In fact, he was willing to repent of some of his hasty statements against God (42:1-6). Joseph was a young man who was treated unfairly by his own family, but he had God with him (Acts 7:9-16). Our hope in Christ serves as an anchor for our soul against despair (Hebrews 6:19).
- “Persecuted, but not forsaken.” Every Christian should expect persecution in some form (2 Timothy 3:12), and consider ourselves blessed when we undergo it (Matthew 5:10-12). Paul went through tremendous persecution but could confidently say God was with him (2 Corinthians 11:22-28; Hebrews 13:5; cp. Acts 16:20-25). He will not turn away from His children, but will instead allow them to experience full victory (Psalm 37:25; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 15:57).
- “Struck down, but not destroyed.” This is demonstrated so many times in the lives of New Testament people. At the end of his denial of Christ, Peter wept bitterly but did not give up his faith (Matthew 26:75; 2 Peter 1:1). Even though the publican was torn by his sins, he received forgiveness (Luke 18:13-14). The early Christians experienced persecution but they could still teach the gospel (Acts 8:1-4).
Perseverance is doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. The way to achieve persistence is to stay focused. When Peter got out of the boat, he kept his eyes on Jesus. That allowed him to walk on the water. But when he focused on the rough seas, he began to sink (Matthew 14:24-31). The moral of that narrative is to always look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He will not only serve as an encouragement, but will spur us to abandon fleshly lusts and conduct ourselves like Him (1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:6).