PERSEVERANCE: "THEY NEVER COULD KEEP ME DOWN" (Part 11)
Psalm 129 (ESV)1 "Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth"- let Israel now say- 2 "Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. 3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows." 4The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. 5May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! 6Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up, 7with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms, 8nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”
Tough Faith: The people of God are tough. For long centuries those who belong to the world have waged war against the way of faith, and they have yet to win. Christian faith needs to be as tough as a perennial that can stick it out through storm and drought, survive the trampling of careless feet and the attacks of vandals. The person of true faith outlasts all the oppressors. Faith lasts.
Jesus’ ministry began with forty days of temptation and concluded with his crucifixion. There were cunning attempts to get him off track, every temptation disguised as a suggestion for improvement, offered with the best of intentions to help Jesus in the ministry on which he had so naively and innocently set out. The way of Jesus’ faith is the way our faith should be. It is not a fad that is taken up in one century only to be discarded in the next. It is a way that works. It has been tested thoroughly.
Cut Cords, Withered Grass: The life of the world that is opposed or indifferent to God is barren and futile. It is naively thinking you might get a harvest of grain from that shallow patch of dirt on a shelf of rock. The way of the world is marked by proud, God-defying purposes, unharnessed from eternity and therefore worthless and futile. As this Psalm points out the world’s way results in withered grass which comes to nothing at the harvest.
The Passion of Patience: For who does not experience flashes of anger at those who make our way hard and difficult? There are times in the long obedience of Christian discipleship when we get tired and fatigue draws our tempers short. In this time we look to God to give us patience and fill us with love. We all make mistakes in this walk, just as the psalmist did in Psalm 129, but perseverance does not mean perfection. It means that we keep on going right through all the people that make our way more treacherous. We will not learn by swallowing our sense of outrage, or excusing all wickedness as a neurosis. We will do it by offering up our anger to God, who trains us in creative love.
God Sticks with Us: The cornerstone sentence of Psalm 129 is “The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.” The emphasis is on his dependable personal relationship. He is always there for us. That he fights for us is the reason Christians can look back over a long life crisscrossed with cruelties, unannounced tragedies, unexpected setbacks, sufferings, disappointments, depressions, and see it all as a road of blessings. The central reality for Christians is the personal, unalterable, persevering commitment God makes to us. Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness. Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own.
Purposes Last: The Christian faith is the discovery of the God who sticks with us, the righteous God. Christian discipleship is a responsive decision to walk in his ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that His way integrates all our interests, passions and gifts, our human needs and our eternal aspirations. It is the way of life we were created for. It is the way of life that does not end in a weak and withered harvest but one blessed by the righteous LORD.
(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)