How do we persevere through those times that just don’t make sense – when there’s grief when there are questions when there’s hurt? We know where to be on the alert because our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). We literally live in a war zone, not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).
We don’t want to live in fear of persecution, but we need to be prepared and built up spiritually so we’re not destroyed by it – instead, we are refined. God gave us the pearl that cannot be formed without irritation. And He gave us the diamond that cannot be formed and created without heat and pressure over time. How does God refine and perfect us when we’re going through the fiery trials?
1. The Fruit of the Spirit is grown in the soil of adversity.
- Suffering develops perseverance. When we’re going through testing and trials, we need to walk out our authority in our prayer life. We need to be consecrated – made holy – so that circumstances don’t crush us, but rather we soldier on, and we experience growth of character.
- “We glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)
- “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
- Perseverance develops character – which is the Fruit of the Spirit. Think about the things that make up character – goodness, kindness, faithfulness, self-control – that’s the Fruit of the Spirit. The soil of adversity is what develops that fruit. You cannot grow that fruit otherwise.
When you cultivate the Fruit of the Spirit in your life by persevering through fiery trials, you are building character. You’re known as someone who can be trusted. Believers and non-believers alike will have respect and honor for you because of the person you are. You’re loyal, you’re honest, you’re dependable.
You want to be able to move in such a way that people identify your heart and they see Jesus in you in how you behave and how you handle things. And persevering through persecution builds that kind of character in you.
Someone of low character – you don’t trust them. They’re duplicitous, double-minded, double-tongued. You can’t count on them. So, what happens when a person goes through suffering and persecution and has low character? When they don’t allow the Holy Spirit to grow them through the process? They turn, they bail, they sell out Jesus. That’s what Judas did…and he was one of the twelve.
- Character develops hope. As we develop character, this brings hope or confident expectation – not wishful thinking, but a happy certainty. And you don’t just feel hope – you represent hope! You exhibit a confident expectation of good – it’s not just an emotion – you actually represent hope. Other people then start to catch it.
2. Persecution produces perseverance, but how do we persevere?
- You stand. Having done everything, you stand.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13 NIV)
Think about the armor of God – there’s nothing on my backside to protect my rear. I’m not supposed to run from the fight. I don’t have to run to it, but I will stand. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger! Persevering means that dogged determination that I’m going to come out the other side victorious – I’m going to raise a hallelujah and sing the high praises of God, I’m going to pray in the Spirit, I’m going to claim the promises of God, and I’m going to stand firm until the devil is defeated because my God is just that good!
- Realize that if you embrace the refining fire, you can look for Jesus in that furnace.
That stuff you’re going through, you find Jesus in the furnace with you – just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You can walk through that furnace not smelling like smoke, unbound, even though you were bound when you went in. Not burned, not signed or even smelling it. You’re going to come out purified on the other side.
“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2b-3a NIV)
3. What are the results of perseverance?
- You have a testimony – you represent hope.
Anytime you go through a struggle or a trial or a situation, how you handle it is being watched by the people around you. And when you do it differently than any other person, they’re going to go, “What is with you? How are you able to stand?”
That’s why the testimony is so powerful! It’s because He’s good. He gets us through to the other side. So then we share about what we’ve been through, and how He got us to the other side. That lets people know there’s an invitation from Him because they can do the same things. He’ll do it for anyone who embraces Him through the process.
- He turns our mourning into dancing.
You’re going to have to be ready to have some persecution. It doesn’t feel good. That’s why it’s called suffering. But consider it pure joy. Joy? Excuse me? Yes! Joy! He is refining us, and ultimately He turns our mourning into dancing.
- “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11 NIV)
- “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 17 NIV)
We know who wins! So we can celebrate the goodness of God in the midst of this warzone.
And the end of the day we remember that our Father God is good, He is kind, He is faithful. He is an intimate God that cares about every detail of our lives. In every moment of our lives, He is with us. There’s nothing that gets past Him!
He is making all things new. When we allow His Spirit to work in us through seasons of suffering, He prepares us and He gives us clarity of His voice. We are refreshed by His word. Even when we read scriptures that we have read before over and over, they jump off the page with a new revelation that will become life. When we die to the flesh, then He redeems our flawed weaknesses. As His holy priesthood and His royal bride, He works through us to reverse any damage done by the enemy.
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