Going through the motions

(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX – Sept. 29, 2016) I stroll through the neighborhood at a slower pace these days. My old dog enjoys the extra time to dawdle. This, I tell myself, is fresh air but not exercise. I’m only trying to keep moving until my injured knee is strong again.

My friend Ann has faced much greater perseverance. Her life is mostly on hold since she joined the fellowship of those who suffer. Though she believes in God and trusts in his goodness, she has no assurance that her ordeal will end anytime soon. She knows for sure that “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).1

Ann’s spiritual disciplines have proved vital to maintaining a healthy perspective. But she struggles some days, feeling that she’s merely going through the motions. “I still go to my prayer chair,” she says, “because it’s a habit; otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Many days I don’t want to do it.”

Like physical food, daily prayer and Bible reading strengthen Ann whether she has an appetite for them or not. Her spirit receives sustenance for an hour, a morning, or sometimes an entire day.

Theologian Eugene Peterson says people of faith can overcome the oppression of adversity but need to examine their pre-conceived ideas. He asks the question: “Do you think of Christian faith as a fragile style of life that can flourish only when weather conditions are just right, or do you see it as a tough perennial that can stick it out through storm and drought, survive the trampling of careless feet and the attacks of vandals?”2 

The apostle Paul pleaded three times with the Lord to remove a “thorn in his flesh.” Instead, the Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Accepting this, Paul persevered despite hardships and calamities, saying, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (verse 10).

Perseverance does not mean perfection, according to Peterson. “It means that we keep going,” he says. “We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but because God is righteous, because God sticks with us.”3

It means putting one foot in front of the other to keep walking—though weakly—in the truth of Colossians 1:17, “And [Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

[1This and all scriptures here from the English Standard Version; 2Long Obedience in the Same Direction, by Eugene H. Peterson, InterVarsity Press, 2nd edition, page 126; 3ibid., page 131]

By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter of Heath.  


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