Ed:Why do you think emerging leaders need the message of this book right now?
Doug: One of the weaknesses of contemporary Western culture is our lost appreciation of the power of perseverance. We stand on the shoulders of previous generations who understood this vital quality. The sad reality of our time is their hard-won advancements are now slowly being swept away in a flood of pleasure and entitlement.
Emerging Christian leaders must learn the value of the long pull, and that every advance in Kingdom work is the fruit of gritty courage, patient determination, and strong but gracious resistance to the deceitfulness of sin.
Christ’s redemption was not cheaply won. It will not be easily realized. We must view leadership – with eyes wide open – as a rewarding but challenging task. What distinguishes successful leaders from all others is their long-term dependence on the enabling grace of God. Such leaders are not heroes. They are common men and women who have discovered they can do all things through Christ who gives them strength.
Christ’s redemption, now fully purchased and freely given, is completed in each of us only after patient endurance through joys and sorrows, and wonderful moments of overcoming glory and sometimes desperate pain.
Leaders who thrive have prepared themselves for this reality. They walk with holy reverence for what Christ has done for the world, and have fixed their eyes “not on what is seen, but what is not seen,” namely the eternal purposes of God.
Ed: Why do people persevere? What makes people put up with difficulties, delays, and struggles?
Doug: The main reason people persevere is that they “see” something that is bigger than themselves or their current reality. There is no perseverance without vision. Vision inspires people about Who God is, and what He wants the world to be.
That vision, desired but unfulfilled, propels them to work and pray and push and wait and work even more, and never give up until it becomes reality. This is the story of the Bible, from Noah to the Apostle Paul. God gives people a vision, a divine assignment, to do or accomplish something that will change the world they know.
They courageously take ownership of that vision, and determine that they will, in obedience to God’s calling, do whatever it takes to complete the assignment, and not allow anyone or anything to take it away from them.
Ed: What are the three kinds of perseverance?
Doug: Everyday Endurance is our response to the difficult stuff that impacts our daily lives. Delays, disappointments, flat tires, impatient bosses, rude people, and failed grades at school interrupt our equilibrium and mess up our plans. How we respond is an indication in part of how much our lives are centered in Jesus Christ and his purposes.
Every mundane difficulty gives us an opportunity to learn and practice perseverance. In those moments, when we want to react in anger, but choose to respond with Christian kindness, we allow the grace of Jesus Christ to flow through us. In our patient obedience, God is glorified, and His message is reflected to the world.
Aspirations for Greatness are difficult endeavors – training to run a marathon, losing twenty pounds, launching a new business – that we voluntarily engage for a greater good. That greater good can be personal, even selfish.
But it can also be altruistic, where we give our lives to serve a noble cause, and sacrifice time and finances because we believe we can make a difference in the world.
Moral Courage is perhaps the most noble of all forms of perseverance. There are times when difficulty is thrust upon for no apparent reason. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers. Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den.
Paul suffered unjust treatment in a Roman prison. A child is struck down by illness or tragedy. Perseverance is our resolve to trust God despite our grief and circumstantial uncertainty. To lean on him even when the difficulty lasts long. It is in that trust that we experience a transcendent connection with God and His eternal purposes.
Ed: Share with us about the refining power of perseverance in your own journey toward fulfilling God’s purpose for your life.
Doug: My younger brother committed suicide when he was twenty-seven years old. He was living in southern California. Our family was in Thailand in missionary service. We came home to grieve with my family.
I remember during those many months of grief and sadness, when I poured out my pain to God, and witnessed the wrenching agony my parents endured, that God reminded me about his own grief when His Son suffered and died. Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isa. 53: 3).
Now I too, through this awful experience, became acquainted with grief. Grief came knocking at my door and I had to let him in. I didn’t want to, but grief came and joined himself to me. I look back now and see that God gave our family a gift. In terrible tragedy, He helped us experience in part what He experiences when people are destroyed by sin.
If we allow it to happen, and embrace grief and loss, our sorrows produce a Christ-like empathy for people who suffer. When we endure our pains, and lean into Jesus, we become more like the One who suffered for us. That lesson, now precious to me, has carried me forward through twenty-five years of further ministry.