August 16 – Perseverance – With irritating people

Read Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 and Hebrews 12:14-15

“Oh no, Uncle Joe is coming to dinner?” 

You know what I am talking about. Every family has one . . . a grouchy old uncle who doesn’t seem to like anyone or anything. He just makes everyone in the family on edge until he doses off in the Lazy Boy chair in the living room. Maybe in your life it isn’t an uncle.  Perhaps it is a neighbor, a child, a parent or a fellow employee. When you see them heading your way, you just know the rest of the encounter will not be good!  Your first thought is to run the other way.  However, God tells us to persevere with them! Jesus tells us to make every effort to live in peace! But surely He never had to spend some time with my Uncle Joe!  And maybe that is exactly why Uncle Joe is the way he is!  It just might be up to you to introduce Uncle Joe to Jesus and help him learn how to live in peace.

Jesus may not have had to spend time with an “Uncle Joe” but He did have to deal with irritating people including the Devil himself!  The Sadducees and Pharisees were constantly buzzing around Him like annoying gnats trying to catch Him in a lie.  Jesus stayed calm and then let the word of God lead the way and get to the heart of the problem. I know being on a road trip without my GPS or a good map can make me very irritated.  Can you imagine going through life without God’s road map to guide your way? You don’t need to only read the Bible but LIVE it.  Show God’s love, confident in His guidance and direction.

Listen more and talk less. We need to really listen to others, not just their words but the meaning behind their words.  What are they really trying to tell you? Or better yet, what AREN’T they telling you?  Do they just want to be listened to?  Are they feeling left out, ignored? Remember God gave you two ears and only one mouth.  Listen more, talk less.

Calmly listening to “Uncle Joe” might be all that is needed.  What makes him tick? What does he like to do for fun?  What was his childhood like? Sometimes they just want to be heard, included, valued. 

Persevering takes time, not just writing someone off because they are difficult to deal with.  Our verses today tell us to be patient and not respond in haste. Remember, nothing is more important than you being “Christ” to someone.  Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy because, without holiness, no one will see the Lord!

Pat Arnold

August 15 – Perseverance – With finances

Read Matthew 6:21

“No one can serve two masters…”

The 2022 movie ELVIS is a true story of greed. It is about a young man about 20 years old who had a great deal of musical talent. Many Americans embraced his music. His 1956 national TV appearance made him a star and he started to make large amounts of money. His parents were unable to mentor him and he had no one to guide him. He had some Christian church background but no knowledge of managing money. A greedy agent appeared named Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks) and talked Elvis into managing his money. He took practically all of Elvis’ fortune without Elvis even knowing it. Presley died in 1977 broke and drug addicted. He did not have a trusted mentor, direction or a way to manage his fortune. Many people said his music was great. But his story is sad, tragic and could have been avoided if he was able to manage money better. His manager’s love of money and his greed superseded his love of Elvis.

Jesus Christ and the apostles taught about the proper attitude toward the use of money.

Many verses tell us to avoid greed, which is an excessive desire to acquire more than what one needs.

“Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” 

Matthew 6:21

How can we keep money in perspective without being a “lover of money.”? While work ethic is vital in our lives, how do we avoid greed? How do we balance these? It requires awareness and accountability.

The goal is to not have a shred of dishonesty in ANY part of your life, including the handling of our money.

Having a mentor to keep you accountable or being a mentor can really help!

In describing a church leader, 1 Timothy 3:3 puts greed (money-hungry) in the same category as drunkenness, violence, and being quarrelsome.

“…not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

1 Timothy 3:3

Billy Graham made this statement a few years ago: “Money and success can never satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, no matter who we are. God made us for Himself, and when we leave Him out of our lives, an emptiness is left in our hearts that cannot be filled—except by Christ.”    

“Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”

Luke 12:15

In the United States, we are constantly tempted to trust in money and ourselves rather than Christ. Proverbs assures us that trusting in wealth will cause us to fall but trusting in God, or being righteous, will make us “thrive like a green leaf.”

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”

Proverbs 11:28

Let’s avoid greed in our lives.

What do you treasure?

Tom Weckesser

August 14 – Perseverance – With temptation

Read Matthew 4:1-11

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the multitude of ways that Satan tries to pull me down.  Sometimes I feel like it is his full-time job to tempt me.  He loves to bring up my past failures time and time again.  He knows the areas that I am weakest.  He knows the things that strengthen my relationship with God and loves to find ways to creatively pull me away from my Savior.  There are times when it appears that Satan is obviously attempting and attacking.  And he prowls around like a lion waiting for its prey.   Sometimes these schemes of the devil may seem harmless at first but all he wants is to trip us up, allowing him a foothold.

Temptation is no stranger to mankind.  The tempter was there in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and he is present in this day and age to tempt us into sin.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was no stranger to temptation.  As we read in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus faced temptation just like us.  He was in the wilderness for FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS where He was fasting.  Imagine for a moment going without food for even a week.  What would you be willing to give up for a bite to eat or something to drink? 

Satan tempts Jesus and tries to take the Lord’s focus on to His hunger:

“Turn these stones in to bread”

But look how Jesus responded in his hunger:

“It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”

Jesus could have given in and fed himself.  But he didn’t!

I think there is something very important here for us to understand about dealing with temptation.  We do not have the will power to fight temptation each time it comes.  But God gives us the weapon and armor we need to fight the battle when we face temptation.  Jesus had the Word of God to strengthen Him in His time of need.  He recited Scripture, the Word of Truth, back to the tempter. 

If that worked for the Lord, then it would do us well to do the same. 

Study the word and memorize it so that, when the enemy attacks you, then you have a sword and shield to go into battle.

Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted just like we are.  We need not give in to our temptation.  We are in a daily battle with our enemy the devil and he wants to kill and destroy.  It is important for us to realize the importance of fact that we are in a daily battle.  We need the constant reminder to daily PUT ON the full armor of God.  Our battle is not of this world but we are fighting against powerful dark and evil forces.  Be prepared to fight.  Take a moment and turn to Ephesians 6:10 – 18.  This should be a way to prepare daily for all believers. 

Armor up.

Jesus was in the wilderness alone and starving for 40 days and nights but He did not give in to the temptations He faced.  He was strengthened by the Word of God and sought to obey and serve the Father. 

Do not allow the evil one to take your focus away from following God. Put on the armor of God and stand strong!

Nate Mills 

August 13 – Perseverance – When offended

Read Colossians 3:12-17

I don’t look at our reading today from the lens of being offended, I look at it from the lens of doing the offending.

It prompts me to go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness for all of the times, whether recent or not, that I have not shown the characteristics in these verses. When we are fully surrendered followers of Jesus, there is a different priority that is placed in front of us… people.

If that is our priority, how often do we fall short?

Having been offended with remarks from others with comments ranging from how I look to how I worship, I take it before the Lord. I remember that who I am is WHOSE I am. What someone thinks of my features or the opinions they may have of my expressions in song should hold no weight in comparison to who Jesus says I am:

“Chosen…holy and beloved…”.

How we respond to others who should hold the same standard and priority of life as us is an exact representation of our maturity and walk of faith.

I say this because of what Paul writes to the church of Colossae. 

Here is a church of about 50 who have been struggling with their identity and the world around them screaming false teaching and culture into their lives.

Paul is reminding them of WHOSE they are, what they are capable of because of Christ, that they are to hold their foundation in the word. 

Paul gives us characteristics to actively put on in response to one another, and I will be the first one to admit that I fail at this. The Lord teaches us that His spirit is our helper and is available. It is through His strength, His power, that we can put these on and wear them for, not only the lost, but for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Something I love about my hometown in Florida is that about 10-20 pastors from many different churches in the county get together each month for fellowship and prayer. These men get together, not out of obligation, but because they know that they are one body, called to bring Jesus to the lost, called to make disciples who make disciples. They are all working toward the same goal. 

Paul is reminding the church of Collosiea and us that we need to dwell within God’s Word. We need to dwell within His truth. If we are surrounded by the noise, lies, opinions, comments of others, words and actions, how will we ever grow into the person He has intended for us to be? 

I challenge you, as the one who has been offended, walk through these verses again: how can you respond back to the person who offended you? How can you respond back to the Lord?

I challenge you, as the one who has offended, walk through these verses again, go before the Lord, surrender your ways and open your life to starting anew with the character you are called to in Christ.

Kelly Lawson

August 12 – Perseverance – With self esteem

Read Psalm 139:13-14

A woman knits a blanket. Row by row, she holds the yarn, wraps the needles, works her hands until her creation is complete. As she finishes her project, she inspects each stitch. This woman knows her blanket inch by inch. She has searched it thoroughly, even as she created its very form. She knows the value of her creation, and, no matter what happens to it now, that value will never change in her eyes.

I wonder if David pictured something like this when he wrote Psalm 139. He knew what it was like to create a masterpiece. He had created so many of the songs you and I know as the Psalms, knitting words together, inspecting each stanza, forming each phrase. Each one holds distinct value even now, thousands of years after he wrote them. Just as God had distinctly woven together David’s very being before he was born, so David had carefully crafted Psalm 139:

“You have searched me, LORD…and you know me.”

When he wrote this psalm, David constructed it in such a way as to focus on the praise due to the One who had carefully and wonderfully created him. The God who had distinctly defined his very person. David knew that his worth was totally tied up in the distinct value his Creator had assigned each stitch of his person. His worth would never change, no matter what anyone said. The enemies David mentioned in verses 19-22 could never change the value his Creator had given him from day one. No matter what might happen to disfigure his shape or mar his character, David knew his value would never diminish because the God who created him was an excellent Creator who only makes wonderful works. 

And this is how we persevere when our worth feels gone.

When we feel beaten down, having failed yet again, still our value remains unchanged. When we see ourselves as broken and unworthy of love, the God of the universe, who knit us together stitch by stitch, sees His beautiful creation, full of value. 

You see, the value is actually not about us at all. It’s about Him. And He is the perfect Creator whose works are only ever full of wonder and worth everything to Him!

Bria Wasson

August 11 – Perseverance – While experiencing grief

Read Ecclesiastes 7:2

To persevere is to continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.

Grief is such a weird thing, isn’t it? Most of us have experienced some type of grief of our own which makes the word itself feel heavy. Today I want to talk about grief, not our own, but grief that those around us are feeling.

Awkward topic, I know, just stick with me!

When someone we’re close to loses a loved one or is going through some big life event and is feeling grief, we often don’t want to say anything because we don’t want to “say the wrong thing” or “remind them of it”.  One thing that I have learned through my own personal grief was that I wanted so badly for someone to just talk to me about it. Here’s the thing : unfortunately, if someone is carrying the pain of grief around with them, you asking them about how they’re doing isn’t going to remind them of anything, because it’s something they are often thinking about. If they’ve lost someone they love, it’s probably the ONLY thing on their mind and you talking with them about it isn’t making them remember something they forgot.

When we walk past people in the hallways at church, past them at the store, or see them at an outing, we often have the same shallow conversation. I’m sure you know what I mean. That conversation usually goes like this:

“Hi, how’re you?”

“Oh, I’m good and you?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

Friends, I want to challenge you to persevere in the conversation, especially if you know that person is carrying grief around with them. Challenge their answer. I’m not saying to push them or to be mean, but I mean to lovingly respond to their “I’m good” with an “Are you really?” or “How are you actually?”

The Bible tells us in many spots to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says:

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

Sometimes, when it comes to loving those around us, it takes getting a little uncomfortable and pressing on with those we love to mourn with them. Sometimes it’s just saying, “I am here with you. I can’t take away the pain, but I can walk with you through it.” Just being willing to sit with someone in their grief will help them to persevere and reach a place of healing.

We were not created to do it alone and we’re called to walk through life with one another.

Walking through life together also means walking through death together. It’s okay to not know what to say- just show up. Love them where they are and let God use you to help your people see HIM through their pain. That’s why we show up.

Who do you know that is grieving something? Someone you could call or text today and check in on? Send the text or make the call. I promise you, it will mean so much to them!

Michelle Perrino

August 10 – Perseverance – When things go right

Read Hebrews 12:2 and Ephesians 6:17-18

Dolly Parton is the fourth of 12 children and grew up in an extremely poor home. She married Dean, who is now retired from running an asphalt road-paving business. Dolly suffered from endometriosis, a condition which eventually required her to undergo a hysterectomy. So they don’t have children of their own.

In interviews and in her music, she has looked back on her destitute upbringing, concluding that, while she values the lessons it taught her, she would not want to go back.

She wrote a song titled, “When life is good again”:

“When life is good again

I’ll be a better friend,

A bigger person when,

Life is good again,

More thoughtful than I’ve been,

I’ll be so different then,

More in the moment…

I’ll open up my heart,

And let the whole world in,

I’ll try to make amends…”

Parton sings that she will prioritize her personal relationships and share her appreciation for life when life is good again.

Whether things are going right or wrong in our lives, we must persevere – with persistent effort despite opposition – in our relationships. Work to improve relationships with others. Continue to talk and listen to God.

“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” Ephesians 6:13-15

Because God’s gift of salvation is an eternal gift, believers should persevere in the Christian life, whatever the circumstances.

To persevere when things go right, we need to keep God first!

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

When things go right, you are most vulnerable.

On November 30, 2013, Alabama and Auburn were playing in a college football game. With the score 28 to 28, there was one second left in the game. Alabama attempted to win the game with a 43-yard field goal attempt. What happened next was unforgettable for anybody who watched it, including me (see video below).

When things go well, you cannot relax! Be prepared for trials.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James 1:2,4

Dolly Parton’s attitude of perseverance is admirable. Take time today to patiently listen to God and develop an attitude of perseverance, regardless of your circumstances. 

Tom Weckesser

August 9 – Perseverance – When things go wrong

Read James 1:2-4

Throughout this series, we have read about the many areas that we are called to persevere through. You may find yourself relating to some topics more than others, but I think it’s important to read and study about what to do, in general, when things go wrong.

On June 14, 2019, Kelly and I were preparing to put Mattie (who was 2.5 years old at the time) down for a nap. We had just gotten back from the hospital where my Grandma was in hospice. We planned to head back after Mattie got up as his naps are important (as any parent knows).

Kelly was about to take Mattie downstairs when mom called. Thinking nothing of it, I picked up.

“Hey, Momma.”

“Honey, you know I love you, right?”

My spirit dropped.

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“Your grandma is with Jesus.”

I have tears in my eyes writing this as I recall the initial wave of grief that came over me. My entire life, Grandma was an incredible source of joy and comfort. I remember calling her and Grandpa as a little boy and talking with them for hours.

Kelly stayed with Mattie as I drove back to the hospital, meeting my brother in the lobby. As we embraced, the tears started.

In the days that came, we were confronted with very real grief and pain.

I love the book of James. In chapter 1, we read a few verses about how our faith can become stronger:

“…because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

It’s easy to ask, “Why God? Why would you allow this to happen? Why would you take her from us? Sure, she was sick, but why now?”

The testing of your faith produces endurance.

As our family gathered around Grandma’s body in the room, Dad re-centered all of us and said that, if you were in the room when she passed, you were on holy ground because she was taken to the feet of Jesus from the spot where she laid. We were challenged to “be a Lawson” as Grandma was THE example: passionately worship God and love unconditionally.

I feel like I cried for days.

The testing of your faith produces endurance.

We knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Grandma was healed of all her pain and worshiping her Savior who she spent a lifetime serving.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Not one member of our family is complete in their faith. But I can tell you that my faith grew as a result of Grandma passing. I grew closer to God because of the hope that He offers us through His death and resurrection from the dead, paying for the price of sin that I deserved to pay.

As you read this, I challenge you to ask yourself how you respond to life when it takes a turn for the worse? How do you react when Jesus seems so far away? Do you wallow in the pain or do you lean into the grace and peace of Christ?

It’s hard. Believe me, I know.

However, I can tell you, when you look back over a time in your life where you leaned in rather than drifted away, you know that your faith grew a little stronger and you grew more into the person God created you to be.

Lean in to Jesus today!

Jake Lawson

August 8 – Perseverance – While displaying kindness

Read Psalm 141:5 and Ephesians 4:29

When I think of perseverance, I begin to sweat. I feel drenched, exhausted, and short of breath. You see, perseverance reminds me of training to be a stand-out athlete with lots of running and exercise. In order to be a good athlete, you must train and practice over and over. And so, all that practice and working out makes me think of running, lifting weights and…sweating.

Not my cup of tea.

I can think of other pursuits I would rather persevere towards. One such area would be to pursue kindness. We hear the slogan “Be Kind” in a lot of places today. It’s on t-shirts, posters, and embedded in children’s programming.

A single act of kindness here and there is not all that hard to achieve.

When a teacher encourages students to be kind in the classroom, they will look for a dropped pencil to pick up, or assist a fellow student in picking up trash in the hallway. Often, when students are caught being kind, they are rewarded with a treat or recognition. As an adult, it is not that difficult to contribute to a community food drive or help a neighbor care for their pets. We feel good about ourselves when we are kind.

Living a consistent lifestyle that demonstrates kindness requires perseverance. Being kind sometimes requires a person to share some hard truth. Perhaps a child needs to be corrected for inappropriate behavior, or a spouse needs to be reminded that their words hurt, or an employee needs to be told about a mistake they made. It would be easy to look the other way and ignore these problems, but it wouldn’t be kind. In the moment, the truth may not seem kind, and may not be received well. That’s why consistent kindness over time is important. Kind words and actions build trust and demonstrate love. Then, when a hard truth must be shared, it will be more easily swallowed.

Psalm 141:5 says

“Let the righteous man strike me – that is a kindness; let him rebuke me- that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of the evildoers.”

We all can begin training to be kind by following the advice found in Ephesians 4:29:

 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Pursuing kindness takes perseverance as it won’t happen overnight. It takes careful practice and repeated attempts to consistently respond with kindness. Perhaps you are a person who needs to accept the truthful words of a kind person. It can be difficult to hear that you aren’t doing something correctly or need to stop doing something hurtful. You may not even perceive the behavior as inappropriate, but let the kind words of a trusted advisor sink in and change you, even though it stings.

Use your words carefully today. Be kind…even if it requires a little sweat on your part.

Tammy Finney

August 7 – Perseverance – Being honest with others

Read Proverbs 21:28

I was about 25 years old when I realized exaggerating had turned into an actual weakness of mine. An innocent extra detail, a little too much give and take with the facts. I tended to sell a story but that’s exactly what it was, good storytelling! I came from a family of great storytellers! But soon, I felt a spiritual nudge that I might need some self-discipline in the area.

I remember when the two words found in this verse leaped out at me: False Witness. I imagined someone in a courtroom telling their story, exaggerating and being overdramatic and suddenly the prosecutor reveals he has video footage of the event. The witness shrinks as his testimony doesn’t match up. This is a false witness. When it came to my own life, specifically my failures and successes, did my story match my reality, or was I a false witness?

This subject can be an undetected snare for many, especially now that social media plays such a major role in our businesses and personal lives. We convince ourselves that we’re not actually lying, we’re just “buttering the bread” as everyone does. Trying to grow our businesses or keep up a good face for our extended families.

We withhold our mistakes and exaggerate our accomplishments.

We intensely want our lives to be better, or at least look better than others. It’s an unending cycle of living in want. And as today’s verse confirms, this mindset will only perish. When we spend all of our energy keeping up the illusion of success (be it as a parent, spouse, son, daughter, business owner, Christian, etc), we rarely have the energy to actually be a success.

So, how do we turn this ship around?

It’s not as hard as you think.

Ask the Holy Spirit to begin convicting you in this area. Ask Him to give you the strength to correct yourself in dishonest moments. And now, just follow through with it. Make yourself apologize anytime you bend the truth too much in a conversation, post, tweet, email or phone call. It’s so awkward, you’ll definitely want to not have to do it often!

I guarantee you will begin to feel lighter. Your authenticity will soon give you more confidence than your false confidence ever could! I don’t think our culture realizes how dishonest we are with one another and how bad it subconsciously makes us feel. Honesty with others feels amazing!  Once we stop trying to present ourselves as “who we wish we were”, we can start becoming “who God created us to be.” Christ is the one and only witness who can proclaim exactly who you are:

“and He says: ‘You are enough’”

Nate Torrence