This past week as I was doing one of my workouts (a new routine in my life thanks to COVID-19), the online trainer said, “Come on! Be stubborn in the struggle!” I know I was supposed to be paying attention to what I was doing, but my mind automatically was drawn to the current situation we are all facing right now. When times are as challenging as they are today, we can become overwhelmed, frustrated, and exhausted. We want to cry out, “Uncle!” But when she said the word “stubborn,” my ears perked up. We usually think of stubbornness as a negative trait, but there are times when stubbornness is necessary—like now!
I shared a tweet not too long ago. It said something like, “We can do hard things!” Life can be hard at times, and persistence is often needed to overcome challenging situations. It takes resilience, for example, to navigate a pandemic when you are an educator! Any worthwhile task requires a certain level of stubbornness to achieve our objective. However, for some reason many in our society have lost sight of the importance of hard work. It seems as if many individuals want everything to come easy. Consider the illustrations below.
· People want to lose weight, but they don’t want to watch what they eat.
· Athletes want to win games, but they don’t want to practice.
· Students want good grades, but they don’t want to study.
· Aspiring leaders want to be in charge, but they don’t want to endure the learning years.
· Christians want to grow spiritually, but they don’t want to spend time in God‘s Word and in prayer.
I’m sure most of us have fallen into a similar mindset at one time or another. Unfortunately, it is part of our sinful nature to want something for nothing. God had a different plan in mind. From the beginning we were made to work. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to tend it and enjoy it. Work wasn’t meant to be drudgery. It only became difficult when sin entered the world.
If we aren’t careful, our avoidance of hard work—our refusal to be stubborn in the struggle—can lead to laziness. I suspect all of us have witnessed this during our teaching careers. I can remember a particular student who had so much potential, but when the slightest difficulty arose, she would simply quit. She refused to work hard at anything, especially a challenge.
To navigate change, there is often a struggle. This is especially true in our Christian walk. If we are to thrive, we must be stubborn in the struggle to live a disciplined, obedient life. Satan wants nothing more than for us to give up when life becomes difficult. He doesn’t want us to be stubborn and victorious; instead, he wants us to be weak and defeated.
So how do we remain stubborn in the struggle? Here are a few thoughts to consider.
1. Identify the struggle and pledge to work hard. Call it what it is, and acknowledge that it is going to take effort to succeed. Sometimes the first step is simply reminding ourselves, “This is going to be tough! I am going to have to work at this.”
2. When discouragement looms and the feeling of frustration or angst threatens to take hold, start speaking the Word of God into your heart and mind. We must remind ourselves of who God is, what He is capable of, and who we are in Jesus Christ. Here are just a few verses that will help.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. I Corinthians 15:57-58
Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Isaiah 40:28-29
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. Psalm 37:23-24
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18
3. Seek out Godly counsel. I find it is freeing to verbalize my struggles with someone else. Be particular. The person in whom you confide needs to be someone who will speak the truth of God’s Word. Sometimes we have a tendency to go to those people that will tell us what we want to hear, but that may not be what is best for us. We need an honest, Godly confidant.
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
4. Set a positive and reachable goal or target. Look at your current situation and determine a proactive next step. Take action—any action! Your next step doesn’t have to change the world. It simply has to get your focus on your ability to positively impact your circumstances. Don’t be idle. You can trust God to be there in the struggle.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
5. Finally, figure out how you can do you something good for someone else. Serving someone who has a greater need shifts the focus away from our situation and helps us keep our struggle in perspective.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. I Peter 4:10
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
Regardless of your struggle, you can be certain the enemy is behind it. We have to fight back, work hard, and be stubborn. As Christians, we are strong. Don’t settle for a life of defeat. Jesus came so we could live an abundant life, one that is full of joy and peace (John 10:10, Galatians 5:22). It doesn’t mean there won’t be struggles, but we can’t cower. We have to push our shoulders back, stand up straight, plant our feet on the Word of God, and take action. Let’s be stubborn in the struggle! We can do this!
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13