Lessons on Perseverance from 1 Peter
When I was in college, I had a roommate who would run long distances several times a week. Although I worked out, I never ran the distances he did. However, one day I spontaneously decided to go on a twenty-mile run with him—you know, just for fun. We ran ten miles into farm country and then turned back.
Here is the thing with a long-distance run: Once you hit the halfway point and turn around, you have to persevere to actually get back. (Yes, this was before cell phones could bring a rescuer to your aid.) So, I did. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered and made it home.
Persevering in Faith
Just like running long-distance takes perseverance, so does life. As we all know, life can be hard, and we must find a way to persevere. This is one of the major themes in 1 Peter. This book helps us answer three questions about perseverance: (1) why do we need it? (2) what is it? and (3) how do we get it?
Perseverance: Why Do We Need It?
To be blunt, we need perseverance because life can be really hard. Consider these excerpts from 1 Peter:
- “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1:6)
- “when they speak against you as evildoers” (2:12)
- “suffering unjustly” (2:19)
- “do not fear anything that is frightening” (3:6)
- “suffer for righteousness’ sake” (3:14)
- “fiery trial” (4:12)
- “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (4:17)
God isn’t pulling any punches. He tells us that when we feel pain because of trying circumstances, it’s necessary. He says Christians will be slandered, mistreated, and placed in scary situations. The reward of our righteous deeds will be more pain. Our trials are like being burned in a fire. And in some sense, God is judging us.
The Christian life is hard. It’s relationally hard, physically hard, and economically hard. Quite frankly, “hurt” is our normal. That’s why we need perseverance. In life and faith, we only choose something painful when there’s some sort of reward that outweighs the pain. So, we need perseverance to choose the pain of the Christian life.
Perseverance: What Is It?
To persevere, or endure, means to keep on doing what you are doing without respect to hard circumstances.
Because the normal Christian life—our circumstances—are difficult, we need to persevere. And the way we ought to do that is through persevering in specific activities. That’s why, when Peter concludes his letter, he writes, “this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (5:12). Here are a few of the things Peter includes in his letter as things we should persevere or stand firm in:
- Right thinking and setting our hope completely on the return of Christ (1:13)
- Behavior that reflects the fear of God (1:17)
- Loving other Christians from the heart (1:22)
- Attending church (2:4-5)
- Abstaining from sin and doing good (2:11-12)
- Doing what is right with respect to particular earthly relationships (2:13-3:17)
- Praying (4:7)
- Taking care of the needs of the saints (4:9-11)
- And much more
Perseverance, then, means continuing to obey all of God’s commands even when it is hard. By persevering, we are not seeking to survive—we are seeking to obey.
Perseverance: How Do We Get It?
Peter shares at least three ways to get, or grow, in perseverance. We are to repurpose, relate, and rejoice.
Repurpose – One way we persevere is simply by remembering why we are here—to glorify Christ in a watching world. Verse 12 in chapter 2 tells us “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Our behavior and words (2:9) should reflect God in such a way that people either reject us or see God’s glory and receive Christ. (See also 2:15, 3:1-4, 3:9, 3:15-16, 4:4, 4:16.)
Relate – After repurposing, we must relate to Christ’s suffering. This is probably the most difficult, and possibly confusing, step. But it is truly a gift. In 2:4, we are to come to Christ having been rejected by men. In 2:19-24, we’re told if we endure suffering for doing good we receive grace from God because we are following in Christ’s steps. Being united to Christ’s death and resurrection means that we will relate to him as our suffering mimics his. We relate to Christ in our suffering when we endure it as he did. (See also 3:13-18, 4:1-2, 4:12-19.)
Rejoice – A final tool Peter gives us to grow in perseverance is rejoicing. Note that rejoicing is a verb. It’s something we do. But how do we do it? In 1:6, Peter tells us, “In this you rejoice, though now… you have been grieved.” The words “in this” refer back to verses 3-5 which speak of God’s mercy, our new birth, our living hope through Jesus’s resurrection, our eternal inheritance, and God’s power in keeping us in the faith. In this we rejoice, we believe, and we celebrate. We may be grieved by our circumstances, but we persevere in rejoicing in God’s promises and his gift of salvation.
So, how do we get perseverance? We repurpose by making God known to the world. We relate by joining with Christ who suffered. And we rejoice by celebrating and exulting in the salvation God has given and will give.
Living the Christian life well requires perseverance. Just like I didn’t quit halfway through my long-distance run and become stuck miles from home, Christ doesn’t want us to quit amidst trials. Instead, we are to persevere, obeying Christ’s commands despite the difficulty of our circumstances. To do this, remember to bring him glory by making him known and relating to his and, most of all, to cling to the hope that only he offers.