Perseverance to weather the storms

We all face storms in life, it is something that we have to accept. We can choose how to respond to those storms. We could just choose to hide away from them until they’re gone… or we could choose to face them head on and walk on through.

If we choose to face them head on then we are going to need to be prepared. Recently I’ve needed to make sure I’ve had decent boots, a coat, hat and hood to face the physical weather, and it is the same in our metaphorical storms as well. To be prepared, but also to know we are not alone. When paul wrote to the Church in Rome he said

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Facing the storms with God, and with hope, patience and faithfulness in prayer. Storms are not easy to travel through, they take perseverance but they are a necessary part of the journey.

Although we could see life as one long journey, if we see each day as a journey of its own, with its own forecast, then that can make things easier.

Our thought for the week comes from Walter Elliott who says

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other”

If you face each day as a new race with faith, hope, prayer you will be amazed at what you can achieve over a month, a year, a lifetime.

Perseverance in the every day

When you describe your characteristics do you ever include perseverance?

I think perseverance can quite often be seen as a negative thing, after all our quote last week told us it’s the hard stuff you do after the hard stuff you’ve already done. However Joseph Wirthlin who gives us our quote this week says

“Perseverance is a positive, active, characteristic”

This quote tells us a few of things

1. It is a positive thing, we shouldn’t think of it as a chore but as something that will benefit us.

2. It is active, it is something that we should choose to do and that we have to do. We can’t just hope that we will persevere.

3. It is a characteristic, it shapes who we are. People will recognise perseverance within us.

It’s difficult though to be positive about perseverance and to actually choose to persevere, EVERYDAY. However we are given lots of examples throughout Christianity of people who have persevered, and people who had to encourage others to persevere. Moses, Abraham, Paul, Joseph, Esther, Ruth. Our verse this week is one of my favourite verses, it comes from the book of Joshua. Joshua encouraged the people to walk round the walls of Jericho to bring them down (a very short version of the story). Imagine having to keep walking round the same area over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. In the first chapter of this book we have one of my favourite verses which is God talking to Joshua saying

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Perseverance is positive, it’s active’ it’s a characteristic, it’s hard, but we’re not on our own!

What is perseverance?

How difficult is it to get up on the first day of term? I know it can be rather difficult, especially the first day after the Christmas holidays – well, let’s face it any morning can be difficult.

However, this term can be difficult because we’ve done a term already, it’s dark in the mornings, it’s dark in the evenings, it’s cold, and there isn’t anything like exams to focus on. Motivation is slim, we may have made New Years resolutions but, how long did they last?

That is why we have chosen perseverance as our value to focus on this term. And our thought for this week as we start to explore the concept of perseverance comes from Newt Gingrich who says

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after the hard work you already did”

Essentially it is keeping going, even when you want to give up, there’s other things you’d rather be doing and when you can’t really see the purpose of it.

As we will discover throughout the term perseverance is an important value, because it makes us stronger people, and if we persevere in the things like waking up, doing our school work etc and we see how that benefits us it will be easier to persevere in the difficult things. In the book of James he says that we should consider it pure joy when we face troubles, that seems odd, but it is because that’s where we develop our strength and courage, and become the people we are.

I’m going to leave it there for this week, but as I sign off think of the fact the church is celebrating epiphany this week which is when we remember the magi visiting Jesus. They travelled from a far away land, following a star and they weren’t even really sure what they were looking for. But they didn’t give up, they persevered, and we still remember them today.

What do you need to persevere with this term? What will help you to do that?

Thank you God that you give us examples of people who persevere and you also provide us with strength. Help us to know that we are not alone but that you are by our side. Amen

Advent: Faith of the shepherds

Do you find it easier to do things by yourself or if other people are doing them with you?

As we come to our final week looking at faith we see the collective faith of a group of people. The shepherds.

The shepherds were of course, the reason that so many of us have worn tea towels on our heads – or maybe that was just me!

The shepherds were just doing their job, out in the fields with their sheep. We see sheep and shepherds a lot in the Bible. Sheep are creatures who follow their master – their shepherd. These shepherds would have known their flock, and would be out in the mountainside with them in all weathers and at all times.

Suddenly, whilst they’re doing their job, an host of angels appear in the sky, praising God and then directing the shepherds to where the king had been born.

It must have been amazing, shocking, bewildering and yet, as a group of people….

They were unquestioning, they had faith that God was speaking to them through the angels, they had faith that a saviour was to be born, they had faith to follow the guidance, leave the field they knew and head to Bethlehem to see what the Lord had told them about.

Would we have responded in the same way?

Would we even have believed that an angel had appeared to us?

Henry B Eyring challenges us

“Angels, Shepherds and Wise Men sought and found peace from their faith in Jesus Christ, so will you. The Saviours birth is the gift that makes it possible for the Father to give us peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come”

What will your focus be this Christmas time? The presents or the peace of God which we can then present to others?

May you have a blessed Christmas and we’ll see you in 2020!

Advent: Faith of Mary

Self-image seems to be at height of society today. There are so many options that people have to show things of their life, and so much opportunity for people to comment.

How much do you think about the image that other people have of you?

Would you be willing to do something you knew was important with the knowledge that you would be judged by your friends, your family, the whole of society?

This is exactly what Mary did. She was a teenage girl, who was from a Jewish family, and who was pledged to be married. An angel appears to her and tells her that she will be made pregnant through the Holy Spirit, and the baby will be very special.

An unmarried woman who was pregnant, would not have been viewed well, she could easily have been denied by her family. In fact Joseph thought about it divorcing her quietly.

Mary had a decision to make, and her response was…

““I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Mary had followed the scriptures all of her life, she knew God, that is why she was chosen. However she had to show incredible faith in her response. As we know, faith is to have trust or confidence in something or someone. Mary must have had that faith in God. God had said that if she did this, she would be blessed. She had to have faith that God would fulfill His promise.

There are so many promises in the Bible, do we have faith that they will be fulfilled? Are we willing to go against what society says in the normal, to do something that God has asked us to do?

Mary wasn’t just a woman riding on a donkey, she made one of the biggest steps of faith that we see, she sets us a huge challenge – the question for us – are we willing to accept that challenge?

Advent: Faith of the Prophets

As we enter the season of advent we start to wait expectantly for the arrival of the King. Christmas can easily become something that we feel so familiar with that we forget, or pass over the stories of the individuals involved. Over the next three weeks we will continue to look at the value of faith, but specifically the faith of the people of the nativity.

This week the prophets. So often prophets are linked with bringing doom and gloom, messages of horrific anger. Whereas prophets, as messengers of God, as sharing what God wants for His people. They give hope, they give direction.

As we look back in to the Old Testament we can see so many prophecies speaking of a saviour coming, God sending someone to rescue his people, to bring people back to Him. People hearing that message at the time may well have been confused, especially if they didn’t see it happening straight away. However we can look back now and see that those prophecies were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.

The prophets must have had faith at the time to give those messages, especially as the message may not have been welcome by the public. We, too can now have faith that God will speak through people, and that those messages will be fulfilled. As it says in 2 Chronicles

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

Faith that God will do good things

How many times have you thought… that’s just not fair! I cannot believe that that has happened to me?

This is probably something that many of us have thought, and it is often a reason that people may use to say they don’t believe in God. However, our theme for the week is about having faith to see God do good things. Nick Viyicic has no limbs and is a world travelling speaker he said

“Every time you think you’re being rejected God’s actually redirecting you to something better. Ask him to give you the strength to press forward”

Why has Nick become a world travelling speaker? I think it’s because of his own response to the difficulties that he has had to face. It cannot have been easy to grow up without any limbs, yet Nick has the attitude that no matter what is going on, God will use it and will give us the strength to move on in the situation.

Where does Nick get this attitude? Nick is a Christian and therefore has a faith in God, and will have known this teaching that Paul wrote in his letter to the Church in Rome…

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We aren’t punished by God, but God always works for good. If you think back to those ‘it’s not fair’ moments, are you then able to see some good that has come out of them? It’s very difficult to think that way in the situation, but we can see it when we look back. By having a faith in God, it is easier to have faith that good will come, or that we are part of good, even if we can’t see it at that moment.

Challenge: share examples with others of when seemingly bad things, have turned into good

Prayer: father God we thank you that you love us, that you work in our lives, and that you always work for good. Help us to have faith when we are in times of difficulty. Amen