But there were other things I quit, too. Over time I recognized that music and the arts were where my talent flourished. So I did what any ambitious teen would do and I took guitar lessons. When my fingers started hurting and I missed my favorite shows for practice, I quit that, too. Twice, in fact. I lost a part in a musical once because I decided to go to my friend's lake house for the weekend rather than attend practice for the try outs.
I quit things not just because of my lack of ability, though that is a factor sometimes. I regularly quit because it just gets too hard or I lose interest. I am not one for perseverance.
As I've grown as a Christian I have seen this come out in greater degree. When a relationship is strained or difficult, I want out. When I face push back from people over my beliefs or a decision I make, I want to retreat. When I face another sleepless night because my children are sick, I want to crawl into a hole and stay there for a few days. Escapism, in many ways, has always been my comfort. But this is not the way of the Christian. Endurance and perseverance is a key component of the Christian life. The Bible says that only those who persevere to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13). God takes our perseverance seriously.
But life is hard isn't it? A quick survey of the news reveals that there is enough going on even today that would make anyone want to throw in the towel. And if you add our personal lives to the mix, you have a recipe for a dozen quitters. What I've grown to understand, though, is that my quitting nature reveals something tragic about my understanding of this life.
I want this to be it.
When it is easy, I soak it up. When it is hard, I want out. My actions reveal that deep down I think this life is it. I live for right now, not the future. But everything about the Christian life is about enduring for the future--to the end. Being a Christian is a call to persevere. As harsh as this sounds to my quitting ears, quitters don't make it to the last day because they fail to persevere. They prove they were never saved in the first place.
Perseverance requires a long-term view--an ability to see what is unseen and to rest in that. This is how quitters like me can persevere. It is not because of my own strength, but because of the strength that God supplies and the eyes of faith he gives us to see the end result. Perseverance is about faith, not circumstances. When I quit, I am trusting in circumstances. In my mind, it's not working out. I'm not happy. I'm uncomfortable. It's too hard. I take a short-term view of my life, rather than a long-term one. But when I have faith, I am resting in the One who knows and controls the outcome of my circumstances.
When Jesus told his disciples what to expect from this life in Luke 21, I imagine quitting seemed like an attractive option. If someone told me to expect persecution and betrayal, the escapist in me would be running for the nearest exit. But that is what Jesus promises to us, too, if we are his. The same tribulation he warned them about is our story as well.
But it is not the final word.
Luke 21:19 is a promise to us:
By your endurance, you will gain your lives.
Though we lose our lives in the trial, we gain them by the endurance. No one knew this better than Jesus. He faced the ultimate betrayal and persecution so in our weakest moments we could rest on his work to bring us to the end. Just like Jesus gained his life back through his patient endurance of the cross, so we gain our eternal lives by leaning in to his perfect endurance on our behalf.
The Christian life is not for the quitter. I know that now. It is something I will probably have to overcome my entire life. But there is a day coming where my weak faith will be sight and my limping endurance will bring me to the finish line--where I will see my Christ and there will be no more need for struggling faith because I will be home.