Advent Reflections: Perseverance in Faith
[Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission, from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.]
By Adam Bain
Today’s readings made me think about perseverance in the present, and hope for the future. God tells us that there is a brighter future for us, and that it is important to persevere in our faith.
My experience as a Christian has included times when I felt confident in my faith and very close to God. During those times, I often engaged in contemplative prayer and looked for opportunities to serve others, rather than thinking of myself first. At other times, however, I have felt myself drifting away from God. I got caught up in my own pride and material concerns. I failed to set aside sufficient time to pray and meditate on God’s plan for me.
The verses of Hebrews call to mind the importance of persevering in faith. “But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassions for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourself possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised"(Hebrews 10:32-36).
I think part of my growth as a Christian (I hope) has been being conscious of times when I felt distant from God, and then making efforts to move closer to God. This includes trying to focus on God’s plan for me and trying to take steps to implement the plan. Contemplation, prayer, and worship all help in moving closer to God. I sometimes felt closest to God when going through hard times, experiencing grief and pain. The Hebrews passage reveals a community that was confident in its faith during times of persecution and abuse. Maybe it is easier to persevere in faith during times of pain and ordeal because those are the times when we feel that we need God the most. Unfortunately, when things are going well, and we feel good about life, God sometimes recedes to the background. I know that has been true for me.
The challenge is to persevere in faith, in both bad times and good times. It requires hard work, commitment, patience, and endurance. Perseverance is about refusing to give up, trying again and again. Fortunately, it is blessing to have a community of faith at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to help in the effort. Worshiping together, praying together, working together and confessing together help in the quest to persevere in faith, and strengthen the commitment to the faith community. The idea of joint perseverance is captured beautifully in the folk song that became an anthem of the Civil Rights movement, “Eyes on the Prize.” “Well the only chains we can stand are the chains of hand in hand. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.”
So what is “the prize” for our community? Certainly it is growing the community, and together sharing the ideal of the final verse of Hebrews Chapter 10: “But we are not among those who shrink back, and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved” (Hebrews 10:39).
Prayer: Dear God have mercy on me. Show me your plan for me. Help me move closer to you and persevere in faith. Amen.
Adam Bain is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.
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