the art of… hanging in there

Sport has a wonderful ability to bring people together, people from all walks of life, of different backgrounds and tongues. That was once again evident after watching the recent football World Cup finals. This was something that really stood out to me as I watched the World Cup. I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly what Christ desires for His church.

Another thing that stood out to me from watching the World Cup was the amount of games that were decided right at the final whistle. I counted at least four games where the team that was losing, came back, and won the match right at the death. It was the ability of these teams to ‘hang in there’, even when their backs were against the wall, that reminded me of a critical biblical principle; the art or ability to ‘hang in there’.

I couldn’t help but think that this trait of ‘hanging in there’ is something Christ desires his church to harvest. For if we scan over the context of God’s Word, it is actually a very biblical trait and characteristic.

Romans 5:2-4 says:

‘We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’

Likewise, James 1:12 says:

‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.’

These are just two of many passages throughout scripture that encourage God’s people to ‘hang in there’ and endure, no matter the trial or hardship that you are facing because it will all be worth it in the end. The image we are given in these passages isn’t one of desperately ‘hanging on with gritted teeth’, or hanging on by our finger nails, or hanging on for grim death. It is an image of steadfastness and an unwavering commitment built upon the foundations of faith and the assurance of hope that we have in Christ Jesus.

I can tell you that I have had my fair share of trials, some unbearably difficult and other occasions where I thought it would be best to give up, and throw in the faith altogether. However, from my experience, it is those who choose to ‘hang in there’ and persevere under every trial that will experience evident blessing in the end.

Even from a ministry and missional point of view, how often do we see people leave churches because “it’s all getting too hard”, or “I am not happy with what’s happening”. People leave churches all the time because of such reasons. Some of them are warranted and valid reasons, and it is probably wise for some to move on. You may be in a similar situation right now where you are ready to leave your church because of a disagreement with a key leader or situation that has taken place that has upset you, and as a result, you may be looking to move on and find another church. Before you do that, can I suggest another alternative for the time being… “Hang in there?”

I experienced this myself when I was serving as a young adult within our evening service at the church I was attending at the time. The evening service had seen a sharp decline in numbers and ministry effectiveness over a two-year period, so much so, that the leadership were seriously questioning whether it was all still worth it and whether it would be wiser to abandon the service altogether. I too was at a stage where I was thinking about leaving and moving on to another church, but thankfully I had the wisdom and insight to ‘hang in there’ and see what God may be doing.

A group of us got together, and voiced our desire to keep this service running, and so we, along with one of our pastors, were given the responsibility of injecting new life into the service.

I remember one night in particular where this group of young adults came together and humbled ourselves before God in prayer, crying out to Him that he would bless our efforts and do a work in and through us…and do a work He did.

After three years of prayer and faithful service, we saw God bless and honour our faithfulness and the evening service grew to over 150 youth and young adults who were actively growing in their faith. The growth in numbers wasn’t the key indicator of ministry fruit, it was the fact that most of those who were attending were actively serving and actively expressing a desire to see “God’s Will be done and His Kingdom come”.

This was an important lesson that I have taken away with me into all areas of life and ministry, in particular when it comes to evangelism and discipleship. You may have someone in your life that you are praying to come to Christ, or grow in their relationship with Him, and it’s just not happening. You may have had moments where you have thought, “this person is never going to come to church”, or “there is no way this person will make a decision to follow Jesus”. My advice to you is to “hang in there”! For you never know what God may be doing in your life and theirs.

Even when ministry isn’t going to plan, or when it seems that the person we are seeking to disciple won’t ever come to Christ, we are still called to persevere and ‘hang in there’. Those who choose to do so, I strongly believe, will see fruit and receive their reward by God’s grace, in this life or the next!

Dan Walz, Sans Souci Baptist Church

This is the second blog in the series “the art of…” by Dan Walz for the Crossover blog. Click here to read the first, “the art of listening”