Unstoppable

Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
A little boy grew up in a violent and troubled home.  When his parents finally called it quits, he ended up shuffled between foster homes until he landed in a high school for troubled youth.  Nobody figured this kid from a broken background could go the distance.  He had dreams to be an actor, writer and director in Hollywood.  His good looks got him a few small parts.  He even cleaned lion cages at the Central Park Zoo, ushered at a movie house.  By 1975, he had $106 to his name.  His wife was pregnant and he couldn't pay the rent on his run-down apartment.  That's when he sat down and began to write a screen play about a loser like himself.  He finished the script in four days.  He shopped it around Hollywood and was rejected 1,500 times.  But he kept rewriting and resubmitting his movie.  Finally, United Artists took a risk and gave him a budget of 1 million and he had to finish it in 28 days.  But in 1976, Sylvester Stallone's movie Rocky went crazy.  It became one of the biggest blockbusters in history grossing more than $100 million.  It even won the academy award for best picture in 1977.  He went on to make the Rocky movies a franchise that has grossed over one billion dollars.  That financial success came because of the trait that is the theme of every Rocky movie, perseverance.    (Book of Amazing Stories, Robert Petterson, 163)
One of the greatest keys to a successful life is perseverance.  The need for perseverance shows up in so many areas of life.  Almost all careers require some perseverance of some sorts.  In seminary, I was told that only about 10 percent of people that start as ministers finish their careers as ministers.  That's a 90% drop out rate for one reason or another.  And that's just one career.  Think of the tenacity of police officers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and soldiers.  I think in particular, as Christians we are all called to a sacred endurance. As Christians, we are called to help people.  That can be challenging.  I think of a homeless man that people at my church have fed several times recently.  We have been kind and I think helpful and yet I caught him rifling through my car stealing my change.
I love the passage found in James 1:1-4, 12.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.  2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. . . 12 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.”
How do we persevere? We can choose to have a joyful and positive attitude. Each day we can choose to be in a good mood or a bad mood.  Author Wayne Cordeiro says, "Where you stand will always affect what you see."   It is best to stand on the promises of God; stand in the warmth of his love.
James 1:2 says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” (Notice the text says WHENEVER you face trials of many kinds; not IF you face trials.)  Remember Jesus told us "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
James talk about trials of "many kinds.” Some trials are because we are human in a broken creation: sickness, accidents, tragedies. Some trials are because of our own choices: pressures of financial debt, who we chose to marry. Some are trials because of our sinful choices: trouble with the law, sexually transmitted disease, or broken relationships. Some suffering and trials are discipline from God Himself.   Look at the history of Israel and you see incident after incident of God's discipline. Some trials are because of the sinful choices of others: enduring a rape, molested as a kid, injured by a drunk driver. Some trials are because we are Christian.  While Paul was preaching the gospel in Lystra and they stoned him took and left him for dead.  Today thousands of Christians are actually losing their lives around the world because they choose to follow Jesus.  There is a reason that the famous author William J. Bennet wrote a book about the history of the church's first thousand years he called it Tried By Fire because of all the persecution.   There will be trials so you might as well make the best of them.  When hardship knocks on your door can you open it with a smile?  It's hard but I think it can be done.  My favorite book of the Bible is Philippians.  It's a short book primarily about joy written by a guy in prison.  It's truly a gem.  Attitude matters.
Another thing that we can do is to think biblically and to know that testing produces perseverance.
James 1:3 says, "because you KNOW that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
One famous quote by Albert Einstein says, "In the middle of every difficulty comes opportunity." An opportunity to grow and change for the better.  One of the most famous stories in the Bible is Moses freeing the slaves in Egypt.  It features one of greatest outpourings of the miraculous in the entire history of the world.  And yet it took time.  Moses first went to Pharaoh and it got worse for the people before it got better.  Pharaoh made it harder on them.  Moses and the people still had to persevere.  They needed to learn to think biblically about their situation.  Robert Petterson once said, "Transformation comes in the furnace of affliction."  (Desert Crossings, Petterson, 6).  Honestly your scars, the most painful moments, the moments where you wanted to give up but instead you hung on, out of those moments, those scars often come your most powerful ministry.
            One of the hardest parts of perseverance is to trust God’s process. Through perseverance maturity is produced.
James 1:4 says "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." 
Just as we trust a good physical trainer or a coach.  We need to trust the Lord and his process to help us mature and grow.  We are all supposed to grow.  There is a spot in my kitchen where you can see the marks of my children’s growth on the wall.  How you handle difficulties is when God stops, watches, and marks your growth.  I'm on the board of the CEA, a church planting organization that plants churches throughout the American Northwest.  We look for people who have been tested.  Because the number one reason we lose churches is because the planter quits
Philippians 1:6 says "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
There is purpose in pain. I'm not saying we will always understand.  Many of you woman have weaned a baby. If the baby could talk, he would be complaining but you know as a loving parent that weaning is a step toward maturing.  Patient endurance is the process by which God produces maturity.  Abraham waited about 25 years for his miracle child.  Joseph waited at least 13 years in slavery and prison before he became the Prime Minister of Egypt.  God prepared Moses for 80 years before his 40 years of stunning service.  Over and over again we see the pattern.  An idea from the author Charles Swindoll that I loved was that when a person asks you how are doing, don’t just say good.  A better answer would be that you are growing and learning. 
One final idea to encourage perseverance is to embrace a forward-looking faith.  Perseverance produces reward.  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."  For an original reader of this passage the "crown of life" would bring to mind a crown of victory given to a winning athlete.   Even Jesus embraced a forward-looking faith.  A faith that would be rewarded after going through his trial.  Hebrews 12:2 says "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  See the pattern.  First a cross, then a crown.  The same is true for us.  The apostle Paul says, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).  I think our rewards in heaven will blow our minds. 
     So, the big idea of this article is this:  PESERVANCE IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL TO FOLLOWING JESUS.  I CHALLENGE YOU, DON'T JUST START THE CHRISTIAN LIFE, FINISH WELL.