Originally published Thursday, 20 August 2015.
A tenacious spirit is one that keeps a firm hold. That clings or adheres closely. This begs the question, what are we clinging closely to today? Our ideologies, our wills, the ways of the world, the spirit of man, or the Spirit of God, God's teachings in the Bible...the Truth?
Usually when we are pressed hard by life's circumstances or even day to day aggravations , that which we cling to the most will be evident in our speech and actions. When we are faced with moral dilemmas, choices to speak up or speak out on what we profess to believe, the truth of our loyalties will surface in our responses. Don't we want to be found tenaciously clinging to God and the truths manifested in Jesus Christ?
Persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable, resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable, unyielding, insistent, these are all characteristics of a tenacious spirit. But what do they practically look like? I think the answer is found in part in the life of Paul and Silas.
Remember when Paul and Silas were traveling and preaching in Macedonia as accounted in Acts chapter 16? Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned by magistrates in the city for preaching the gospel to Romans who did not want any part of their message. Let's not skip over that too quickly, Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. That's not part of a normal days work for most missionaries; considering all who profess Jesus should live on mission.
As soon as they were thrown into prison, they were chained in stocks in the inner prison. We should think that at this point, Paul and Silas most wanted to take a nap and lament their situation. However, their reaction is more tenacious than that. At midnight, they began to pray and sing praises unto the Lord--within the hearing of their fellow inmates. Upon their praises, the earth trembles in an earthquake and shakes loose their chains. (Acts 16:26)
The watching lost will always tremble at resounding praise and worship of Jesus even in the midst of staggering injustice in the world.
Consider recently in the case of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Wasn't the watching world astounded at the display of love and forgiveness in the face of outright evil and hate? The unshakable adherence of God's people to His ways and to prayer during the hardest times, spoke louder to the truth of the message of the gospel than vandalism and complaints of citizens who likewise feel falsely accused and unfairly targeted. (See here.)
Paul and Silas' reactions in the face of false imprisonment and harsh incarceration made a lasting difference leading unto salvation for the prison guard and his family. Rioting and vandalism in Macedonia wouldn't have made as lasting of an impact as the prayer, worship, and faithfulness to both man's law and God's decrees that Paul and Silas demonstrated. Is it any different in our day?
Let us tenaciously cling to the message and methods of the Bible that effect change on minor and major scales both yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The message, method, and mission of the gospel has not veered with the wavering tide of popular opinion and neither should the Church. In these turbulent times when babies are being killed and their parts sold, when Christians are imprisoned and persecuted, when people are turning each to their own way and one against another, faithfulness to our True King, Jesus Christ, will be mocked and labeled treason to our lost and dying world.
In the recently published book by the late Chuck Colson, My Final Word, the author makes the case that the ultimate offense of the gospel is another king. Christians are proclaiming another loyalty. Consider his words:
This explains the resistance of American intellectuals and the cultural elite to the gospel: We are proclaiming another loyalty. When we teach Intelligent Design, for example, we are teaching our kids that there is a higher power to which they are beholden. What does that do to the authority of their teacher, principal, or textbook writer, or other cultural elites who think they really do run the world? To them, Christians are "causing trouble all over the world." But it's inherent in the nature of our message.
Mr. Colson goes on to say that Paul used apologetics to preach to the people at Mars Hill. Interestingly, many sneered at him and only a few became followers. However... should you visit the Acropolis today, he writes, the flag is lowered to half-staff on Good Friday and raised on Easter Sunday morning to full staff.
Two thousand years later what was only the response of a few followers at Mars Hill, or in Macedonia, has now continued to be added to in number. The lesson: Don't loose your tenacity to preach the gospel and live in obedience to Jesus Christ fellow brother and sister. What may seem a small, yet faithful impact in our own lives, cannot be measured in compound interest in the future nor eternity. As David Platt reminds us in his recent book, Counter Culture, we aren't living for today or twenty years from now, we are living for twenty billion years from now.
Be tenacious with the gospel message and methods of Jesus Christ.
You may have the greatest potential impact with your witness when life has you in a corner.
~Ron Cooney, A Match Made in Heaven?