If I am to become the man God wants me to be, I must develop the attribute of perseverance. Perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” (www.dictionary.com). The word “perseverance” appears 25 times in Scripture in 10 translations (https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/words/Perseverance). Other words, similar in meaning, that are used by some translations in these 25 verses include: patience, patient continuance, endurance, longsuffering, steadfastness [your unflinching endurance, and patience]
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says of the word, “Rare in Hellenistic Greek, prokarteresis occurs in the NT only at Eph. 6:18, where it refers to persistent, persevering prayer as part of the Christian’s spiritual armor. The related verb, proskartereo, underscores the element of steadfastness in the Christian life (cf. “devote oneself,” Acts 2:42; 6:4) and especially in prayer (cf. Acts 1:14; “to be constant,” Rom. 12:12; “continue steadfastly,” Col. 4:2). Throughout the NT Christians are exhorted to persist in prayer (e.g. Lk. 18:1-8; Phil. 4:6; IThess. 5:17” (p.776).
Perseverance is one of the attributes that the Heart of A Champion Character Development Program (http://www.heartofachampion.org/) strives to develop in young people in its outreach program. Their written and video programs approach this under 4 subtopics: in adversity, in failure, against the odds, and with emotions. We shall use that same approach in discussing it here. Please consider …
Perseverance in Adversity
“There is no doubt that life is challenging. We will face trials, adversity, tragedy and failure at some point in our lives. Many of us will have bad things said about us that are untrue. Many of us will be hurt at some point, either physically or emotionally. If you have ever been discouraged; if you’ve ever felt like the odds are stacked against your; if you’ve ever wanted to quit, then remember you are not alone. Everyone around you has experienced one of those emotions at least once. Unfortunately some people in these circumstances simply give up. They walk away from their family, quit their job, leave their friends, or check out of life altogether. None of these are productive options. The fact is many people who walk away, quit, or check out have stopped just one step short of reaching their goal. The number one factor to succeeding in anything in life is perseverance. Everyone fails, but how many keep on going? Everyone falls down, but how many get back up? No matter who you are, no matter what you are facing, no matter how big the obstacles seem or how hard life feels, you can reach your goals, if you keep pressing on and don’t quit. Life is not a short sprint to the finish. It is a marathon, and those who endure to the end will receive a champion’s reward. Remember, it doesn’t really matter how or where you start, rather what matters most is that you finish. No matter how big the challenges in your life, you can make it if you NEVER GIVE UP!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.3)
Rudy Garcia-Tolson is an example of one who has overcome adversity to achieve his athletic goals. “Rudy was born with popliteal pterygium syndrome, resulting in a club foot, webbed fingers on both hands, a cleft lip and palate and the inability to straighten his legs. As a 5 year old wheelchair user, after 15 operations, he decided he would rather be a double amputee and walk with prosthetics. He had both legs removed above the knee…. In 2003, Garcia-Tolson was named one of Teen People Magazine’s “20 Teens Who Will Change the World”. He was the subject of The Final Sprint’s December 2006 “Success Story”; a monthly column that aims to highlight remarkable and factual accounts of runners who have overcome major obstacles and/or changed their lives via running. He has won several awards, including the Arete Courage in Sports Award and the Casey Martin Award from Nike. Following his success at Ironman Arizona, he was nominated for an ESPY Award in 2010.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Garcia-Tolson#Recognition_and_awards)
Olivia Bennet is another example of one who has overcome many obstacles to become a world-renown artist. She also was named by Teen People Magazine as one of the “Twenty Teens who will Change the World when in 2004 when she was 15. Olivia was just 5 years old when doctors gave her parents the news that she had leukemia. Olivia immediately began chemotherapy and to take an experimental medication, Vincristine, which caused her hands to curl up into claws. Painting, though difficult at first, became a form of therapy for her. Eventually, at the age of 7, her hands healed and doctors said she was cancer free. “Olivia’s artistic talent blossomed into a passion and now it is her full-time profession. Olivia’s work received almost immediate critical acclaim. She sold her first painting at age 8 and had her first art show at age 10, where she sold 24 more paintings. Since then, Olivia’s status as an artist has taken on superstar proportions. She and her artwork have been featured in numerous magazines and newspaper articles, as well as appearing on television shows such as Oprah and the Today Show….. Olivia grew up in Southlake, Texas, where she was homeschooled through high school in a K-12 program offered by Texas Tech University….. Olivia’s story and artwork are featured in Mark Victor Hansen’s latest book, The Richest Kids in America….. Visit Olivia’s official website at http://www.oliviabennett.com to view an online gallery of her paintings.” (http://homeschoolingteen.com/2009/08/olivia-bennett-homeschooled-teen-artist/)
Perseverance in Failure
“Everyone deals with failure. The most well-known people in the world have all failed – world leaders, business executives, educators, celebrities, and even parents! But all have gone on to accomplish great things after those failures. That is because they all realized that one thing everyone on the face of the planet has in common is failure. They also understood that failure is the training ground or foundation for real success. If you get knocked down by life, and stay down, you are always looking at things from the perspective of being down. But true champions always get up one more time than they have been knocked down. From that perspective, things always look better and you won’t miss opportunities. It all depends on your perspective. Persevere and let your failures become the foundation for future success. Never Give Up!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.7)
Tommy Maddox is an example of one who did not throw in the towel when he experienced failure. He was a #1 draft pick out of college in 1992, and was seemingly headed for stardom but then he failed. “At UCLA, Maddox played collegiately for two seasons and led UCLA to the John Hancock Bowl in 1991. The Denver Broncos drafted Maddox in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Originally thought to be the successor to Broncos star quarterback John Elway, Maddox had an unimpressive record in his rookie year and saw limited playing time in his early NFL career. Before the 1994 season, the Broncos traded Maddox to the Los Angeles Rams, and Maddox would later join the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Atlanta Falcons. Maddox played under Coach Dan Reeves with the Broncos, Giants, and Falcons.
After being released by the Atlanta Falcons in 1997, Maddox became an insurance agent before making a comeback in professional football with the New Jersey Red Dogs of the Arena Football League in 2000. Maddox later became starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL, a league that folded after one season. With the Xtreme, Maddox led the team to the Million Dollar Game championship and became league MVP for the season. Later that year, Maddox signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Originally as backup to Kordell Stewart, Maddox became the Steelers’ starting quarterback in 2002 and led the Steelers to a 10–5–1 record and a postseason run. For his achievements in 2002, the NFL named Maddox Comeback Player of the Year. After a 6–10 season in 2003, and an injury in week 2 against the Ravens in the 2004 season, Maddox again became a backup quarterback to Steelers first-round draft pick Ben Roethlisberger. In this backup role, Maddox earned a Super Bowl ring when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season, beating the Seattle Seahawks. The 2005 season was also his final season as a professional football player. After retiring from football, Maddox became a youth baseball coach in his native Dallas/Fort Worth area” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Maddox). Tommy didn’t let failures stop him; instead he kept working and took advantage when other opportunities arose.
Abraham Lincoln is another example of one who continued to try in spite of repeated failures. “Below is one version of the so-called “Lincoln failures” list, shown in bold type. It’s often used to inspire people to overcome life’s difficulties with Lincoln as a model. Then look at the right column with other facts from Lincoln’s pre-presidential life. History professor Lucas Morel compiled this comparison from the Chronology in Selected Speeches and Writings/Lincoln by Don E. Fehrenbacher, ed., 1992.
|YEAR||FAILURES or SETBACKS||SUCCESSES|
Defeated for state legislature
|Elected company captain of Illinois militia in Black Hawk War|
|1833||Failed in business||Appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois
Appointed deputy surveyor of Sangamon County
|1834||Elected to Illinois state legislature|
|1836||Had nervous breakdown||Re-elected to Illinois state legislature (running first in his district)
Received license to practice law in Illinois state courts
|1837||Led Whig delegation in moving Illinois state capital from Vandalia to Springfield
Became law partner of John T. Stuart
|1838||Defeated for Speaker||Nominated for Illinois House Speaker by Whig caucus
Re-elected to Illinois House (running first in his district)
Served as Whig floor leader
|1839||Chosen presidential elector by first Whig convention
Admitted to practice law in U.S. Circuit Court
|1840||Argues first case before Illinois Supreme Court
Re-elected to Illinois state legislature
|1841||Established new law practice with Stephen T. Logan|
|1842||Admitted to practice law in U.S. District Court|
|1843||Defeated for nomination for Congress|
|1844||Established own law practice with William H. Herndon as junior partner|
|1846||Elected to Congress|
|1848||Lost renomination||(Chose not to run for Congress, abiding by rule of rotation among Whigs.)|
|1849||Rejected for land officer||Admitted to practice law in U.S. Supreme Court
Declined appointment as secretary and then as governor of Oregon Territory
|1854||Defeated for U.S. Senate||Elected to Illinois state legislature (but declined seat to run for U.S. Senate)|
|1856||Defeated for nomination for Vice President|
|1858||Again defeated for U.S. Senate|
Perseverance Against the Odds
“At some point we all come up against odds that seem too great to overcome. Many of us have been told we are not big enough, not smart enough, or just don’t have what it takes to achieve what we are after. Remember, anyone can tell you what you’re not. But true friends tell you what you are, and what you can become. A wise king once said, ‘As a person thinks within their heart, so they are’ meaning how we see ourselves is typically what we become. Do you see yourself as an overcomer? The seeds of greatness reside in everyone. Often is the very process of overcoming obstacles that builds us into life’s champions. The journey to get to the goal is always more significant than the result, for in the journey we recognize what we are truly made of, and who we really are. Don’t let obstacles deter you. Great things will come from the process, and even the pain associated with it. Press on and be an overcomer” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.10).
Dana Bowman is an example of one who persevered against the odds. ”Dana Bowman has astounded the nation and the world with his drive, determination, and will to succeed. He is a retired Sergeant First Class with the U.S. Army where he was a Special Forces Soldier and a member of the U.S. Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights. Dana Bowman is a double amputee. He lost his legs in an accident during the annual Golden Knights training in Yuma, Arizona, in 1994.
On February 6, 1994, Bowman gained worldwide attention when he and his teammate Sgt. Jose Aguillon collided in midair during the team’s annual training. Bowman and Aguillon were practicing a maneuver known as the Diamond Track. The maneuver calls for the jumpers to streak away from each other for about a mile and then turn 180 degrees and fly back toward each other crisscrossing in the sky. Bowman and Aguillon had demonstrated the Diamond Track more than fifty times without a mistake, but this time was different.
Rather than crisscrossing, the two skydivers slammed into each other at a combined speed of 300 miles per hour. Aguillon died instantly. Bowman’s legs were severed from his body, one above the knee and one below the knee. Bowman’s parachute opened on impact. He was taken to a hospital in Phoenix where doctors closed his leg wounds and stopped his internal bleeding.
Nine months later, he turned this tragedy into a triumph when he became the first double amputee to re-enlist in the United States Army. Bowman re-enlisted in the United States Army airborne style, skydiving with his commander into the ceremony, making his dream a reality. This achievement is just one example of Bowman’s many successes under adverse circumstances.
After Dana’s re-enlistment, he became the U.S. Parachute Team’s lead speaker and recruiting commander. Dana has been fortunate to have the opportunity to let his speeches touch so many from the physically challenged to the able-bodied. He strives to show physically challenged people can still work and excel in today’s society and military. Dana emphasizes the words amputee and uselessness are not synonymous.
Dana has given more than 400 speeches in the last few years and has been featured in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, People and many more. There have also been numerous television programs which focused on Dana and his story. Some of the programs include: Dateline, A Current Affair, Real TV, NBC Person of the Week, Day and Date and Extra.
Dana retired from the United States Army in 1996. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in commercial aviation at the University of North Dakota in May of 2000.
Dana spends a great deal of his personal time working with other amputees and disabled or physically challenged people. Dana inspires other amputees to walk again. His future plans are to continue to speak to the public and fly helicopters” (http://www.danabowman.com/dana-biography.php).
Perseverance With Emotions
“When you were faced with your most difficult emotional challenge, what did you do? What thoughts crossed your mind in finding a solution? What did you do? Did you respond or were you emotionally paralyzed? Fear often does paralyze us, and most often the emotional challenges we face are more difficult than the challenges that are physical. However, nothing is ever really too big that you can’t find a solution. In every challenge, there is always a way out without a life being lost. It’s ok to wrestle with your emotions, and it’s ok to talk with someone about your feelings. But even in the most dark of days, things will get better. It’s normal to wrestle with your emotions. If you experience some tough emotional times, you can persevere, and it’s ok to ask for help. So don’t hesitate to talk to someone trustworthy … about what you are dealing with. Remember you are valuable, unique, and one of a kind. This world needs you! So, when things are emotionally difficult, don’t give up!” (Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.13)
Laura Hillenbrand is an example of one who persevered with emotions. Hillenbrand is the author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was published in 2001 and then became the basis for the feature film Seabiscuit in 2003. She was able to write despite “suffering through a terrifying 10-year cycle of health problems” that began in 1987.
“She was diagnosed with CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Experts describe the illness as a complex disorder characterized by debilitating fatigue that is not improved by bed rest and that may be worsened by physical or mental activity. It affects blood pressure, weakens the immune system and can make mental concentration all but impossible. Victims often feel useless and defeated. Many give up hope of regaining a normal life. Because of her illness, Hillenbrand had to drop out of school and was unable to handle the rigors of full-time work. She was in despair.”
But as she researched the book, she identified with characters she encountered. She already had a love for horses and wrote for equine magazines. “Hillenbrand attacked writing the story with all the passion she could muster. Writing was a way to momentarily escape her circumstances and the pain of her existence. ‘I got very emotionally involved in telling this story,’ she remembers. ‘Living in my own subjects bodies, I forgot about mine. My emotions would mirror whatever part of the story I was researching on a particular day.’ In addition to the numerous honors and critical acclaim that her book gained, she was provided a platform to spread awareness of CFS. It gave her renewed hope and purpose. “She had found a door of opportunity for a new life. ‘When I was writing, I became a storyteller, not an invalid. My entire life wasn’t oriented around my body. My life had a purpose to it … I felt like I was living for the people I was writing about … The whole world is new to me.’” ((Heart of a Champion Character Development Program, Perseverance, Volume 3, p.13)
Think about what it takes to persevere in adversity, in failure, against the odds, and with your emotions. I hope that, after reading this month’s article, you know a little more about perseverance and how you can further develop that attribute to Become The Man God Wants You To Be. Thanks for reading…