Tension. Just the sound of that word causes my neck and shoulders to tighten and my jaw to clench. Most of us steer clear of it at every opportunity. However, I’ve been noticing how many different tensions exist in the word of God and the kingdom of God! There are principles that seem polar opposites and pull against one another causing tension.
Love and truth
Kindness and severity of God
Strength and weakness
Wisdom and innocence
Persistence and humility
It’s the last grouping I want to focus on: persistence and humility. Which do we need more of to be a disciple of Christ? Which exemplifies true Kingdom living? Of course, the answer is both, but how can they exist together in harmony in our spirits?
Herein lies one of the greatest mysteries of Kingdom living. When opposing forces pull us apart (i.e., the need to persist in a given way and the need to humble ourselves and surrender), we can become caught and “taut” in the tension. There is potential for great conflict within us causing divided thinking and great conflict with others causing subsequent division. But there is also potential for SYNERGY where the outcome of both forces working together brings something greater than the sum of both parts. So how do we harness the grit, determination, and tenacity of persistence with the meekness, deferential submission, and egolessness of humility?
I believe the answer lies in listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says at any given moment. It also lies in the practices of leveraging and integration. If we can leverage the best of persistence with the best of humility, they can begin to integrate and work together in us, transforming our character to be audaciously humble. Here’s an example from Christ’s life in Luke 9:51-56 (NIV):
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.”
Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. That term “resolutely set out” is the Greek word estērisen, to set fast, i.e. to turn resolutely in a certain direction, or to confirm. That is determination and persistence. And when the Samaritans in the village did not welcome Him and provide lodging, rather than call fire down from heaven to destroy them, He and His disciples simply went to another village. That is meekness and humility. Both persistence and humility worked together in perfect synergy. As Christ leveraged the best of both, He committed Himself to His sacred purpose—to lay down His life in Jerusalem at the cross. The pathway there was altered slightly by choosing another village to go through, but it still got Him there.
In moments of tension in the Kingdom, it is easy to justify bold, brazen action in our striving toward ambitious goals, even God-given goals. However, if we stay the course even when the pathway is shifting, our purpose remains the same. It remains sacred. We may have to take a previously unforeseen path, but we will complete the mission. And that is the Kingdom of God…in people…on earth.
Pray with me: Jesus, You are not distracted by any setbacks placed before You. Ignite in me the flame of your steadfast, persistent spirit so that I may follow You in Your kingdom. And when I am rejected, help me turn away and humbly move on as You do.
~ Janet Mueller, writer
~ Danyelle Yoder, visual artist