How can I persevere in a hurting world?

Luke 18.1–8

God, as revealed through the Bible, is a God who loves the world, feels its pain, and wants to see justice restored. Where there is oppression, hatred, discord, favouritism, or disregard; where people live in loneliness, fear, squalour, pain, or poverty; or when our world is trashed, destroyed, mined, poisoned, or squandered, God is filled with the pain felt by his creation and longs to see it redeemed, restored, and renewed.

Christians are called to this mission of renewal, and through the freedom that comes through Christ, through careful reflection on the Bible, and through being filled with God’s Spirit, they align themselves with God’s heart. They begin to love the world as God loves it, feel the pain as God feels it, and desire restorative justice as God longs for it.

When the world rejects the homeless, the displaced, the refugee, or poverty-stricken we stand with them, petition God on their behalf, and work to restore the balance of justice.

When the world oppresses and marginalises groups of people based on race, age, ability, or gender, we stand with them, petition God on their behalf, and work to restore the balance of justice.

When we see the world being destroyed by climate change, raped of its resources, and the decimation of creation, we stand with it, petition God on its behalf, and work to restore the balance of justice.

However, it can feel overwhelming. The world is heading for the worst humanitarian disaster it has ever faced. Currently, we estimate there are — due to war, human-made, or natural disaster — 80 million refugees in the world. This is a staggering number. By 2050, due to the imminent impact of climate change, the estimate is that this number will grow to between 800 million to 1.2 billion displaced people. The amount of suffering that will take place is mind-numbingly incomprehensible, and for the majority of us, this will happen within our lifetime and the not-too-distant future.

How should the church respond? How can we possibly make a difference? How do we handle the constant pain and the injustice of a world where a handful of wealthy people are protected and barricaded behind unbreachable doors while they destroy the planet and the bulk of humanity? How do we prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed?

The answer is perseverance. We must have perseverance in petitioning God through prayer and in our direct, social action.

Firstly, we need to maintain a divine perspective. Christians are God’s servants in the world and we are chosen and called to join in with God’s mission to see the world redeemed, renewed, and restored. We must learn to hold light to possessions and the sense of self-preservation and ownership we have over creation at the expense of people and the environment.

Secondly, we must hold on to the hope that is to come. Christians believe in something called the grand metanarrative or the overarching story of God in the world. We know how the story ends and we are certain that love wins. Therefore, if we know how it ends then we know that our efforts in the here and now are not in vain. God promises that one day his Kingdom will fully come, justice will fully prevail, and God’s people will be fully vindicated. Because of this, Christians, in a world that appears to be hopeless, are called to be a people of hope.

Thirdly, we must remember that it is okay to fail. Thomas Edison completed 9000 experiments before inventing a viable lightbulb. During his research, someone criticised him for not getting any results. Edison replied, “Results! I’ve gained many results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!” We need to reclaim the word FAIL and make it stand for First Attempts In Learning! Perseverance means that we continue to do something despite facing failures, difficulties, barriers, obstacles, or delays.

Fourthly, it matters not how slowly we progress in seeking to achieve our goals as long as we do not stop. If you walk up a steep hill or run a marathon, it is better to keep going, even slowly, than to stop because it is so difficult to get going again, and as anyone who has ever piloted a boat knows, you cannot steer a boat unless it is moving!

Fifthly, we need mutual encouragement. God has organised us in local congregations for a reason — because we are ministering in geographical areas — and we need to encourage each other. I once participated in a sponsored cycle ride from the UK to Italy, and one day, in France, after already cycling fifty miles, we cycled for thirty miles directly into a 30mph headwind. It was brutal. I partnered with my friend Lis and I admit we used some pretty unsavoury language as we encouraged each other while every muscle burned! We were still ten miles from our destination when our friend Adrian (who was a proficient cyclist and had already arrived at the destination) was so worried about us he cycled back ten miles to join us. He added 20 miles to his own ride that day to encourage his teammates and see us home. I could not have made that ride without Lis and Adrian!

Finally, we need to draw our strength from God. Psalm 121 reads: “I look up to the mountains — does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

Dear friends, we face an unprecedented future, a global disaster of truly epic proportions that, for the most part, we are ignoring. If the predictions are true then it will forever change our lives and the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. So may we maintain a divine perspective and hold light to the temporal things of this world. May we hold to the promise that God’s love will win. May we not be discouraged when we fail remembering that they are our first attempts in learning. May we keep walking and never stop no matter how slow the progress. May we encourage one another as we exercise our ministry together, and may we draw on the strength that comes from our Lord.

May we persevere and never give up!

Amen.