When she was young, Florence Chadwick wanted desperately to be a great speed swimmer. At the age of six she persuaded her parents to enter her in a 50-yard race. She came in last, so she practiced every day for the new year. Again, she entered and lost. When she was an 11-year-old, Florence won attention and praise for completing the San Diego Bay endurance swim — 6 miles in all. But she still wanted to be a speed swimmer. At 14 she tried for the national backstroke championship but came in second to the great Eleanor Holm. At 18 she tried out for Olympic speed swimming and came in fourth — only three made the team. Frustrated, she gave it up, married, and moved on to other interests. As she matured, however, Florence began to wonder if she might not have done better if she had specialized in endurance swimming, something that came more naturally. So, with the help of her father, she began swimming distances again. Twelve years after she had failed to make the Olympic team, Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel, breaking Gertrude Ederle’s 24-year-old record. It took a little time, but eventually she found out what she could do best and did it. What can we learn from this story that is more defined by defeat than victory? The importance of perseverance.
In 1 Timothy 4:6-16 Paul encourages Timothy in all that it would take to be a good minister. He starts by instructing Timothy to be constantly nourished on the Word of God. From there he instructs the young minister in all manners of character and Christian conduct including discipline, actions, mindset, etc. He concludes the passage with one final thought to drive everything home in verse 16, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” Paul’s final thoughts before moving onto the next topic is of the importance of perseverance. He says that not only will it ensure salvation for Timothy himself, but also the salvation of others. This shows us today just how important the aspect of perseverance should be in our lives. This is especially true when considering how chaotic our world has been over the past year and a half with Covid crisis. As our world is in a constant state of change, we as Christians need to persevere and hold onto our never changing faith in God. A good example of persevering faith can be found in the life of Caleb.
In Numbers 13-14 we find the familiar story of the twelve spies who surveyed the promised land for Moses. As they return, they all talk about the beauty and grandeur of the land, but only two think it’s able to be conquered, Joshua & Caleb. The ten unbelieving spies convince the whole nation through-out the narrative to stand opposed to Caleb, Joshua, and Moses. Even still, Caleb perseveres through this obstacle and still holds onto the belief that they could still go take the land and tries convincing the whole nation in Numbers 14:8-9, “If the LORD is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” We see a great example of perseverance through trials in this juncture of Caleb’s life. In Joshua 14 though there is yet another lesson to be learned.
In Joshua 14 many years have passed since Caleb and Joshua’s first come onto the scene. After 40 years of wondering in the desert, a whole generation passing away, and the complete conquering of the promised land we have another interaction with them told to us. It is in this story we find Caleb reminding Joshua of a promise Moses had given him all those years before, Caleb could have the choice of the promised land once all was said and done. He is has come to claim his reward and it’s interesting where he chooses in Joshua 14:10-12, “Now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” Of all the lands Caleb could choose, he chose a fortified city on top of a hill that was well inhabited by a giant race of men. What faith! In this we see that Caleb’s faith persevered not only through trials, but also over long lengths of time. Caleb’s concrete confidence in the Lord’s ability and favor of His people never faltered despite huge obstacles and long stretches of time. His perseverance was key to his faith. What can a perseverant faith do for your spiritual life today? Has the flame for your spiritual walk grown dim? Have certain lofty spiritual goals you had been forgotten about or diminished? May we be challenged by the faith of Caleb today and “…persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”