“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” — John 6:37 ESV
A few years back I worked hard to lose weight and get in shape. I even took up running, and spent more time away from my desk doing “outside things” than I ever had before. I studied nutrition, counted calories, and spent a lot of time being hungry. I joined a gym, encouraged a personal trainer to yell at me, and literally worked my butt off to get healthy.
It was tough. It took a long time and a lot of effort, but this time I finally succeeded where past attempts had failed. I lost a lot of weight, and feel a whole lot better about how I look. But even now, years later, I don’t have a metabolism that just lets me eat whatever I want, and the hours and stress and travel associated with work cause my default trajectory to drift more toward Chico grande than Chico delgado. It takes constant effort to maintain the results I achieved years ago, and even with all that work, I’m not as svelte as I once was.
Persistence, by definition, is hard. At least for us humans, that is. My general weakness… My natural proclivity to compromise and cave in to even the smallest bit of pressure or temptation (because, let’s face it, I love ice cream and french fries)… My sinful bent to rebel against what I know is best for me and others… And for sure my tendency to overestimate my strength and capability as I frequently bite off more than I can chew…
All these things and more make it extremely difficult to do anything well in the long-term. Sometimes the short-term victory is the best I get. Whether saying no to a cheeseburger or pushing for one more mile on the run or forcing myself to go to bed on time so that I can meet with God early the next morning (how amazing would it be to routinely say the things David says in Psalm 5:3 or 119:147-148?!) … these are all hard to achieve even a few times. But day after day, year after year, they rise to the level of impossible. I’m just not strong enough for awesome like that.
But the Lord does not suffer from my weaknesses or inadequacy. God’s strength doesn’t wear down or run out or lose focus like mine does. More than simply not failing to accomplish what He sets out to do, God achieves with ease what man calls impossible. Where in my life, “persistence” is characterized by a blood-sweat-and-tears-two-steps-forward-one-step-back-rolling-boulders-up-a-hill kind of slogging through life, God’s “persistence” is calm and constant. Infinite and unwavering. He never breaks a sweat. Never runs away. Never throws in the towel. Never even compromises. He doesn’t have challenges that He’s working hard to overcome. He’s simply unchanging and unwavering and unstoppable. He rules the universe with His feet up.
Not only does God not run out of strength, neither does He run out of the will to work. When I give up a mile before the designated end of the run or cave in and order fries, it’s not necessarily out of physical exhaustion (like losing my grip hanging from the branch because my hands get tired), it’s failure of commitment (I just don’t want to run anymore or live another day without my taters). But that’s just another form of giving out. Certainly God’s will is no less sufficient than the strength of His hand or the reach of His arm.
And that is God’s love toward His children. Relentless. Consistent. Never faltering or failing. Never giving up. Never bailing on us for an easier play. For those God has chosen, He sets His love on us … permanently (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), and will not fail to accomplish His purposes in that person’s life. “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) That doesn’t mean we necessarily get what we want. It doesn’t mean we somehow become perfect by our 30th or 40th or 107th birthday. Remember, the “you” God sees is the eternal you … your soul … the “you” who will either dwell in the house of the Lord or live in a foreign land with your head in a pig trough weeping and gnashing your teeth … forever. God’s knowledge of us is perfect and exhaustive, and even then, His love for us cannot be shaken.
So don’t ever fear that God will give up on you. He doesn’t quit. Anyone who comes to Him, He will by no means turn away. (John 6:37) But here too, remember that “coming to the Lord” isn’t about words. Talk is cheap, and God will see through them to your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He cannot be mocked (Galatians 6:7). You might fool everyone else, but you will not fool the one who peers effortlessly into your soul.
But that’s a good thing! To be fully known, and yet loved… Nothing could be greater. The persistent love of God literally draws life out of death, something out of nothing, beauty from ashes. May that be your testimony and mine! Draw near to God, and He will absolutely and completely draw near to you … forever. (James 4:8-10, emphasis mine)