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By any other name.



Let's quibble a little. It's something most of us do with precision because we do it so often. Is continuing a discipline, a virtue, a personality trait, a character marker, a spiritual grace, or some other more trendy descriptive? Is the ability to keep on keeping on in our fast, complex world genetic, learned in life, given, earned from a job well done, taught in the life-long lesson plan, or discovered like the holy grail? Even more, how is continuing related to endurance, persistence, perseverance, patience, and several other related qualities---determination, vigilance, diligence, perhaps tenacity? And, you know the answers to these questions in our wobbly times: it depends on who you ask!


Continuing is not typically listed among the traditional disciplines of the Christian faith. That list varies among belief systems, denominations, formal education institutions, and even within congregations. They are essentially the practices of a growing faith, perhaps the disciplines of Christ---meditation, prayer, Bible study, fasting, fellowship, service, witness, chastity, stewardship, and others depending on your source. You'll notice that continuing, endurance, persistence, perseverance, and patience are not listed among the disciplines. Meaning that my use of the word "discipline" in reference to them is punctuated by a question mark and not an exclamation point. Here's the quibble: I've labeled them disciplines because they are qualities usually learned out there on the mean streets, in the trials and tests of life. God teaches them to us if we are open to His guidance and instruction. Patience is an exception because it is also listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23), meaning that it should be the production of our spiritual growth. Broadly, these disciples can be defined----


Patience: implies suffering, enduring or waiting, as a determination of the will

and not simply under necessity. As such it is an essential Christian virtue to the

exercise of which there are many exhortations.


Endurance: Continuing Christian commitment in the face of difficulty. Born in a

context of hostility, persecution, and the death of their Lord and his disciples, the

endurance of Christians in the face of persecution and temptation underlies most

of the New Testament.


Perseverance: The root Greek terms are often used of God's permanence in

contrast to the mutability of human beings and the world. There is also the idea of

energetic resistance, steadfastness under pressure, and endurance in the face of

trials.


Persistence: the tenacious and unswerving pursuit of an aspiration or goal,

especially in the areas of Christian discipline and practice.


Continuing: the ability, skill, or discipline to remain on target in the pursuit of a

goal, aspiration, task, or assignment.


It is interesting to note that these terms are translated from several synonymous Greek words, each portraying the idea of continuance. The context of the passage in question is the final arbiter of translation. Many of these words literally mean to abide or dwell or stay in place, often with a prepositional beginning like before, after, mega, over, under, among others. The word continue, for example, from The Apostle Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians is a vivid example---


Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4: 2, ESV


Continue in this instance is the Greek compound word proskartereo...pros meaning toward or with, kartereo meaning to show steadfast strength. To continue, in a biblical application in this context means to to pray with steadfast strength.


OK, so let's lay aside the quibbling for a moment. What's the big deal about these words and definitions? And, here it is---they all communicate the thought of continuance in multiple sets of circumstances. We are to calmly wait and anticipate God's guidance and counsel; continue in his assignment or our purpose even when facing trials and tests; resist the many temptations that challenge and threaten us; stay on point even when quitting is more advantageous; and keep our eyes focused on the goal when obstacles deter us. The real deal is that each of these words is an aspect of continuing. In total, the comprise a significant biblical theme.


Virtues? Skills? Character traits? Lessons? Patience? Endurance? Perseverance? Persistence? Continuing? You know, missing the truth because of our quibbling. Back in 1595 Williams Shakespeare published Romeo and Juliet. Their clans were mortal enemies and their love threatened warfare between them. In one line their error was addressed by Juliet, who said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". The power Bible words---patience, endurance, perseverance, persistence, continuing---all have special meaning in the Christian life. But, they all express a basic truth that is essential for our spiritual journey. Continuing should mark our our path. By any of the other names it is still continuing.


The life of Jesus in our prime example and motivation of this spirit, the grace of continuing. Often, I am drawn, however, to the Acts of the Apostles, Dr. Luke's account of the first century church. Those Apostles, at great threat to their lives, exhibited this spirit of continuity. Luke wrote---


And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied

greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6:7, ESV


Without doubt they were patient. They endured much hardship, persevered and persisted. But, continuing, by any other name, means they stayed with their mission. And, they multiplied.


You see, continuing, by any other name, is still continuing.


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