Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”1 Persistence is the courage to continue pursuing your dream despite unexpected setbacks, undeserved criticism, and unrelenting hard work. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon had a lot to say about the benefits of persistence:
“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor” (12:24).
“The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing” (20:4).
“The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work” (21:25).
The contrast that Solomon draws in Proverbs is not between the gifted and the ungifted, the lucky and the unlucky, or the rich and the poor. The contrast is between the persistent person and the lazy person. The persistent person is the one who is successful.
Six Keys to Developing Persistence
Do you want to experience success in your career, improve your financial stability, and strengthen your relationships? The key is persistence. There are six keys to developing persistence.
Understand the Value of Persistence
First, understand the value of persistence. You may think people are successful because of their family connections, inherited wealth, or good luck. But the Bible says God has already given you every tool you need to be successful in life. All you have to apply is the quality of persistence.
Let Go Of The Past
Second, let go of the past. Successful people always look forward. Thomas Edison had been working for 10 years on developing the nickel alkaline iron battery when his plant erupted into flames. Edison told his son, “It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”2 He refused to be paralyzed by his past. Some of you are paralyzed by some past failure. It may have been an unwanted divorce, an undeserved termination, or an unfair lawsuit. If you want to experience God’s best for your life, then you have to let go of those things.
Moving forward also means not being limited by past successes. If you have accomplished something, you ought to thank God for it and then move on to the next thing. Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13–14, “Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Start Doing Something
Third, persistent people learn the importance of beginning. Lazy people think of excuses not to begin a project. In Proverbs 26:13–14, Solomon wrote, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!’ As the door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard on his bed.”
Let’s face it: we all have a little bit of sluggard in us. We think of reasons not to begin an exercise program: “I don’t have the right equipment.” We come up with excuses not to spend time with the Lord: “God wants me to get my rest today.” But the one thing that will make you successful in life is simply to start doing something. Somebody has said, “You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great.”
Fourth, anticipate setbacks. Persistent people understand that setbacks are part of life. In Ecclesiastes 11:1, Solomon said, “Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.” The word “cast” referred to a king sending out ships to foreign countries to bring back treasure. Some of the vessels returned empty, but others came back with riches. The more ships he sent out, the more full ones came back. Here’s how that applies to us. The more resumes you send out, the more job interviews you will get. The more pounds you attempt to lose, the more pounds you will lose. The more people you share your faith with, the more people you will see come to know Christ as Savior. The way to succeed is to expect setbacks and move forward.
Expect to Work Hard
Fifth, expect to work hard. Do you know one thing you could do to make you more successful at work? Is there one thing you could do to have better relationships? Can you think of one thing you could do to improve your health or strengthen your relationship with God?
Here is my question for you: Why aren’t you doing it? If we all can think of things that would give us more money, better health, and better relationships, then why aren’t we doing those things? Successful people understand the importance of working hard.
Make Sure You Are Persisting In The Right Goals
Finally, make sure you are persisting in the right goals. Nothing is more tragic than spending your life climbing the ladder of success and reaching the top—only to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall. Solomon observed that, apart from God, work is meaningless, pleasure is futile, and death is certain. In the final chapter of Ecclesiastes 12, he gave this advice: “Remember also your Creator.” No amount of success can fill the void of an empty life.
Persistence is powerful, but there is one thing you cannot gain by hard work, and that is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If you truly want to live well, then it starts with receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
- Deborah Headstrom-Page, “From Telegraph to Light Bulb with Thomas Edison” (Nashville: B&H, 2007), 22.
- Richard Feloni, “Thomas Edison’s Reaction To His Factory Burning Down Shows Why He Was So Successful,” Business Insider, May 19, 2014.