I felt like the Lord put the words “persistence” and “perseverance” in my heart today, so I did a Bible word search starting with “persistence” to see where that would lead me. In the New American Standard, not one reference. For “perseverance,” I was directed to Romans 2. First I read through the New American Standard translation, then I moved on to The Message. Immediately a couple of passages drew my attention.
The heading for Chapter 2 read, “God is Kind, but not Soft.”
At first I chuckled at the wording, then I had a flash of decisive insight regarding the conceptual chasm between those two words. The sense of chasm was heightened by the fact that we live in a culture where “love” and “softness” are often equated. No boundaries, no parameters. Soft. The opposite of “softness,” then, would be “hardness.” And in this comparison, the perception of God possessing and extending infinite love becomes stripped away as He is imagined to be unyielding and distant.
The image of a hard, merciless, compassionless God is not one that internally generates a desire for fellowship or relationship.
A. W. Tozer, who authored the book The Knowledge of the Holy, made this statement: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.*
I thought about Tozer’s statement under the light of, “God is Kind, but not soft.” Paul challenged the Romans’ thinking when he asked, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4, NASB)
Romans 2, The Message, includes the statement, “God is kind but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. (v. 4)…if you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up…God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.” (v. 9-11, The Message)
Kind, but not soft. Not willing to let us be less than He has called us to be…not willing to let go of our hands so that we wander away and reflect only His shadow, not His brilliance.
I like the concept of spiritual “splinters,” and how a person comes to acquire them. Splinters often are nearly invisible on the surface of the skin, and sometimes there’s a passage of time before you realize that’s what is causing a general discomfort. Oftentimes when they begin to work themselves out of the puncture, there is soreness, redness, puffiness, as the foreign entity is extricated by carefully conceived mechanisms.
And here’s where I want to hang my hat for a minute or two. Even when we can’t visually see a splinter under the skin, it’s still there. It’s attracting white blood cells to attack it; the pathway of its entrance is being softened so it can move outward, even if progress appears imperceptible.
“Perseverence” is defined in Merriam-Webster online as “Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition.”
That’s where the enemy steps in and accuses our heavenly Father, our earthly brothers, sisters, others around us: right at that point of time when the splinter of going against God’s grain is slowly, sometimes painfully, being extricated. The enemy condemns the very hands — or Hand — that are being used to help us, hold us, comfort us, and encourage us.
If God were “soft,” He would turn His face away from the process, allow the splinter to continue causing pain, perhaps even infection. But He is Kind…and in His Kindness, He moves us forward…as long as we are willing to persevere.