For the most part, the Bible presents persistence as a positive character quality. Persistence is linked closely with endurance and perseverance. Jesus praised persistence in prayer with an illustration to explain it. His parable in Luke 18:1–8 tells of a widow who was not receiving justice for her case, so she continued to pester the judge and would not take “no” for an answer. Because the widow persisted in her pleas for justice, the ungodly judge finally relented and gave her what she asked. Jesus then challenged His followers to persist in their prayers the same way.
Persistence is positive when the goal is righteous. Persistence in prayer (Luke 18:1), in faith (Hebrews 11:13), and in doing good (Galatians 6:9) are all commended because the motivation is right. However, persistence is wrong when the motives are self-serving. If we persist in sin, the Bible commands other Christians to rebuke us (1 Timothy 5:20; Matthew 18:15–17). In fact, those who persist in sinful lifestyles are not true Christians; they have not been born again (1 John 3:4–10). Persistent, willful sin is evidence that the Holy Spirit has not yet transformed our natures so that we desire godliness (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Persistent complaints are not praiseworthy, either. Proverbs 21:9 says it is “better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” A spouse’s persistent nagging or complaining is a sign of selfishness, not godliness. To persist in lustful desire is also wrong. King Ahab is an example of such persistence, and in his case it led to murder (1 Kings 21:1–16) and a pronouncement of judgment (1 Kings 21:17–26).
For us who desire to please the Lord, persistence keeps us from straying. We persistently put one foot in front of the other as we walk the path God has designed for us (Proverbs 4:25–26). Neither temptation, doubt, nor discouragement can destroy those who persist in following Christ. Isaiah 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary” (NASB). Waiting for the Lord means persisting in righteousness until we receive His answer or His deliverance.
So the Bible shows two opposing aspects of persistence. Jesus told His followers that, despite how difficult things became for them, those who persisted in faith to the end would be saved (Mark 13:13). Failure to persist in our Christian walk indicates that we were never Christ’s to start with (1 John 2:19). The opposite of that is persisting in sin. Our sinful nature loves having its own way. We are not to give in to it, knowing that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, ESV). Persistence is part of a godly character when its objectives are godly; it is part of a worldly character when its objectives are worldly.