How powerful is persistence? When I think about persistence, I think about tenacity, I think about being tenacious like a pit bull on some rare meat, just grabbing on chomping down and holding on with all you’ve got.
There are some areas in your life where you need to be persistent. In Genesis 26, we read about Abraham’s son, Isaac and how he persisted in the face of adversity and he overcame in the end.
A severe famine now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time. So Isaac moved to Gerar, where Abimelech, king of the Philistines, lived. 2 The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt, but do as I tell you. 3 Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father. 4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
Spiritually speaking, God is saying, “Look up at the stars in the sky and you see they’re too many to count. Your descendants will outnumber those stars!”
When he looked up at all of the stars in the sky, there was a star with your name on it! There was a star for you. Today, on the internet, you can name a star after someone. God already did that way back in Genesis. If you’re a part of God’s forever family, you’re one of those he was talking about.
I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.” So Isaac stayed in Gerar. Genesis 26:5-6
It’s hard for us to stay in one place, but when we stay, God is able to bless our lives in big ways.
When Isaac planted his crops that year, he harvested a hundred times more grain than he planted, for the Lord blessed him. Genesis 26:12
God can do so much with our little. I’ve seen this to be true in my life so many times. When you give God something to work with, He can take it and do something greater through it. Little is much when God is in it. You may not feel like what you give is very much, but God is able to do abundantly so much more, even a hundred times more with what you give.
Facing Rejection and Conflict
He became a very rich man, and his wealth continued to grow. He acquired so many flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and servants that the Philistines became jealous of him. So the Philistines filled up all of Isaac’s wells with dirt. These were the wells that had been dug by the servants of his father, Abraham. Genesis 26:13-15
The world around Isaac was watching. He may not have even realized it, but people were watching him and they became jealous. Maybe Isaac was doing the humble brag on social media. Maybe he was posting pics on Instagram of all of his flocks. Of course, he wasn’t really doing that, but people were looking at his life.
Put yourself in the position of the Philistines for a moment. How often do we do what they did? How often do we look at God’s blessing on someone’s life and become jealous and bitter about it? We think, “It must be nice. God is blessing that person so much.” And in the process, how do we respond? Do we get bitter and jealous like the Philistines did? As we grow more bitter and jealous of others, we’ve got to ask ourselves like, what are we giving up in the process? We are giving up our peace and contentment.
We always end up in the wrong destination when we hop on the gossip train or the bitterness train.
In the desert, water is scarce and precious. If you don’t have water, you’re going to die. In this environment, digging a well was like planting a flag. You were saying, “this is my property. I own this.” When the Philistines came along and poured dirt into the well to fill it up, it was an act of aggression.
This is an act of war and Isaac was well within his rights to stand up and say, “I’m fighting back.”
So Isaac moved away to the Gerar Valley, where he set up their tents and settled down. 18 He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them.
Navigating Conflict Successfully
19 Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water. 20 But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”). 21 Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”). 22 Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.” Genesis 26:17-22
Isaac was not giving up or giving in. He kept on digging even in the face of opposition. When there’s conflict, we’ve got to exercise wisdom. We have to determine when it is time to stand and fight and when it is time to compromise.
Abundance versus Scarcity
Isaac had an abundance mentality. He knew that he was with God and God was standing with him, so he had an abundance mentality. He didn’t have a scarcity mentality. The Philistines had a scarcity mentality. They thought, “there was only so much to go around. There’s only a limited amount and it’s going to be ours. I’m going to take it for myself.” But Isaac had an abundance mentality. He knew, “Hey, there’s more where this came from. God is good. God can bless. God can do more than what I can do. So, you know what? I’m going to watch and trust God and allow God to bless me.”
That is true in your life as well. Our attitude can’t be, “This is mine. I’m going to hold onto it. I’m going to take it for myself. But when I’m generous, I will watch God to bless what I have and He can do so much more with it.”
Winning Over Your Enemies
One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his adviser, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. 27 “Why have you come here?” Isaac asked. “You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land.”
28 They replied, “We can plainly see that the Lord is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let’s make a covenant. 29 Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the Lord has blessed you!”
30 So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together. 31 Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace. Genesis 26:26-31
Because Isaac was persistent and used wisdom to navigate conflict, there was a victorious party in the end. He celebrated together with his former enemies. They built a relationship of trust. He was able to win over his accusers. He was able to influence them. All of this happened because he refused to give up. He was faithful with what God asked him to do.
In the end, we see there was even more water and more blessing! That’s the power of persistence in the face of our problems.