We tend to make people heroes for all kinds of reasons. With reverence we celebrate those who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to protect others. We marvel at those who find courage in the moment to rise to the challenge and force their determination to override their fear. On a lesser note, we make heroes out of sports figures because of their athletic prowess. Some even treat actors as heroes because of the roles they play. And somewhere along the line we forgot to recognize and honor another type of heroic trait that manifests itself in a variety of ways all around us—perseverance. The inspired psalmist, however, did not forget. To the contrary, when writing in Psalm 129, he reflected on Israel’s history and, rather than recounting the exploits of Israel’s heroes, he recalled their collective perseverance due to the LORD’s provision. Israel survived. Overcoming all odds through history, Israel still stood, and they did so because of God.
From their origin in Egypt, Israel had faced oppression and subjugation (Psa. 129:1), but this never defined them because they endured it and survived it (Psa. 129:2). They had suffered much, but the righteousness of God delivered them (Psa. 129:3-4), and so they survived. In the history that followed, they faced opposition from the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the Philistines in their early days, overcoming them with God’s help only to then fall into conflict with the larger nations of Egypt, Syria, Assyria, and then Babylon. And yet they survived. Their oppressors treated them with contempt, but while those empires withered away, giving ground to those that followed and suffering their own humiliation in the process, Israel survived (Psa. 129:5-7). Therefore, knowing this, no one should compromise principle and honor those who oppose God but rather accept the hardship of the moment knowing by faith that, with God’s help, righteousness will endure (Psa. 129:8).
Most people will never receive a Congressional Medal of Honor. Few people have the skill to play professional sports at all, and only a handful are recognizable superstars. But everyone can persevere. Few people have gone through life with everything handed to them. In fact, most people have endured far more than you would ever realize at first glance. Some have lost all of their possessions. Some have battled disease. Some live with sorrow daily from the loss of someone close to them. These occurrences happen so frequently that we forget just how significant enduring them truly is. To survive hardship and to endure adversity offers us opportunity to build character in ways that luxury and ease can never do. Difficulties remind us of our weakness and of our need; they should remind us how much we need God.
However, there is another aspect of survival that deserves attention because it matters even more—spiritual survival. Satan uses hardship, stress, and loss to try to weaken and destroy faith. He employs adversity with pinpoint precision, probing for weakness and instilling doubt. He pushes us to the limit of human endurance, working to break our faith. Sometimes he uses others who ridicule our convictions and challenge our commitment. He persecutes in subtle ways and with multiple waves, wearing us down physically and emotionally in order to get to us spiritually. But in this ongoing battle, we do not have to be a hero, because we already have a Hero, Jesus Christ. Therefore, in order to emerge victorious from battle, we do not have to take new ground; we just have to survive. In the early days of World War II, when Nazi Germany was at its peak and before the United States entered the war, Hitler unleashed the Luftwaffe on London with constant attacks—all in an effort to break Britain’s will. But they endured; they stood strong; they survived. They showed others it could be done, and this changed the course of the war. Do not underestimate the significance of survival. When your faith survives all that Satan throws against it, you are a hero.