At some point in my childhood, someone encouraged me to develop a character trait that I was apparently missing. I don’t remember the exact context for the advice or even who presented the case, but the word used has always stuck with me. What I sorely needed was something called “sticktoitiveness.”
It may surprise you to learn that sticktoitiveness is actually in the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, it means “dogged perseverance,” and its earliest known use occurred way back in 1859. A person who has sticktoitiveness is a finisher. He or she keeps commitments and sees them through to the end.
I didn’t have much sticktoitiveness early on in my life. I can recall with some embarrassment a variety of different phases and interests that I started with excitement and enthusiasm but did not see through to the end. There was the time in the sixth grade when I tried to learn how to draw like one of my uber-gifted classmates and spent all of my money on comic books so that I could copy the scenes of the super heroes found therein. I still have a couple of shoeboxes full of comic books. Strangely, I can’t locate any of the drawings.
I’ve always had a romantic longing to play a musical instrument. My first instrument was a classical acoustic guitar that belonged to my father. One of my high school classmates happily took $20 a week to teach me few chords and the intro to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” I can still hammer out that intro. My first purchase was a bass guitar that I sold to a pawn shop one year after I bought it. I even have a mandolin I purchased as an adult that does nothing but collect dust on a shelf in my house.
Sticktoitiveness isn’t easy. However, you may be surprised to learn that God says its necessary. The Bible doesn’t use that precise word, but the idea is found all over. In Hebrews, there’s a repeated call to “hold fast” (3:6; 4:14; 6:18; 10:23). In fact, I believe this is the main purpose of Hebrews (which is actually a sermon). The unknown author is concerned that these early Christians might not finish the race that they began (12:1). He writes to charge them to keep going, to not quit, to finish what they started.
Sticktoitiveness is not something we value today. We are a nation of quitters. We quit jobs, quit towns, quit wives and children, and quit churches at an alarming rate. Just drive around on any Saturday morning for evidence of our quitting ways. Garage sales dominate our neighborhoods and enable us to attempt to receive back some return on our investment for all of the hobbies and life improvement changes we started but couldn’t complete.
Yet Scripture is clear: if you don’t finish what you started when you decided to follow Jesus, you can’t consider yourself a follower of Jesus. Following Jesus is a forever decision. Faith perseveres. When times get difficult and temptations arise, gospel faith toughens up and pulls through. Gospel faith is faith loaded with sticktoitiveness.
We may miss this biblical emphasis because we’ve cheapened grace by making faith a decision we make at some point in our lives. We talk about the time we were saved as if being saved was a transaction that occurred in our past and has little to no bearing on our present and future. This view of faith is not what the Bible has in mind. Jesus calls us to follow him. Hebrews and the rest of the Bible remind us powerfully that those who are saved are only those who finish what they started.
Sticktoitiveness as a Christian isn’t easy. It’s actually eerily similar to warfare. There will always be a variety of factors that make it difficult. The conditions will never feel just right. There will be stresses, time constraints, difficult people, dry spells, depressions, anxieties, trials, tragedies, disappointments, and temptations that stand in your way.
But God is gracious. He provides help. He doesn’t leave us to face the challenge alone. He provides gospel-fueled sticktoitiveness to those who ask him for it: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Prince on Preaching.