For some time, the buzz word "Grit" has been used in education, coaching and self-development. But what is it exactly? How does it apply to the Christian life?
The definition of grit in the context of behaviour is "firmness of character; indomitable spirit." (Merriam-Webster dictionary). In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth tweaked this definition as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals." Paul says in Philippians 3:12 -14, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (NIV).
Here he is talking about the aggressive chase and pursuit of the end goal. However, here, there seems to be an interesting juxtaposition between this striving with endurance and perseverance and Grace. Paul previously says in 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV), "But by the Grace of God I am what I am, and his Grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the Grace of God that was with me." Through Grace, we can have endurance, perseverance and grit. Dallas Willard reminds us, "Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone."
Angela Duckworth continues here the description of grit as having stamina and "sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality." (SACAP, 2016) The essence of grit is elusive, according to Duckworth. However, I believe Paul, Peter and James, to name a few, know.
Four Common Characteristics of Grit.
Courage is not just physical bravery (Joshua 1:9). Courage is the triumph over fear and includes taking a chance when others will not (Matthew 14:29–31), following your vision (Acts 21), Standing up for your beliefs (Daniel 3). Courage includes faith (Matthew 8), patience (Romans 5:3) and the guts to say "no." The ability to forgive (Luke 17:1–6) is also courageous. The bravest thing is to stay the course when everyone else has abandoned you (2 Timothy 4:7).
Instances of courage include; Abram listening to and following an "unknown God", Esther going to speak to the king, the disciples dropping everything and following Jesus and Jesus going to the cross. Many, many other stories come to mind. So courage must be an essential part of Christian life.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6 (NIV)
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say." Acts 4:13–14 (NIV)
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3–4 (NIV)
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." 2 Timothy 4:7–8 (NIV)
For many, perseverance is synonymous with pain. However, those with true grit can change their perspective of perseverance. They view struggle as a doorway to something more significant (Romans 8:28). To persevere is to push towards a goal steadfastly. Perseverance is not continuous practice; instead, it is practice with a purpose. Paul writes about the need for perseverance in Romans 5. Peter, in 2 Peter 1, states that perseverance creates character and godliness. Moreover, James in James 1; writes that perseverance leads us to maturity.
"Through whom we have gained access by faith into this Grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:2–4 (NIV)
"We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance." 2 Thessalonians 3:4–5 (NIV)
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2–4 (NIV)
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1–3 (NIV)
"Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." James 5:10–11 (NIV)
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:5–8 (NIV)
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Once again, a trait of resilient people is a solid moral compass and set of beliefs. They do not compare themselves to others and see problems as a refining process towards transformation. They cultivate self-awareness and adjust according to the size of the wave they are riding.
"Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!"He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the Lord had left him." Judges 16:20 (NIV)
"Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death." Proverbs 11:19 (NIV)
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." 2 Corinthians 4:7–12 (NIV)
Passion creates excellence. Passionate people have a sense of purpose (Romans 8:28) and are often selfless. They have clear values and steadfast beliefs. They are driven towards the end goal and do not let anything stop them (1 Timothy 4:12). They love the success of others and are enthusiastic about it. They take charge and responsibility for their lives but will ask for support when they need it (Galatians 6:5 -10).
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23–24 (NIV)
"Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord." Romans 12:10–11 (NIV)
The essence of grit is Grace. In all cases of grit, we must renew our minds by Grace through the Holy Spirit. Through God's Grace, we can have grit — courage, perseverance, resilience and passion. And it is by having courage, perseverance, resilience and passion that the Grace of God outworks in our lives. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 12:8–10 (NIV):
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
It is by Grace that we have grit. Have you got true grit? Godly grit?
Footnotes and resources
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Duckworth, Angela. Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance. New York, New York, United States: Scribner Book Company, 2016.
Willard, Dallas. The Great Omission. 2nd ed. San Francisco, California: HarperOne, 2014.