An abridged message by
Min. Omar Williams
Persuasion or being persuaded, from the Greek etymological term Peitho, is a state of mind arrived at after an individual has had certain experiences whereby they have been convicted and convinced to change attitudes and/or behavior regardless of challenges and risks. A persuaded state of mind is invariable to the pursuit of Christian vocation because of the stress factors which are par for the course. Jesus declared unequivocally that his adherents would enjoy blessings but endure persecutions simultaneously (Mark 10:30). Paul underscored this truth in his testimony that God had opened great and effectual doors of opportunity to his ministry but would face many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:9). He later admonished his dearest protégé that even the good news of the gospel must be embraced with the associated afflictions for standing up for Christ (2 Timothy 1:8).
It must be noted that persuasion is not an “overnight” experience and unlike justification and righteousness, it is not vicarious. It must be honed and edified through personal experiences! One staple verse in the biblical diet of many Christians is Paul’s statement, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12).” Paul had to earn the right to make that statement under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It took him approximately thirty years of relationship with God to make such a declaration! And this was approximately thirty years of being in labors, in stripes, in prisons, in perils, in weariness, in painfulness, in hunger, in thirst, in fasting, in cold and nakedness, being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, (2 Corinthians 11:23 – 27). The experiences of Paul recounted here would make most people discouraged and no doubt Paul may have wondered at some point why God would allow such suffering in his execution of his ministry.
These experiences and the fact that he survived them and had occasion to expound the gospel through his trials served as a catalyst for Paul’s persuasion. He was confident in God’s ability to keep, preserve and guard that which he had committed into God’s care! What exactly had he committed? He had obviously committed his soul with all its mortal and immortal interests, his ministry, his destiny and his eternity into the hands of the Lord.
An individual possesses no entity of higher value to entrust to another than the interests of his soul. There is no greater demonstration of confidence like that in which one entrusts the keeping of that soul to another being! This is where true Christian commitment begins when one is confident and willing to place his soul, ergo his existence into the hand of the Lord. Paul got to that level in his relationship with God! Can we get there? And if so, how?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that an individual must be courted at three levels before the mind reaches persuasion. The three levels are classified as Ethos, Logos and Pathos.
Ethos speaks to reputation and character. In the initiation of relationships we first consider the reputation of the other party to convince self regarding the other’s trustworthiness and credibility. We likely ponder what is the reputation of the person? What is his/her expertise; previous record or integrity? Once we are satisfied with the Ethos, then Logos (the Greek for ‘word or thought’) is then entertained. We become interested in what the character has to say, to hear the internal consistency of the message, the clarity of his/her claims, the logic of reason, and to ascertain how his/her speech matches the reputation. However consistent the words, the relationship really goes beyond the superficial at Pathos. Interestingly, Pathos is the Greek term for ‘suffering’ or ‘mutual experience’. In the stage of pathos the person being courted is invited to venture beyond the realms of an emotional response to a place of identifying with the other in terms of experience (i.e. to live in their world).
Let us consider Paul’s famous persuasion statement again. “For the which cause I also suffer/endure these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” Paul is asserting that in the beginning of his relationship with God he merely believed God. The Greek word used for belief suggests trust that is not founded upon personal experience. In further writings Paul clarifies that this belief is the entry level criterion for membership in the kingdom of God; But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Heb. 11:6). God does not expect one to know him to enter into a relationship with him; one just needs to believe the preaching of Jesus and the testimonies of his saving power.
This belief he speaks of is the Ethos: it is forming a belief system about the God we are initiating a relationship with based upon a reputation; our impression of Him; the little we know or think we know about Him. The limitation of mere belief becomes obvious immediately. Mere Belief gets us into the Kingdom but is not sufficient to sustain your stance or a lifelong vocation. Running on mere belief is tantamount to imitating the foolish virgins who had no extra oil (Matt. 25:1 – 13). “Extra oil” is critical to wade beyond this shoreline of belief! To pursue divine calling is to step into unknown territories when all we have are promises!
How do I get to knowing that God is really there? All I have at this point is second hand data; people’s testimonies and the message of the preacher. We need to move past merely believing to into knowing God! The challenge is that knowing God is by revelation only! Again there is a litany of scriptures indicating that revelation of God is not arbitrary or random but only ensues in the context of situations – and I may add that these situations are usually crucibles! Intimate knowledge of God and His kingdom is reserved for an exclusive group – those who relate to Him in the secret place of crucibles. Case in point: Abraham’s situation of needing a sacrifice allowed him to see the revelation of God as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord that sees to our needs (Gen. 22:14). It is in these personal experiences that we know God beyond belief! Know assuredly that if we seek God earnestly with all our hearts in these difficulties we will know Him (Jer. 23:13).
Paul knew God! The first step in the pursuit of knowledge of God is His Word. Every revelation of God is grounded in His written Word: so Peter admonishes new converts; as newborn babes we must feed upon the infallible, inerrant Word of God (1 Pet. 2:2). God’s written Word reveals God’s mind and Will and therefore can be said to be God (John 1:1). Therefore we initiate any knowledge of God by His Word.
We can only comprehend the comprehensive breadth and width of sovereign providence when we are totally stretched by stressors, life transitions, relationships, jobs, bills, physical illnesses and so on! When we know we have arrived at our limits and we are unsure what will happen next! When we have prayed and fasted and believed just about as much as is humanly possible and yet all that God says is “My grace is sufficient for thee, and my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).” Most times the stretching causes an uneasy sense of inner disequilibrium and it is inexplicable how we maintain sanity! Eventually the uneasiness subsides, not necessarily because the stressors ebb but rather because we have been extended to accommodate a new vast expansion of territory! Our latitude has amplified and capacity increased. Then we begin to truly understand that it is in God that we live and move and have our being! (Acts 17:28)
Longsuffering means exactly what it says; to suffer long! In the life of faith there are those durations within which we, through self-restraint, must suffer long before proceeding to action; showing patience with others, tolerance and clemency, bearing long with frailties, offenses, provocations without becoming vindictive and resentful. God does not always deliver from adversity, He sometimes grants perseverance in the harsh conditions! At times longevity is the only means of overcoming struggles! How long can you last in pursuing the eternal purpose of God that reaches back to eternity past and forward to the eternity of blessedness? Until the present struggles past! But we are not passively waiting to exhale; rather “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Rom. 5:3 – 5).” Interestingly the word experience in that text is also rendered approval! In other words God approves our ministry after we demonstrate the capacity to endure hardships at length and not quit because we know He is with us!
Having believed God in the Ethos stage we conclude that God’s character is impeccable, therefore, we became interested in what He has to say to us! Having delved unreservedly into His Word we find it to be infallible, therefore, we are incited to take affirmative action convinced He will not fail us! Through actions our experiences with God are undeniable, therefore we are persuaded that He is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24)! Having experienced God’s unfailing care in the depth, breadth, length and heights of life’s throes, our minds became influenced; convinced to stay with God for the long haul because we have already been through enough to know that He is enough to sustain us! Our human will, passions, are inclined to His and we have graduated from simply trusting God to entrusting ourselves in God! This is the commitment of which Paul speaks! This commitment is the invariable end product of the process of persuasion so that one cannot say I am persuaded without also saying conclusively I am committed! To be thusly persuaded is to be committed!
Persuaded folks are committed folks! They fulfill the ideal (1 Cor. 15:58) of being steadfast (settled in mind and purpose), unmovable (persistent, planted, rooted, secured and fixed), always abounding in the work of the Lord (always giving their best to the will of God and to advance the cause of the kingdom of God), knowing that their labor is not in vain in the Lord (their temporal and eternal rewards await)! I am persuaded, therefore I commit! What say you?