Have you ever had grit in your teeth? Maybe you ate something with a bit of dirt on it. Or you got dust in your mouth. Whatever it was, it was uncomfortable and gross. It felt nasty and you tried to get rid of it as quickly as possible.

Did you know that grit can actually be good? God made birds with a gizzard to grind their food because they don’t have teeth and they eat everything whole. However, in order for their gizzard to work properly and “chew” their food, the birds eat gravel and grit to aid in the digestion process. So while for some, grit is painful and unpleasant, it can also be a necessary part of life!

In a day and age of relative truth, changing values, fluid relationships, and a general emphasis on how we feel as the basis for our decisions, we all need to be reminded of what it means to be committed for the long haul. Living the Christian life is not easy; in fact, Jesus promised that it would be hard. He called His disciples to daily take up their cross—to die—for the sake of His name. The missionary lifestyle also has its challenges with times of sickness, loneliness and potentially years of seemingly no results. While grit may not be pleasant in the moment, when it comes to living as believers, it is an integral aspect of the Christian life.

“By His strength we take the challenge. By unflinching determination we hazard our lives and gamble all for Christ until we have reached the last tribe regardless of where that tribe might be. Our work is to fill in the gaps where the Gospel has not yet gone.”

-NTM Motto

In her Ted Talk on grit, Angela Lee Duckworth spoke of how success doesn’t just happen, but it takes passion and perseverance—grit. Success and “stick-to-itiveness” is not determined by IQ or talent, but determination and character. And this is true. Yet grit is more that just passion and perseverance. It is not just an individual journey to our own success. As believers, we need a different perspective on grit.

So what is Spiritual Grit? In Acts, there are numerous examples of the early believers exemplifying true grit as they followed Christ. Peter and John were caught for preaching the Word of Christ and commanded not to speak again. But they replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19b-20). Later on, the apostles were again caught and flogged for speaking about Christ. Yet “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). Time and again, the church suffered persecution for the sake of Jesus. Yet they never gave up.

“Let Him determine the course of your life and let quit never, NEVER be in your vocabulary.” 

-Tim Whatley

But if the Christian life—and the missionary life—takes grit, how do we become gritty? Where does this Spiritual grit come from? Paul writes in 2 Corinthians: “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart…But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor 4:1, 7). Later Paul writes, “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” (2 Cor 12:10). Spiritual grit requires complete dependence on the Spirit. In ourselves, we are nothing. Christ is the one who sustains us and gives what we need for daily grit.

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 

-Hebrews 11:32-12:3 (NIV)

Spiritual grit doesn’t have to be pleasant, but it is worth it. Christ has called us to grit-filled lives and He empowers His children with the strength to live that way. It will be challenging, but by God’s grace let us be gritty for the glory of Christ!