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The Importance of Grit

The Importance of Grit

The most reliable predictor of success in life is grit.1 ~ Angela Duckworth

You won’t influence others until you live it.

CENTRAL PASSAGE: 1 Corinthians 15:58

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

True Grit is the title of a 1969 Western starring John Wayne in the role of U. S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, who is hired by a young girl, Mattie Ross, to track down and bring to justice the man who murdered her father. Mattie hires Cogburn because she heard he had “true grit,” which he demonstrates as the plot unfolds, accomplishing his mission.

“Grit” is defined as determination, perseverance, tenacity, fortitude, and courage. It is, simply, the refusal to give up. It is the spirit that Winston Churchill captured in a speech in 1941 in which he said:

  • Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”2

In education, the easiest thing to measure is IQ. However, those students with the highest IQ do not always do best in school, and certainly do not always do best in life. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth became intrigued with this seeming inconsistency and set out to understand what it was that most accurately foreshadowed success — both in academics and in life.

In a TED talk, Duckworth reported that she went to West Point to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. She went to the National Spelling Bee to see if she could predict which students would go the farthest in competition. She studied which rookie teachers in demanding situations would still be there at the end of the school year, and who would be the most effective among these.3

Duckworth also partnered with businesses to see if they could determine which salespeople would keep their jobs and which would earn the most money.

In all those varied contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, it wasn’t physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. “It was,” she reported, “grit!”

Duckworth defined grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina; grit is sticking with your future, day in and 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. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”4

1) The Bible encourages grit.

The word “grit” does not appear in the Bible. But other synonyms do:

  • Endurance: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).
  • Steadfastness: “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  • Discipline: “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
  • Faithfulness: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

In addition, the Scriptures support the idea that grit can be encouraged:

  • “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
  • “Be strong, act like a man” (David’s charge to his son, Solomon, as David was about to die [1 Kings 2:2 NIV]).
  • “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24).
  • “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith... be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

A Google search on “perseverance in the Bible” yields a treasure trove of passages that encourage us to have spiritual grit.

I agree, from reflecting on my own life as well as observing the lives of many people to whom I’ve ministered over the decades, that the single greatest predictor of spiritual success is “grit,” a predisposition to simply never quit.

2) The Bible demonstrates grit.

Not only does the Bible teach grit, but it also demonstrates grit. Perhaps the four greatest examples of grit in the Bible are Joseph, Moses, David, and Paul.

The Example of Joseph

As a young man, Joseph was given dreams by God indicating that he would be a great leader. Yet, instead of becoming a great leader soon after the vision, Joseph’s life went in what seemed to be the opposite direction.

Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt, where he faithfully served Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard, but he was nevertheless thrown into prison on false charges. He faithfully served the prison warden, but was forgotten for years. It seemed that Joseph was on the fast track in the opposite direction of being a great leader.

In spite of this, Joseph hung in there, never failing in his commitment to the Lord. When God’s refining work in his life was done, he snatched Joseph out of the prison and made him Prime Minister of Egypt, fulfilling the initial promise.

The Example of Moses

God called Moses to go to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Moses was extremely reluctant, but eventually went and appealed to Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Instead, Pharaoh intensified the burden of slavery on the Israelites to backbreaking levels.

God used Moses to levy a series of ten plagues on Egypt that started out bad and got worse! Pharaoh finally relented and ejected the Israelites in exasperation, but soon afterward he changed his mind. He sent his army to get them back, so the Lord parted the Red Sea, enabling the Israelites to escape. On the other side of the sea, the Israelites ran out of food. Later, they ran out of water. Finally, the Amalekites attacked them.

The Israelites were so exasperated with this uninspiring deliverance that they wanted to kill Moses and go back to Egypt. Things were continually going from bad to worse.

In spite of this, Moses hung in there, never failing in his commitment to the Lord, and God eventually used him to lead the children of Israel to the borders of the promised land.

The Example of David

David was anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel. But instead of having a coronation ceremony the next day, David spent the next 15 years of his life running for his life from the current King Saul.

In spite of this, David hung in there, never failing in his commitment to the Lord. He eventually ascended to the throne of Israel, in fulfillment of God’s prophecy and his symbolic anointing.

The Example of Paul

God revealed to Paul that he was going to be a missionary to the Gentiles, but for years Paul languished in obscurity and under opposition by church leaders.

Eventually, when Paul finally did begin his missionary work, he was beaten, shipwrecked, attacked by animals, imprisoned, robbed, and relentlessly deprived of the normal basics of life. But he hung in there, never failing in his commitment to the Lord, and he eventually was used as one of God’s greatest servants.

Each of these individuals demonstrated grit... a stubborn refusal to give up on their purpose and calling in life.

3) The Bible rewards grit.

Not only does the Bible teach grit, and not only does it give examples of grit, but it also makes it clear that we will be rewarded for exercising grit!

  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV).
  • “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
  • “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison...” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

When you study grit on even just the secular level, the rewards of grit are clear. The internet is alive with websites touting grit and offering to help others develop grit. In addition, schools, both public and charter, are beginning to emphasize the value of “grit” over intelligence for academic success. Grit is such a popular idea that it has earned a place in modern culture. Why? Because culture is learning something God has woven into the fabric of his world: grit is a key to success in virtually any area of life.


To be foolishly and mindlessly gritty is not a virtue. Nor is it true that we should never quit. While the criteria of when to quit are often very subtle, even people who possess great grit recognize that there are times when the right thing to do might be to quit something.

Nevertheless, there are many times when grit is exactly what is called for. In Ephesians 2:10, we read,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

When we are convinced that God has called us to a task, we all need grit to see it through.

Teddy Roosevelt, the personification of grit, once said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.5

Grit is often the difference between success and failure, between reward and loss, between victory and defeat, and between really living or just sitting on the sidelines. It is often the difference of whether or not we are able to walk in the good works the Lord has prepared for us. If the Lord has called us to a task, we must respond with grit.

  1. Angela Lee Duckworth, “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance,” TED, April 2013,
  2. “Winston Churchill, “Never Give In, Never, Never, Never” (speech, Harrow School, United Kingdom, October 29, 1941), America’s National Churchill Museum,
  3. Duckworth, “Grit.”
  4. Duckworth, “Grit.”
  5. Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man in the Arena” (speech, Paris, France, April 23, 1910), Theodore Roosevelt Center,

Excerpted with permission from 30 Days to Growing in Your Faith by Max Anders, copyright Max Anders.

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