The Value of Persistence

It’s no coincidence that so many books of the New Testament contain verses encouraging us to stay faithful in difficult times. Persistence is an essential characteristic for anyone who wants to succeed in the Christian life.

Rarely a month goes by that I don’t talk to someone who’s ready to throw in the towel on some aspect of their calling.

Sometimes it’s a volunteer weary of the extra work that comes with being a leader.

Sometimes it’s a pastor weary of not seeing measurable results.

Sometimes it’s a believer weary of the struggle to live a holy life.

This is what Paul referred to in the book of Galatians…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap of harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

The season between sowing and reaping can sometimes be long. It can also be hot, dry and difficult. There are times for each of us when saying, “I quit” seems like the most attractive option.

During these times, we’ve got to remember the words of Scripture.

• Remember how Peter qualified trials with the phrase “for a little while.”

• Remember how James promised the crown of life to those who have stood the test.

•  And remember Paul’s words about the harvest: it will come in at the proper time, if we do not give up.

Walt Disney once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” That’s good business advice, and his success proves it.

It’s even better spiritual advice. In this sense, the “hell” we go through is temporary; God’s abundant blessings are waiting on the other side.

Keep going, then.

Dick Hoyt

Father of the Century

Fifty-five years ago Dick Hoyt’s son experienced a tragedy at birth: he was strangled by the umbilical cord, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs.

Dick was told that his son, Rick, would be non-responsive all his life and should be put in a home. Dick didn’t believe it; he noticed how Rick’s eyes followed him around the room.

As early as 1972 — long before the digital age — the Hoyts developed a system of communication that enabled Rick to control a computer by tapping a curser with his head.

One day Rick told his Dad that he wanted to participate in a five-mile charity run for an injured class mate.

To do this, Dick would need to push his son in his wheel chair, running behind him. Dick was not in any shape to run five miles, but he tried. Later, his son told him, “Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn’t disabled anymore.”

Dick decided to do all he could to give Rick that feeling as often as possible. They began running in races and marathons — they even qualified to run in the Boston Marathon together.

Now, forty years later, they’ve completed more than a thousand races and more than 200 triathlons, including four 15 hour Ironmans and 30 Boston Marathons. All these were done with Dick pushing and/or pulling his son along during the event.

Amazingly, they finished the Boston Marathon one year only 35 minutes away from a world record. (Keep in mind, as Rick Reilly at Sports Illustrated notes, the world record was a set by a man who wasn’t pushing a wheel-chair while he ran.)

“No question about it,” Rick Hoyt types on his computer, “My dad is Father of the Century.”

You can visit the Team Hoyt website here.

Bear Bryant

Honor Your Father and Mother

Years ago the late Bear Bryant, former coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, was speaking at a football clinic for high school coaches.

Near the end of the session, one coach asked Bryant, “What is the highest priority for recruiting young men to come play for you?”

Bryant didn’t talk about speed or strength or size or talent, though those things are certainly factors.

At the top of the list, however, Bryant said, “What I want to know is how does that young man feel about his momma and daddy. Because if he respects his parents, he will respect others and will become an effect part of a winning team.”

‘Honor your father and mother’ — which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Confronting Procrastination

Confronting Procrastination

Jackson Brown, author of Life’s Little Instruction Book, once said, “Where there is a hill to climb, don’t think that waiting will make it any smaller.”

Waiting, in fact, tends to give hills the time they need to become mountains. For every challenge that accidentally becomes manageable by benefit of procrastination, 999 just get bigger.

There are items that were on everyone’s to-do list last week that didn’t get done. Things important but not urgent. They didn’t get done because that dreadful, demanding, take-no-prisoners last minute hasn’t confronted us yet.

But you know and I know these items could have been — and should have been — marked off the list.

Surviving or Thriving?

Elbert Hubbard said that postponement is the father of failure. It’s also the best friend of mediocrity. The things that we postpone most often are the things that define the line between surviving and thriving — the things that mark the difference between eeking out an average existence and experiencing the fullness of the abundant life.

This includes getting serious about a closer walk with Christ, following through on a ministry opportunity, putting a business idea into action, taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle, making an effort to strengthen a struggling relationship. And so on.

The only thing that stands between you and God’s blessing in any of these areas is inertia. The sooner you move, the sooner the windows of heaven can open.

Joshua once asked the people of Israel, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” (Joshua 18:3) He then outlined a simple action plan to follow for their progress.

His idea worked.

How Long Will You Wait?

Maybe we should follow Joshua’s example. You might have 50 things nagging you right now, and there’s no way you can get to all of them this week, but you can knock out one or two — and maybe more than a few.

Take a look at your list. Which items represent a “possession” that you are certain God wants you to take — a victory you are certain he wants you to claim? Put these items at the top, and scratch out a plan that moves you in their direction.

And then, take the first step.

Waiting won’t make the hill any smaller, but start moving in its direction, and you’ll discover the hill doesn’t look nearly as big up close as it did from a distance.

So how long will you wait before you begin to take possession of all that God has given you?

Eagle Soaring

The Eagle and the Hippo

Carl Sandburg said, “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

He may not have known it, but he was describing the Christian life. It’s our dual nature, as Paul talked about…

I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work in me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. (Romans 7:22-23)

Everyday you must choose: Will I live according to the new nature, or the old? Will I soar with the eagles, or wallow in the mud?

Your decision determines everything: How you greet the day. How you direct your thoughts. How you talk to — or talk about — your co-workers. How you spend your spare change and how you spend your spare time. And on and on.

Every day — every moment of every day — you have the power to choose your environment: the clear blue sky or the local hippo hangout.

You have a key to both places, and access is unrestricted. It just depends on where you prefer to be.

Remember today that God is calling you upward.

From an ‘A’ to an ‘A-Plus’

In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul urges the church to lead holy lives. He commends them on the great love they have for others, and then he says…

Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:10)

He’s saying, in effect, “This is an area where you’re making an A. Good job. See if you can bump it up to an A-Plus.

He’s reminding us to strengthen our strengths.

Too often our focus is limited to those things we don’t do well. We spend so much time and effort covering up our weaknesses, we neglect the task of building our strengths. We should never be content with any aspect of our personal growth; there’s room for improvement in every area.

Which things do you do well? If Paul were writing to you, or to your church, consider in which area he might say, “Way to go. Keep it up. Reach higher.”

If you, like the Thessalonians, excel in love, make it your aim to excel all the more. If you’re gifted in leadership, continue to refine your leadership skills.

And for those whose ministry is preaching and teaching, we should always be looking for ways to take our communication skills to the next level.

Excellence covers all aspects of the Christian life. Weak areas need to be made strong, to be sure. But let’s not forget that the strong areas need to be made stronger.

Today, consider what you do well, and give thought to how you may “do so more and more.” See if you can turn that A into an A-Plus.

Shizo Kanakuri

The Art of Finishing

Shizo KanakuriIn 1912, marathon runner Shizo Kanakuri was chosen to represent Japan in the Summer Olympics at Stockholm.

He began the race with the rest of the runners, but along the way was overcome with heat. He stopped at a garden party for some refreshment, but he stayed a little too long — more than an hour.

It was now, he thought, too late to get back in the race. He took a train to his hotel and caught a boat back home, too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving.

For more than 50 years Shizo was listed as a missing person in Sweden, until a journalist finally found him; he had spent the last several decades living a quiet life in southern Japan.

In 1966 the Swedish Public Television network called him with an offer: Would you like to finish your run?

The 85 year old Kanakuri accepted, and he traveled to Stockholm to finish the race he had started so many years before. This time he crossed the finish line; his final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

Let’s remember that our reward is not for starting the race, it’s for finishing it. As Paul said in his farewell…

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” (Acts 20:24)

It’s never too late to get back in the race.

You can start running again today. The finish line is still where it used to be.

Hebrews 10:36

Which Will It Be?

In a boxing match, when a fighter is too beat up to continue, what does he do?

Instead of getting back into the ring when the bell signals the next round, he tosses in his towel. The towel admits defeat. It says, “I quit. I lose. I’m done.”

But there’s another phrase from the world of boxing to consider.

In the good old days, it used to be that spectators at a boxing match would be invited to come out of the stands and have a go at one of the pros.

In the noisy, smoke-filled arena, some courageous man would make it official by throwing his hat into the ring. The only way to get it back was to step onto the canvas and take on the champ.

In other words, to throw your hat into the ring was to accept a challenge from which you could not back down.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Each day, in every area of your life that matters, you hold in one hand your hat, in the other hand a towel.

Each day, by your actions and your attitudes, you throw one or the other into the ring.

It’s either your towel or hat.

Which will it be today?

Make it your hat.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36)

Lifting the Lighter Weight

Lifting the Lighter Weight

Jim Rohn said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces — regret weighs tons.

Rohn’s quote resonates because many of our regrets stem from lack of discipline: If only I had been more diligent. If only I had been more consistent. If only I had been more persistent. If only I had been more determined. And on and on.

Regret weighs tons, but it’s foolish to bear this burden of regret longer than necessary.

Know how to get out from under it?

It’s in the first half of Rohn’s equation: Take another tug at the lighter weight of discipline.

Ask yourself: What good thing … what necessary thing … must I start doing today — and every day — if I feel like it or not?

Whether it’s a walk around the block or more time in the Word or cancelling a golf game to spend the afternoon with your kids, the short-lived pang of making a decision that doesn’t come easily is nothing compared to the relief it brings from the dread of regret — in fact, these tough decisions result in immeasurable joy.

There’s a verse in Hebrews that refers to discipline. The writer is speaking here about the discipline (correction) that God sometimes works in us, but these words also apply to the discipline we have the power to exact on ourselves.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:15)

Your Most Important Decision

Your Most Important Decision

Marcus Aurelius said, “The most important things in life are the thoughts you to choose to think.”

If this is true, then the most important decision you’ll make today is what to think about.

You can think thoughts of faith or thoughts of doubt, thoughts of hope or thoughts of despair, thoughts of love or thoughts of hate. These thoughts will find their way into your words and your actions as the day wears on.

“Thoughts should be tested before they’re transmitted,” said William Arthur Ward. “If our thoughts taste unkind, critical or unfair, we should refuse to release them into the dangerous world of words.”

Every temptation begins with a thought. So does every act of goodness. That’s why Paul said…

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (Romans 12:2)

Today, let thoughts of faith, hope and love fill your mind.

Make a choice to believe the best about the future God has planned for you. That’s faith.

Make a choice to expect the best in each situation, because God is at work in the details. That’s hope.

Make a choice to give the best to those around you, because this is what he has called you to. That’s love.

Your life will become what your thoughts make it.

Be transformed, then, by the renewing of your mind.