Perseverance

from Rev. Bruce Wood - February 2018

Published in News First ó our monthly church newsletter  

Do you know who this is?  I failed in business at the age of 22.  At 23 I ran for parliament and lost.  At the age of 24 I failed in a new business, however I was elected to parliament at 25.  My long-term girlfriend died when I was 26 and I had a nervous breakdown at 27.  I was defeated in a race for a seat in the upper house of parliament at 34 and was eventually elected at 37.  I was once again defeated for my parliamentary seat at 39 and again at 46.  I ran for vice president at 47 and was defeated, and finally elected President at the age of 51.  Who am I?  I am Abraham Lincoln. 

What an incredible story of persistence, and tenacity, and perseverance - and there are many other stories of people who had not given up because of setbacks or hardships - stories that give insight into the character of these people. 

For instance, Winston Churchill seemed so dull as a youth, that his father thought he might be incapable of ever earning a living in England.  Charles Darwin did so poorly in school that his father once told him, "You will be a disgrace to yourself and your familyĒ.  And Albert Einstein's parents feared their child was so dull, and performed so badly in high school subjects, all except for maths, that a teacher suggested he should drop out of school altogether.

  These are people who have beaten the odds, who have overcome difficulties and setbacks, to make a difference in our world.  Some of them have been knocked down and put down for years, but every time, they stood up, and had another go - despite seemingly huge obstacles and often profound difficulties.

Perseverance is not high on our list of important cultural values - which is unfortunate, as many parts of life require us to persist - especially when times are difficult, or we get knockbacks, or when life is challenging.  A friendship will not last if we are not willing to persevere when we disagree strongly about something, and if we want to become better at a particular sport, or musical instrument - then perseverance and practice are required. 

Perseverance is characterized by determination, will power, and grit.  Itís a positive and desirable characteristic in a person - and one that will allow us to achieve much in life.  Sometimes however, we can get so frustrated, or annoyed, by the processes of our culture, or our life situation - that we either give up, or scream out in exasperation.  Unfortunately, all our frustrated cries, and exasperated yelling, wonít really make any difference to a particular situation - although it might make us feel a bit better for a while.

What does make a difference, is if our pleas and the prayers of our hearts are channelled into actions that make a positive change to our world?  For instance, if people tried to fob Jesus off with half-baked answers - rather than letting them get away with it, he would keep asking Ďthatí question - you know, the one you donít want to answer - the question that seems to cut right to the core of our being, and lay the truth out, for us to see. 

He never lets us get away with just saying what we think he wants to hear.  The vaguest hint, that our answer might be a pious platitude, or an automatic response, or trying to smooth things over and deflect the spotlight, and heís back in our face - looking right through us, challenging our thinking, and examining the depths of our soul. 

  Challenges and setbacks are the means to refine an idea, to improve a process, or to polish a thought - something to be embraced and grappled with, rather that used as an excuse to spit the dummy and give up.  Jesus used the process of challenge and overcoming obstacles as a means of teaching and refining the ministry skills and perseverance in his followers. 

So add perseverance to your list of character traits, and know that God is right there with each of us - experiencing our joy and our frustrations, feeling our delight and our distress - all the time, weaving something worthwhile and profound out of our pleas, our frustrations, and our prayers.

Peace, Rev. Bruce Wood.