Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 29, 2015
Persistent people inspire us to stay the course
A persistent person can be terribly annoying. Yet persistence can be an admirable quality, especially in a person who is doggedly determined in the face of fierce opposition.
Persistence calls to mind words like diligence, doggedness, unrelenting, determination and perseverance. Proud we should be were such a word used to describe our pursuit of a worthy goal in the face of ruthless resistance.
Nehemiah, one of the Bible’s “minor” prophets,
is a good example of persistence. He took on a difficult assignment for God, a
task he could not accomplish alone. The rebuilding of the wall required the
help of many people. Some of the people he called on to help let him down yet
Nehemiah refused to give up. He tenaciously stayed the course.
Churches may fall to pieces when disgruntled people walk away from the fellowship. Those who remain must decide whether to give up or carry on. Recovery usually requires a few people with the spirit of Nehemiah, people who will, without rancor toward the quitters, persist in getting the job done.
Despite fierce resistance, Nehemiah did not allow his detractors to defeat him. He used the gifts God had given him – the gifts of persuasion, organization, encouragement and faith in God. He persuaded people to embrace his vision. He organized the people according to their skills. He encouraged people to “keep their hands on the plow.” He inspired people to believe God would reward their diligent labor.
Work is necessary in every worthy enterprise. Such work is not difficult to recognize. Most of us are good at seeing a problem and saying, “Somebody needs to do something about that.” The most “Somebody” ever does is complain. However, walls remain in ruins until a Nehemiah shows up and challenges people to go to work. God’s work usually requires a team effort.
Inspired by Nehemiah, people were willing to work. They “had a mind to work.” Work, not talk, strengthens churches. Talk is cheap. In every church there are folks who “yap” about what the pastor and the staff ought to do. Yet on a “work day,” the talkers seldom show up.
The good news is that even a few people can
get a lot done if they do their work “for Jesus.” We spoil it if we work
for the applause of others or out of a desire to have “control.” We work best
when we do “church work” as an expression of our gratitude for what Jesus had
done for us.
Attitude is so important. When we choose to be persistent in doing work for God, we must take care not to become mulish and inflexible. The Jews had to be flexible. Their enemies made it necessary for some of the Jews to stand guard while others worked. Henry Ward Beecher wisely observed, “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
Christians are inspired to serve by the example of Nehemiah and that of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Jesus refused to let his enemies deter him from his mission. Resolutely he “set his face” toward Jerusalem to do the work his Father sent him to do. His willingness to “endure the cross, despising the shame,” should inspire us to persevere in our work when the going gets tough.
When our burdens are heavy and we are tempted to quit, the words of Saint Paul can renew our determination, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Many times this scripture has revived my flagging zeal!
Nehemiah may have inspired the great Winston Churchill. When Hitler was destroying the “walls” of England, Churchill persuaded the English people to go to work and have faith in God. In response to Churchill’s challenge, the people were willing to work, and with the help of God, they got the job done.
The virtue of persistence calls to mind Churchill’s speech to students at Harrow, his old school, in 1941, when he said, "This is the lesson: 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 honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
When we become weary in doing the work to which God has called us, the examples of persistent men and women before us, and around us, may inspire us to put our hands to the plow and stay the course. + + +