July 25-26, 2009
Persistence, Part One
by Charles R. Swindoll
It's a costly investment, no question about it. But the dividends are so much greater than the original outlay that you'll almost forget the price. And if the final benefits are really significant, you'll wonder why you ever hesitated to begin with.
A primary reason we are tempted to give up is other people . . . you know, the less than 20 percent whose major role it is in life to encourage others to toss in the towel. For whateverreason. Those white-flag specialists never run out of excuses you and I ought to use for quitting. The world's full of "why-sweat-it" experts.
I'm sure Anne Mansfield Sullivan had a host of folks telling her that the blind, 7-year-old brat wasn't worth it. But Anne persisted---in spite of temper tantrums, physical abuse, mealtime madness, and even thankless parents. In her heart she knew it was worth all the pain. Was it ever! Within two years her pupil, Helen Keller, was able to read and write in braille. She ultimately graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College (where Miss Sullivan had "spelled" each lecture into her hand), and Helen Keller devoted the rest of her life to aiding the deaf and the blind.
Want another for instance? Well, this particular man was told that if he hadn't written a book by age thirty-five, chances were good he never would. He was almost forty, I should add. There were others who reminded him that for every book published, ninety-five became dust-collecting manuscripts. But he persisted. Even though he was warned that stories like he wanted to write weren't popular. Nor were they considered worthy of top prizes in the literary field (his work later won the Pulitzer). Hollywood hotshots also told him such a book certainly held no dramatic possibilities. But James Michener hung tough. He refused to wash the desire out of his hair as he persisted. And he presented to the public Tales of the South Pacific. Oh, by the way, the Broadway critics had warned, "It'll never make a musical."
How many military battles would never have been won without persistence? How many men and women would never have graduated from school . . . or changed careers in midstream . . . or stayed together in marriage . . . or reared a mentally disabled child? Think of the criminal cases that would never have been solved without the relentless persistence of detectives. How about the great music that would never have been finished, the grand pieces of art that would never have graced museums, cathedrals, and monuments the world over? Back behind the impeccable beauty of each work is a dream that wouldn't die mixed with the dogged determination of a genius of whom this indifferent world is not worthy.
Think also of the speeches, the sermons, the books that have shaped thinking, infused new hope, prompted fresh faith, and aroused the will to win. For long and lonely hours away from the applause---even the awareness---of the public, the one preparing that verbal missile persisted all alone with such mundane materials as dictionary, thesaurus, historical volumes, biographical data, and a desk full of other research works. The same could be said of those who labor to find cures for diseases. And how about those who experiment with inventions?
I once heard about a couple of men who were working alongside the inventor Thomas Edison. Weary to the point of exasperation, one man sighed, "What a waste! We have tried no less than seven hundred experiments and nothing has worked. We are not a bit better off than when we started."
With an optimistic twinkle in his eye, Edison quipped, "Oh, yes, we are! We now know seven hundred things that won't work. We're closer than we've ever been before." With that, he rolled up his sleeves and plunged back in.
If necessity is the mother of invention, persistence is certainly the father.
God honors it. Maybe because He models it so well. His love for His people, the Jews, persists to this very day, even though they have disobeyed Him more often than they have loved Him in return. And just think of His patient persistence in continually reaching out to the lost, "not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). And how about His persistence with us? You and I can recall one time after another when He could have (and should have!) wiped us out of the human race, but He didn't. Why? The answer is in Philippians 1:6:
he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)
The One who began will continue right up to the end. Being the original finisher, He will persist. I'm comforted to know He won't be talked out of a plan that has to do with developing me. I need help! Don't you?
Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.