March 2016

Keep On Coming On

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Have you noticed that our generation has come dangerously near the “I'm  getting  tired so let's just quit mentality.” Dieting is a discipline, so we stay over-weight. Finishing school is a hassle, so we bail out. Developing a close relationship is painful, so we back off. Working through conflicts in a marriage is a struggle, so we walk away. Whatever happened to the old disciplines of hanging in there, sticking it out and going on?  Walter Webb tells this story in his introduction to The Texas Ranger.  "Captain McNelly was one of the most effective of the Texas Rangers, yet he was thin as a bed slat, weighing hardly 135 pounds, the very opposite of the prototype of a Ranger.  But Captain McNelly repeatedly told his men that courage is a man who keeps on coming on. You can slow a man like that, but you can't defeat him the man who keeps on coming on is either going to get there himself or make it possible for a later man to reach the goal."

Helen Keller once said, "The world is full of suffering, but it is also full of the overcoming of it.” When you face a problem, a difficulty, or an unexpected challenge, what do you do? Do you quit or hang in there and fight on? The Greek word hupomeno is used of both perseverance and endurance. In classical Greek literature the meaning is to remain behind, stand one's ground, survive, remain steadfast, persevere or wait. Where are the students who will "keep on coming on" when the work load becomes difficult?  Where are the spouses who will "keep on coming on" when their marriages are on the rocks?  Where are the spiritual men and women who "keep on coming on" when they are under stress? It's so easy to give up, quit, walk away, and not try any more. But the difficult times are when our real character surfaces.  I wished we were all exempt from hardship, suffering and pain.

Think about:
-    How many battles would never have been won without perseverance?
-    How many men and women would never have graduated from school without perseverance?
-    How many criminal cases would be solved without perseverance?
-    How many marriages would last without perseverance?
-    How many children with a disability would be raised without perseverance?
-    How many great pieces of music or novels would be finished without perseverance? 
-    And how the Gospel could reach one language group after another without perseverance?
Endurance, perseverance, or fortitude is a valuable asset in life.

The Apostle Paul was a man who was familiar with hardships, yet he had the knack of "keep on coming on." Scripture tells us, "Five times I received from the Jews thirty nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep, I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches" (II Cor. 11:25 28). Yet near the end of his life he was able to write, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4:7).  That's the key to the "I'm getting tired so let's just quit mentality." It is finishing the course and keeping the faith.

In 1968, John Stephen Akhwari was selected to be Tanzania marathon runner in Mexico City for the Summer Olympics. Along the race course, John stumbled and fell, severely injuring both his knee and ankle. By 7 pm, a runner from Ethiopia had won the race, and all the other competitors had finished. Just a few thousand spectators were left in the huge stadium when a police siren at the gate caught their attention. Limping through the gate came runner # 36, John Stephen Akhwari, leg wrapped in a bloody bandage. Those present began to cheer as the courageous man completed the final lap of the race. Later, a reporter asked John the question on everyone's mind: "Why did you continue the race after you were so badly injured?" He replied; "My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race, they sent me to finish the race." That man has more than just the ability to run; he possessed that ability to "keep on coming on." Some people would call him foolhardy. I would call him a man of endurance, dedication and commitment. A man of character fights the good fight and finishes the course.

We must all take our chances each day, with no assurance of refuge. We cannot be sure that in our own time we will reach and fulfill the goals, dreams or ideals on which we desire, but we can persevere and be the kind of people who "keep on coming on."
                                                    
                                                                                                                          -Pastor Mike Kotrla