I read somewhere about a man who audited a doctoral seminar on leadership. One day the professor asked each of the 16 participants in his class to tell one thing at which they excelled.
The man said that he dreaded questions like that because he still was not sure of what he did best. And besides, it sounded to him like bragging. But when his time came all he could think to say was this: “I am best at not quitting.”
At first, that answer sounds a little strange, but when you consider all the obstacles we face in life the power to persist is remarkable.
First, the power to persist is emblematic of the example of Jesus. It is almost impossible to imagine the heartache that Jesus must have felt as he walked into his hometown to find the people he loved didn’t understand him. These people not only didn’t understand him or accept his message, they actually expressed hostility and even contempt for him. Jesus’ morale had to be at a low ebb.
So what did Jesus do in the face of such discouragement? What did he do when he was tempted to say, “I’m sorry for me”? He refused to quit.
It is reported that a visitor attended a Metropolitan Opera session at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Somehow he mistook the intermission for the end of the program. The visitor began commenting on the quality of the opera while getting his hat and coat to go home. The last half of the program, even with the grand finale, could hardly relieve the man’s embarrassment.
Truthfully, life isn’t over simply because the curtain closes momentarily. Chances are it’s just the intermission. Jesus refused to quit and did what he could.
Second, the power to persist is making the best of the situation. One of the valuable lessons I learned from my family and extended family when I was younger was this: You can always make the best of the situation.
My late mother-in-law worked her way through college — she worked in the kitchen, cleaned restrooms and did a variety of other jobs. Then she began to teach and attended the university at a distant city on weekends. She earned her degree and then taught for 39 years.
During her lifetime, there were those illnesses. She had a brain tumor, open heart surgery, the balloon surgery, a stroke and a number of other lesser surgeries. However, all that time she quietly endured or persisted. To say the least, she made the best of the situation.
We, too, can always make the best of the situation. As my mother-in-law attested, endurance or persistence is not really about being happy but rather about being committed and faithful.
Third, the power to persist is trusting that our impossibility may be God’s possibility. We take our cue here from the Apostle Paul. He’s writing of his imprisonment in Rome and says, “I want you to know that the things that have happened to me have actually advanced the gospel,” (Philippians 1:12).
Paul could have been writing about his troubles and discouragement in being in prison. But he wasn’t. Why? Because Paul understood that his impossibility could be God’s possibility.
A few years back when my wife and I were in Boston, we went to old Trinity Church. As you may know, this was the church where the noted preacher Phillips Brooks held forth. Phillips Brooks was such a powerful force for God, that later the church built a statue of him that still stands in front of the church.
As a minister of the gospel, God used Phillips Brooks in a mighty way. But did you know that Phillips Brooks actually dreamed of being a teacher? Yes, Phillips Brooks started out to be a teacher, but as a teacher he was a complete failure. My impossibility may become God’s possibility.
To be sure, “not quitting” is no small accomplishment.