Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 7, 2007


Perseverance required for the difficult journey called life


          No matter which path you choose, life is tough. There are obstacles on every road. Sooner or later the difficult journey we call life will demand perseverance from every traveler.

          The people who succeed in life are those who learn to “stay with the program.” Those who fail make a habit of starting something and quitting. Quitters never win. Winners keep getting up after being knocked down, again and again. They are the people we all admire – those who refuse to quit the race no matter how many times they fall.

          This was brought home to me by my friend Dan Morris, a pastor in Navarre, Florida. Dan told me about a man I had not heard of before, a pilot named Cal Rodgers. Only eight years after the Wright brothers invented and flew the first airplane, Rodgers became the first person to make a transcontinental flight. A pioneer American aviator, he flew a Wright Flyer from Long Island, New York, to Pasadena, California, in 1911.

          My research confirmed that the feat by Rodgers was indeed a marvelous example of perseverance. Rodgers’ goal was to make the coast to coast flight in less than 30 days so he could claim the $50,000 prize offered by William Randolph Hearst. He missed his goal by 19 days but his perseverance made him an American hero. He survived crashing his plane 39 times! Each time a ground crew rebuilt the plane. When he finally landed in California the only parts of the original plane that were left were the rudder and the drip pan!

          Rodgers kept going despite severe injuries suffered in crashing his plane, the “Vin Fiz.” (He named his plane after a grape drink made by the company that sponsored his flight.) Even though Rodgers was thrown from the “Vin Fiz” 15 times in crash landings, broke both legs, an ankle, a collarbone, and cracked several ribs, he refused to quit. He persevered to the end.

          A sad footnote to this story is that less than a year later Rodgers died in a freak accident. While making a test flight in Long Beach he flew into a flock of birds, causing the plane to crash into the ocean. He died of a broken neck, becoming the 127th airplane fatality in aviation history. The inscription on Rodgers’ gravestone reads: “I endure. I conquer.” His willingness to endure earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.

          Most of us will not attempt such daring feats during our lives. Nevertheless our success will depend upon our willingness to persevere in spite of the barriers we must hurdle. The perseverance required of us is not a moment of miraculous courage but daily stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing over and over again.

          Along the way all of us are tempted to give up. The price may seem too high to pay. We see others cheat and get away with it. They manage to have things we want so we begin questioning our decision to always do the right thing. Maybe cheating does not matter as much as we once thought. Others get away with it so why not join them.

          The problem is that every morning you have to deal with that fellow looking back at you in the mirror. He keeps gently nudging you to never give up doing the right thing. That man in the mirror can help you stay on the right track if you will listen. An unseen Person is coaching him to help you stay on the straight and narrow.

          My friend Dan Morris nails it when he says that what we all need is “a holy toughness that God hammers into the soul.” If we allow God to use his hammer on us, somehow we will be able to persevere when the going gets rough. And at the end of this journey called life, we will have the enduring joy of winners instead of the awful pain of losers. + + +