Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Perseverance is the difference
between winning and losing
In life there are winners and losers.
The key virtue of winners is perseverance. Ben Franklin called perseverance
“the mother of good luck.” Thomas Carlyle called it “patience concentrated.”
Many synonyms clarify the meaning of perseverance. Persistence may be the best of these. Others
that enlighten us are resolve, tenacity, diligence, doggedness, steadfastness,
and grit. These words describe winners.
Losers have a lack of resolve. They are not tenacious. They
do not stay the course. They quit. They give up. They are unwilling to stick to
the task at hand. One can never describe them as doggedly determined to get the
Historians agree that perseverance was the key to George
Washington’s success in our nation’s revolutionary war. In his book titled 1776 David McCullough says of
"He was not a
brilliant strategist or tactician, not a gifted orator, not an intellectual. At
several crucial moments he had shown marked indecisiveness. He had made serious
mistakes in judgment. But experience had been his great teacher from boyhood,
and in this his greatest test, he learned steadily from experience. Above all,
Washington never forgot what was at stake and he never gave up.”
McCullough goes on to say, “Without Washington's leadership and unrelenting perseverance, the
revolution almost certainly would have failed.” The historian’s use of the word
“unrelenting” is superfluous since it is actually a synonym for perseverance.
But his use of it as an adjective serves to hammer home the point that
perseverance was the great key to Washington’s leadership.
In the Bible there are
many powerful examples of perseverance. Job persevered in faith in God despite
his suffering. Nehemiah is another example. 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
people refused to help. But Nehemiah refused to give up. He stayed the course.
Churches suffer 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 who will, without rancor toward the quitters, remain steadfast in building
a new and stronger fellowship.
It is not difficult to recognize work that needs to be done.
We are all good at seeing a problem and saying, “Somebody needs to do something about that.” But usually nothing
gets done until a Nehemiah comes along and says, “Let’s tackle this job
together.” The most “Somebody” ever does is complain. Significant work usually
requires a team effort – and plenty of perseverance.
Attitude is so important. When we
choose to be persistent, we must not become mulish and inflexible. 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.”
As a pastor I was tempted many times
to give up when resisted by people who were as “stubborn as a bobtail mule.”
But I found the strength to persevere by looking again at the example of men
and women who were winners despite their problems. One of those winners was the
great hero of my faith, Jesus. He refused to let his enemies deter him from his
mission. His willingness to “endure the cross” continually inspires me to hang
in there when the going gets tough.
One admonition from Saint Paul that
has always helped to restore my “stick-to-itiveness” is Galatians 6:9 – “Let us
not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if
we do not give up.” Often that has been enough to restore my flagging zeal.
The virtue of perseverance calls to
mind Winston 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
Winners never give up. They persevere.
Losers give up. They lack the backbone to hang in there. To be a winner or a
loser – it is a choice each of us must make every day. Daily choices determine
which crowd we will hang out with when the roll is called up yonder. + + +