Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his 10 year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: "Unless the divine power has raised you up... I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might."
Daily Bread, June 16, 1989.
Ready for a baseball trivia question? Who is Clint Courtney? If you're unsure, don't bother requesting the answer from Cooperstown, N.Y. Clint never came close to making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, it's very doubtful that his picture appeared on any bubble gum cards. This guy wasn't a legend in his own time -- not even in his own mind. He was only a memory maker for his family, and a few die-hard fans who were inspired by his tremendous fortitude. Clint played catcher for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1950s. During his career he earned the nickname of Scrap Iron, implying that he was hard, weathered, tough. Old Scrap broke no records -- only bones. He had little power or speed on the base paths. As for grace and style, he made the easiest play look rather difficult. But armed with mitt and mask, Scrap Iron never flinched from any challenge.
Batters often missed the ball and caught his shin. Their foul tips nipped his elbow. Runners fiercely plowed into him, spikes first, as he defended home plate. Though often doubled over in agony, and flattened in a heap of dust, Clint Courtney never quit. Invariably, he'd slowly get up, shake off the dust, punch the pocket of his mitt once, twice, and nod to his pitcher to throw another one. The game would go on and Courtney with it -- scarred, bruised, clutching his arm in pain, but determined to continue. He resembled a POW with tape, splints, braces, and other kinds of paraphernalia that wounded people wear. Some made fun of him -- calling him a masochist. Insane. Others remember him as a true champion.
Jon Johnston, Courage - You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 35-36.
One day George Muller began praying for five of his friends. After many months, one of them came to the Lord. Ten years later, two others were converted. It took 25 years before the fourth man was saved. Muller persevered in prayer until his death for the fifth friend, and throughout those 52 years he never gave up hoping that he would accept Christ! His faith was rewarded, for soon after Muller's funeral the last one was saved.
Our Daily Bread.
The story is told that Andrew Jackson's boyhood friends just couldn't understand how he became a famous general and then the President of the United States. They knew of other men who had greater talent but who never succeeded. One of Jackson's friends said, "Why, Jim Brown, who lived right down the pike from Jackson, was not only smarter but he could throw Andy three times out of four in a wrestling match. But look where Andy is now." Another friend responded, "How did there happen to be a fourth time? Didn't they usually say three times and out?" "Sure, they were supposed to, but not Andy. He would never admit he was beat -- he would never stay 'throwed.' Jim Brown would get tired, and on the fourth try Andrew Jackson would throw him and be the winner." Picking up on that idea, someone has said, "The thing that counts is not how many times you are 'throwed,' but whether you are willing to stay 'throwed'." We may face setbacks, but we must take courage and go forward in faith. Then, through the Holy Spirit's power we can be the eventual victor over sin and the world. The battle is the Lord's, so there is no excuse for us to stay "throwed"!
Our Daily Bread.
In his book, Pastoral Grit: the Strength to Stand and to Stay (Bethany), Craig Brian Larson writes:
"In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite's primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter's magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.
"But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter's immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.
"And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. 'Perhaps most remarkable,' writes Jaroff, 'those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth.'
"The Little Satellite That Could was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed Pioneer 10 with a useful life of just three years. But it kept going and going. By simple longevity, its tiny 8-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone thought possible.
"So it is when we offer ourselves to serve the Lord. God can work even through someone with 8-watt abilities. God cannot work, however, through someone who quits." Philippians 3:12-14 Hebrews 12:1 Mark 10:45
Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: the Strength to Stand and to Stay, Bethany.
When she was young, Florence Chadwick wanted desperately to be a great speed swimmer. At the age of six she persuaded her parents to enter her in a 50-yard race. She came in last, so she practiced every day for the new year. Again she entered and lost. When she was an 11-year old, Florence won attention and praise for completing the San Diego Bay endurance swim -- 6 miles in all. But she still wanted to be a speed swimmer. At 14 she tried for the national backstroke championship but came in second to the great Eleanor Holm. At 18 she tried out for Olympic speed swimming and came in fourth -- only three made the team. Frustrated, she gave it up, married, and moved on to other interests. As she matured, however, Florence began to wonder if she might not have done better if she had specialized in endurance swimming, something that came more naturally. So, with the help of her father, she began swimming distances again. Twelve years after she had failed to make the Olympic team, Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel, breaking Gertrude Ederle's 24-year-old record. It took a little time, but eventually she found out what she could do best and did it.
Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 19.
From the booklet Bits and Pieces comes an interesting story about Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. On the Fourth of July in 1951, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. The challenge was not so much the distance, but the bone-chilling waters of the Pacific. To complicate matters, a dense fog lay over the entire area, making it impossible for her to see land. After about 15 hours in the water, and within a half mile of her goal, Chadwick gave up. Later she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it." Not long afterward she attempted the feat again.
Once more a misty veil obscured the coastline and she couldn't see the shore. But this time she made it because she kept reminding herself that land was there. With that confidence she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men's record by 2 hours!
Our Daily Bread.
Famous People Who Were Slow Starters:
Winston Churchill seemed so dull as a youth that his father thought he might be incapable of earning a living in England. Charles Darwin did so poorly in school that his father once told him, "You will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.
G.K. Chesterton, the English writer, could not read until he was eight. One of his teachers told him, "If we could open your head we should not find any brain but only a lump of white fat."
Thomas Edison's first teacher described him as "addled," and his father almost convinced him he was a "dunce."
Albert Einstein's parents feared their child was dull, and he performed so badly in all high school courses except mathematics that a teacher asked him to drop out.
Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1986, Wm. Morrow & Co., Ny, Ny.
Don't let your troubles get you down. Genghis Khan, the 13th century Mongol conqueror, asked his philosophers to come up with a truth that would always be unchangeable. Thinking on it for a while, they came to their leaders with this quote: "It too shall pass." This reminds me of a dear black lady who was asked by her pastor what her favorite verse of Scripture was and she said: "And it came to pass." God in His mercy never gives us more than we are able to bear.
The Abingdon Disciple.
Ill Epigrams on Perseverance
- There aren't any hard-and-fast rules for getting ahead in the world -- just hard ones.
- You don't have to lie awake nights to succeed. Just stay awake days.
- There is no poverty that can overtake diligence. -Japanese proverb
- By perseverance the snail reached the Ark. -Spurgeon
- Triumph is just "umph" added to try.
Author Irving Stone has spent a lifetime studying greatness, writing novelized biographies of such men as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. Stone was once asked if he had found a thread that runs through the lives of all these exceptional people. He said, "I write about people who sometime in their life...have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished...and they go to work.
"They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified and for years they get nowhere. But every time they're knocked down they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they've accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do."
Crossroads, Issue No. 7, p. 18.
Bette Nesmith had a good secretarial job in a Dallas bank when she ran across a problem that interested her. Wasn't there a better way to correct the errors she made on her electric typewriter? Bette had some art experience and she knew that artists who worked in oils just painted over their errors. Maybe that would work for her too. So she concocted a fluid to paint over her typing errors. Before long, all the secretaries in her building were using what she then called "MistakeOut". She attempted to sell the product idea to marketing agencies and various companies (including IBM), but they turned her down. However, secretaries continued to like her product, so Bette Nesmith's kitchen became her first manufacturing facility and she started selling it on her own. When Bette Nesmith sold the enterprise, the tiny white bottles were earning $3.5 million annually on sales of $38 million. The buyer was Gillette Company and the sale price was $47.5 million.
Crossroads, Issue No. 7, pp. 3-4.
"American history shall march along that skyline," announced Gutzon Borglum in 1924, gazing at the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1927 Borglum began sculpting the images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt on the granite face of 6,000-foot Mount Rushmore. Most of the sculpting was done by experienced miners under Borglum's direction. Working with jackhammers and dynamite, they removed some 400,000 tons of outer rock, cutting within three inches of the final surface. When Borglum died in March 1941, his dream of the world's biggest sculpture was near completion. His son Lincoln finished the work that October, some 14 years after it was begun.
Today in the Word, January 2, 1993.
Have you ever worked to get better at something? If so, you soon realized that the cliche "practice makes perfect" is true. Olympic Athletes seem to succeed with effortless grace, but their performances aren't as easy as they look. The average Olympian trains four hours a day at least 310 days a year for six years before succeeding. Getting better begins with working out every day. By 7:a.m. most athletes have done more than many people do all day. How well an athlete performs is often attributed to mental toughness. But performance really depends on physical capacity to do work. That capacity is based on two factors--genetic talent and the quality of the training program. Good training makes up for some limitations, but most of us will never be Olympians no matter how hard we work. We haven't inherited the right combination of endurance, potential, speed and muscle. But given equal talent, the better-trained athlete can generally outperform the one who did not give a serious effort, and is usually more confident at the starting block.
The four years before an Olympics, Greg Louganis probably practiced each of his dives 3,000 times. Kim Zmeskal has probably done every flip in her gynmastics routine at least 20,000 times, and Janet Evans has completed more than 240,000 laps. Training works, but it isn't easy or simple. Swimmers train an average of 10 miles a day, at speeds of 5 mph in the pool. That might not sound fast, but their heart rates average 160 the entire time. Try running up a flight of stairs, then check your heart rate. Then imagine having to do that for four hours! Marathon runners average 160 miles a week at 10 mph. Two important training principles must be followed: Progressively increase the amount and intensity of the work. Train specifically. Weightlifters don't run sprints, and basketball players don't swim.
John Troup, USA Today, July 29, 1992, 11E.
There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.
David Lloyd George.
During the Vietnam War the Texas Computer millionaire, H. Ross Perot decided he would give a Christmas present to every American prisoner of war in Vietnam. According to David Frost, who tells the story, Perot had thousands of packages wrapped and prepared for shipping. He chartered a fleet of Boeing 707s to deliver them to Hanoi, but the war was at its height, and the Hanoi government said it would refuse to cooperate. No charity was possible, officials explained, while American bombers were devastating Vietnamese villages. The wealthy Perot offered to hire an American construction firm to help rebuild what Americans had knocked down. The government still wouldn't cooperate. Christmas drew near, and the packages were unsent. Refusing to give up, Perot finally took off in his chartered fleet and flew to Moscow, where his aides mailed the packages, one at a time, at the Moscow central post office. They were delivered intact.
Wilma didn't get much of a head start in life. A bout with polio left her left leg crooked and her foot twisted inward so she had to wear leg braces. After seven years of painful therapy, she could walk without her braces. At age 12 Wilma tried out for a girls basketball team, but didn't make it. Determined, she practiced with a girlfriend and two boys every day. The next year she made the team. When a college track coach saw her during a game, he talked her into letting him train her as a runner. By age 14 she had outrun the fastest sprinters in the U.S. In 1956 Wilma made the U.S. Olympic team, but showed poorly. That bitter disappointment motivated her to work harder for the 1960 Olympics in Rome--and there Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals, the most a woman had ever won.
Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, Jan, 1992, p.10.
Ignace Jan Paderewski, the famous Polish composer-pianist, was once scheduled to perform at a great American concert hall for a high-society extravaganza. In the audience was a mother with her fidgety nine-year-old son. Weary of waiting, the boy slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the Steinway on the stage. Without much notice from the audience, he sat down at the stool and began playing "chopsticks." The roar of the crowd turned to shouts as hundreds yelled, "Get that boy away from there!" When Paderewski heard the uproar backstage, he grabbed his coat and rushed over behind the boy. Reaching around him from behind, the master began to improvise a countermelody to "Chopsticks." As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy's ear, "Keep going. Don't quit, son...don't stop...don't stop."
Today in the Word, Moody Bible Institute, Jan, 1992, p.8.
Persistence paid off for American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto. After astronomers calculated a probable orbit for this "suspected" heavenly body, Tombaugh took up the search in March 1929. Time magazine recorded the investigation: "He examined scores of telescopic photographs each showing tens of thousands of star images in pairs under the dual microscope. It often took three days to scan a single pair. It was exhausting, eye-cracking work--in his own words, 'brutal, tediousness.' And it went on for months. Star by star, he examined 20 million images. Then on February 18, 1930, as he was blinking at a pair of photographs in the constellation Gemini, 'I suddenly came upon the image of Pluto!" It was the most dramatic astronomic discovery in nearly 100 years.
Today in the Word, November 26, 1991.
Tenacity is a pretty fair substitute for bravery, and the best form of tenacity I know is expressed in a Danish fur trapper's principle: "The next mile is the only one a person really has to make."
Eric Sevareid, Bits and Pieces, September 19, 1991, p. 19.
Postage stamps are getting more expensive, but at least they have one attribute that most of us could emulate: they stick to one thing until they get there.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge, in Bits and Pieces.
Plato wrote the first sentence of his famous Republic nine different ways before he was satisfied. Cicero practiced speaking before friends every day for thirty years to perfect his elocution. Noah Webster labored 36 years writing his dictionary, crossing the Atlantic twice to gather material. Milton rose at 4:00 am every day in order to have enough hours for his Paradise Lost. Gibbon spent 26 years on his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Bryant rewrote one of his poetic masterpieces 99 times before publication, and it became a classic.
It is said that Thomas Edison performed 50,000 (sic) experiments before he succeeded in producing a storage battery. We might assume the famous inventor would have had some serious doubts along the way. But when asked if he ever became discouraged working so long without results, Edison replied, "Results? Why, I know 50,000 things that won't work."
Today in the Word, August, 1990.
"Genius is 2% inspiration and 98 % perspiration" (Thomas Edison). Edison worked 18 hour days and practiced Herculean patience. Once he recognized the value of an idea, Edison stayed with the process until he discovered its secret. His alkaline storage battery became a reality after 10,000 (sic) failed experiments!
Today In The Word, June, 1988, p.35.
On March 6, 1987, Eamon Coghlan, the Irish world record holder at 1500 meters, was running in a qualifying heat at the World Indoor Track Championships in Indianapolis. With two and a half laps left, he was tripped. He fell, but he got up and with great effort managed to catch the leaders. With only 20 yards left in the race, he was in third place -- good enough to qualify for the finals. He looked over his shoulder to the inside, and, seeing no one, he let up. But another runner, charging hard on the outside, passed Coughlan a yard before the finish, thus eliminating him from the finals. Coughlan's great comeback effort was rendered worthless by taking his eyes off the finish line. It's tempting to let up when the sights around us look favorable. But we finish well in the Christian race only when we fix our eyes on the goal: Jesus Christ
During a Monday night football game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, one of the announcers observed that Walter Payton, the Bears' running back, had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer remarked, "Yeah, and that's with somebody knocking him down every 4.6 yards!" Walter Payton, the most successful running back ever, knows that everyone --even the very best-- gets knocked down. The key to success is to get up and run again just as hard.
Jeff Quandt, Irving Wallace, Book of Lists, 1980.
Nineteenth-century inventor Gail Borden was obsessed with the idea of condensing food. His first effort, a condensed "meat biscuit," failed miserably. But an ocean voyage gave birth to a better idea. Borden was concerned about the sickly condition of the children on board. Cows on the ship were too seasick to produce healthy milk, and four children died from drinking contaminated milk. Borden was determined to condense milk so that it would be safe and easily transported. After many tries, he devised a vacuum process that removed water from milk. Conditions during the Civil War made the canned milk a success, and Borden make a fortune. His epitaph, inscribed on a tomb the shape of a milk can, was, "I tried and failed; I tried again and again, and succeeded."
Discipleship Journal, #48, p. 33.
No doubt you have heard this one but it is worth repeating for obvious reasons.
The value of courage, persistence, and perseverance has rarely been illustrated more convincingly than in the life story of this man (his age appears on the right):
Failed in business 22
Ran for Legislature--defeated 23
Again failed in business 24
Elected to Legislature 25
sweetheart died 26
Had a nervous breakdown 27
Defeated for Speaker 29
Defeated for Elector 31
Defeated for Congress 34
Elected to Congress 37
Defeated for Congress 39
Defeated for Senate 46
Defeated for Vice President 47
Defeated for Senate 49
Elected President of the United States 51
That's the record of Abraham Lincoln.
Bits and Pieces, July 1989.
Imagine that you are a world-class concert pianist at the peak of your career, someone who has spent years studying and practicing to develop your art. Your fingers respond instantly to your mental commands, flitting along the keyboard with grace and speed. Then one day you feel a stiffness that wasn't there before. You go to a doctor, tests are done, and the diagnosis comes back: Arthritis. Your fingers are destined to become wooden and crippled. From the heights of success and acclaim you will plunge to oblivion. It happened to Byron Janis. Within a short time this concert pianist saw arthritis quickly spread to all his fingers, and the joints of nine of them fused. Some people would have never recovered from such a blow, but Janis decided to fight back. He kept his ailment a secret from all but his wife and two close friends. He worked long hours to change his technique. He learned how to use what strengths he had instead of concentrating on his weaknesses. He also used a regimen of medications, acupuncture, ultrasound, and even hypnosis to deal with the pain. His wife learned how to give him theraputic massages to loosen his stiff joints. Through hard work and sheer determination, Janis was able to continue his career. He maintained a full concert schedule for 12 years without anyone suspecting. Finally, he told the world at a White House concert in 1985. These days, he is active in fund-raising for the Arthritis Foundation and still plays the piano. He credits faith, and hope, and will for his success and says, "I have arthritis, but it doesn't have me."
Bits and Pieces, August, 1989.
Theologian John Calvin was afflicted with rheumatism and migraine headaches. Yet he preached, wrote books, and governed Geneva, Switzerland, for 25 years.
John Killinger retells this story from Atlantic Monthly about the days of the great western cattle rancher: "A little burro sometimes would be harnessed to a wild steed. Bucking and raging, convulsing like drunken sailors, the two would be turned loose like Laurel and Hardy to proceed out onto the desert range. They could be seen disappearing over the horizon, the great steed dragging that litle burro along and throwing him about like a bag of cream puffs. They might be gone for days, but eventually they would come back. The little burro would be seen first, trotting back across the horizon, leading the submissive steed in tow. Somewhere out there on the rim of the world, that steed would become exhausted from trying to get rid of the burro, and in that moment, the burro would take mastery and become the leader. And that is the way it is with the kingdom and its heroes, isn't it? The battle is to the determined, not to the outraged; to the committed, not to those who are merely dramatic.
Leadership, Summer, 1989.
Automobile genius Henry Ford once came up with a revolutionary plan for a new kind of engine which we know today as the V-8. Ford was eager to get his great new idea into production. He had some men draw up the plans, and presented them to the engineers. As the engineers studied the drawings, one by one they cane to the same conclusion. Their visionary boss just didn't know much about the fundamental principles of engineering. He'd have to be told gently--his dream was impossible. Ford said, "Produce it anyway." They replied, "But it's impossible." "Go ahead," Ford commanded, "and stay on the job until you succeed, no matter how much time is required." For six months they struggled with drawing after drawing, design after design. Nothing. Another six months. Nothing. At the end of the year Ford checked with his engineers and they once again told him that what he wanted was impossible. Ford told them to keep going. They did. And they discovered how to build a V-8 engine.
Napolean Hill, Think and Grow Rich, 1960.
From the diary of John Wesley. . .
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne's. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John's. Deacons said "Get out and stay out."
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude's. Can't go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.