the woods in back of the farm where I was raised are the ruins of an old
farming homestead. The house and small barn of the old place have now long
since collapsed, leaving nothing but the rotting logs of the buildings.
I was a boy however, the shell of the old log house was still standing, shaded
by tall hemlock trees by its side. The roof of the house had mostly fallen in,
and the floor had been torn up by some kids who had heard the boyhood tale that
the family that once lived there had buried some treasure under the floor
boards. There was no glass in the windows of course. I am sure they were the
first things to be broken. Nevertheless, despite this early vandalism, the log
walls of the house still stood straight.
fields around the house were grown up in poplars and alders. The fence rows of
stone that once had surrounded the fields had also long ago toppled, and trees
grew through the stones. The farmstead had a look of total abandonment.
As a young lad, I would often meander around this old farm site and wonder about this family who lived there before I was born.Did they have boys like me who liked to explore the woods and walk along the creeks? Did the small children run out to the field at
truth actually was that the family did not live there very long. They made a
beginning, but after only several years at the farm, they moved on to a
am sure that this move from their farm was not their plan from the beginning. They
certainly would not have put so much effort into building a house and barn,
clearing the land and digging a well, if they had not planned on staying long. The
beginning that they made was one of permanency.
do not know the particulars of what happened to this family or what
circumstances occasioned their departure. Perhaps they had to endure death or
some other tragedy that caused their plans to change. I mean no criticism of
the abandonment of their plans, but the ruins of this farmstead has taught me a
lesson of permanency.
beginnings are important. We sometimes procrastinate in starting a project
because we know that it will involve a commitment of time and effort. This
procrastination needs to be overcome and the work needs to begin. This is what
my own Dad meant when he used to say that a job well started is a job half
a good beginning is not enough, as the abandoned farmstead testifies. It is not
enough to simply overcome procrastination and to make a good beginning. Procrastination
also has a brother, named discouragement. Procrastination may keep us from
beginning a task, but even if we manage to overcome procrastination and begin,
it is discouragement that will bring thoughts of abandonment.
are very few tasks of consequence that can be carried to completion on the
strength of a strong beginning alone. Because of this, we must also come to
know another pair of brothers. Just as we saw that procrastination has a partner
in discouragement, so must initiation of a task look for an ally. He has found
one in perseverance.
good beginning needs to be coupled with perseverance in order for the task to
be finished. Perseverance is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he said,
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do
not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9 NAS). In speaking of reaping, Paul brings to
mind a farmer who, if he keeps to the task, will in the end be able to benefit
from the harvest of his crop.
illustration of a farmer growing his crop is a good one, because having a
successful growing season requires constant effort until the crop is ready to
be harvested. If the farmer were to give up the first time some weeds started
to appear, or the first time he saw an insect attacking his crop, he would not
harvest a bountiful crop. It is only by constant effort that he is able to see
abundance in the harvest.
fact, this agricultural illustration is so applicable that James also uses it
in his writing, urging his readers to be patient.
patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer awaits the
precious fruit of the soil—how patient he is for the fall and spring rains.
You, too, be patient and strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is
near. Do not complain about one another, brothers, so that you will not be
judged. Look, the Judge is standing at the door!
as an example of patience in affliction, take the prophets who spoke in the
name of the Lord. See how blessed we consider those who have persevered. You
have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen the outcome from the Lord. The
Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:7-11 BSB).
times the New Testament writers encourage their readers to hold fast to the
teachings and not to become discouraged.
Christ was faithful as a Son over His house – whose house we are if we hold
fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end…For we have
become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm
until the end (Hebrews 3:6, 14 NAS).
God is not so unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have
shown toward His name…And we desire that each one of you show the same
diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end…let us run
with endurance the race set out for us (Hebrews 6:10-11; 12:1 NAS).
In Addition to
even endurance alone in not enough to bring us to completion. The endurance
must be coupled with the ability to overcome even very great discouragement,
for if the task is a worthy task, this level of great discouragement will
surely come. The writer of Hebrews, intending that his readers not take his
words about endurance too lightly, shared what some have had to suffer.
were tortured, not accepting their release so that they may obtain a better
resurrection. And others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains
and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted,
they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in
goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was
not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the
have known better than the apostle Paul what is required for one to endure and
persevere. He says, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not
destroyed…For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for
Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 11 NAS).
was Paul ever to keep rising above the formidable difficulties that he
constantly faced? For one thing, he knew his call was from God, and if he was
to continue, that power must also come from God.
told his readers, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels (speaking of the
earthen vessel as his own body), so that the surpassing greatness of the power
will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NAS).
the task is of ourselves only, the power to complete it must also only come
from ourselves. Our power is limited.
fact, Paul goes even further than learning not to rely on his own strength. He
sees his own natural strength as a hinderance to the task rather than something
that enables him.
tells us that God told him that His grace was sufficient for Paul, and that the
power of God is actually perfected in Paul’s own weakness.
Paul says, “I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the
power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight
in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For
when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 4:7 BSB).
Knowing that our strength must come from God,
our own failures do not mean defeat, but it does mean that we must learn to
rise above opposition and failure and to persevere. In examining what it takes
to persevere, we will see that perseverance is really a series of new
beginnings. Paul also knew this. Discouragement may make one give up and
surrender. Once we surrender and abandon what we have begun, procrastination
again begins to overcome us. We are back at the beginning and we are again
required to overcome procrastination. It is then when we call on the need to
we are weary in our task, and discouragement comes knocking at our door to
cause us to quit, it is perseverance that we should send to answer the door.
brings with it the strength to begin again. It is perseverance that enables us
to renew our strength.
we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man
is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for
us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians
The Task Must be
Worthy of our Effort
is one more thing. To persevere, one must have goals that are worthy of the
perseverance. If one feels that the goals that he has do not merit the
discouragement and the sufferings necessary to achieve those goals, one will
was convinced that his own goals for which he was striving were worth every
difficulty that he encountered. He continues in his writing, “While we look not
at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen; for the
things which are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are
eternal” (2 Corinthians
is exactly for this reason, when the writer of Hebrews was telling of the
sufferings of many who had been able to endure through it all, he added the
parenthesis to describe these individuals, “[these were] men of whom the world
was not worthy.”
the goals of these men and woman would have been merely worldly goals, they
would not have been able to persevere. “But as it is,” the writer says, “they
desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed
to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews
world can never be worthy of men and woman who have their sights set on a
Our Goals are
not Worldly Goals
may be possible to abandon farms or other endeavors of this world when it
becomes evident that they are not worth the effort one is putting into them. This
might be true in some of our worldly pursuits. When one comes to a realization
that an endeavor or a task of this world can only come to an undesirable end,
it may be best to abandon the effort.
things of this world simply are not worth the effort. It is because if this that
we have such clichés in our everyday parlance such as “to cut one’s losses” or
“to give it up as a bad job.” No doubt, the
family that began the farm in the woods in back of our house had decided this.
if the goal is a heavenly one, there is no amount of discouragement that should
come between us and that to where we have set our sights. We look to things
that are eternal. The world is not worthy of such things.
one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13 BSB)