Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2014
Endurance, persistence, and overcoming are biblical themes lived out by real people with real weaknesses, who hungered for much more than sustaining a lifestyle. Our work is intended to be part of God’s unfolding plan, yet we are weak and quit easily. There is good news though…
James 1:17 tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV).
But, we also read this, from the Apostle Paul: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us” (see Romans 5:3-5).
Nowhere is this better illustrated today than in the areas of the world where the Christian Church suffers under persecution, places such as Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, China, North Korea, or Vietnam. yet, in those places, the Gospel is advancing. Generally speaking, many of those Christians today have a stronger hunger and desire for the Lord than Christians in the West.
People once asked, could anything good come from Nazareth? Could they ever have imagined the goodness from the Cross? Matthew 16 says that after Jesus told the disciples of the suffering He would endure, “Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’”
God defines what is “good”, not us, and not the devil.
In his recent book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell opens a section of the book with this quote from the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Gladwell, who says that writing the book brought him back to the Christian faith, illustrates over and over how our perceived weaknesses, limitations, and setbacks can often play to our advantage. In fact, they may be the very tools for our innovation and success. It’s difficult to escape the evidence that God permits some of the hardships our lives; hardships that we sometimes pray for Him to take away. From His vantage point, He sees the end of the matter and He knows what it will produce.
The classic book Think and Grow Rich! by Napoleon Hill recounts the story of a man named Mr. Darby who set out to dig his fortune in the days of the gold rush. Darby established his gold mine with the backing of friends and family, but after minimal discovery, he became disheartened and decided to quit and sold the mine to a junk man.
The junk man consulted with a mining engineer that calculated gold to likely be three feet away. Sure enough it was. The junk man only dug three feet further and made millions. In Hill’s words, “Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.”
So what happened to Mr. Darby after he quit the gold mine? In Hill’s words:
“Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over, when he made the discovery that DESIRE can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance. Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, ‘I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.’
Darby became one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually; he owes his ‘stickability’ to the lesson he learned from his ‘quitability’ in the gold mining business.
Before success comes in any man’s life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of men do.”
What are other lessons we gain from Hill’s book?
Scripture Reference: James 1:17, Romans 5:3-5, Matthew 16, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
JONATHAN SIMPSON is a frequent contributing writer to CSM’s Marketplace Exchange.