As football begins I’m reminded of the story of Johnny who loved playing sandlot football, but was just a scrawny, little kid and a bench warmer on his high school team.
Johnny’s chance came when the first string quarterback broke his ankle and he became a starter. His dream was to play college football at Notre Dame, but was rejected. University of Pittsburg offered him a scholarship, but he failed the entrance exam. Finally the University of Louisville offered him a scholarship.
Following graduation he was drafted in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Johnny couldn’t even make the third string and was cut before the season started. Married and needing to support his family, Johnny was forced to work construction while playing semi-pro football.
However, Johnny never gave up his desire to play in the NFL. Finally the Baltimore Colts gave him a chance and a $7,000 a year contract. He began on the third string. But one day got a chance to play some “mop-up” time and threw an interception on his first pass. On the next two plays he fumbled the ball. But Johnny never gave up or quit believing in himself.
Through dogged determination Johnny Unitas went on to become one of the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.
Persistence and perseverance are key ingredients for success in any endeavor, whether sports, business or personal achievement. It is also true spiritually. This principle is taught in one of the great verses of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:58.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Following Paul’s treatise on the hope of the resurrection, and the Christian’s victory over death, he encourages them not to give up or quit. Three words speak to the spirit of persistence.
Steadfast. This means to be firm. Stable. Fixed in purpose. It describes a person who can withstand temptation, who does not waver from what is right, and holds up under intense persecution.
Immovable. The steadfast Christian knows where he stands and is unwavering in his commitment to Christ. His faith is unfaltering. Unshakable. And unassailable.
Abounding. While immovable in faith, the persistent Christian is moving forward. Growing. Increasing. Excelling. Exceeding. The persistent disciple is always learning. Seeking. And sharing. He perseveres through weariness, weakness and the wiles of the Devil’s assaults.
What is the outcome of such determination? Paul promises that your labor is not in vain. What labor? Spiritual labor. The work of ministry. The edification of the Body of Christ. The outreach of the lost. Years of study, prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship and service are not wasted. They are rewarded. Richly rewarded.
Why does this persistence pay spiritual dividends? Because of Christ’s resurrection. He defeated the devil, overcame death, and paved the way for us to be raised from the grave with an incorruptible body that will enjoy eternal immortality.
Educator and author Hamilton Holt was right when he wrote, “Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Half effort does not produce half results. It produces no results. Work, continuous work and hard work is the only way to accomplish results that last.”
Never forget Jesus’ promise: “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman