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“First The Stones; Then The Mountain!” 1 Corinthians 9:24-28 Key verse(s) 6:“Therefore I do not run as a man aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

One thing I have learned is that one of the primary reasons for accepting defeat too soon is that some of us, myself included, tend to preoccupy ourselves with the whole picture long before we really need to. Those of us who are predisposed to take in the broad picture too readily are the ones who, upon walking into a room that needs painting, paintbrush in hand, stop to look at every nook and cranny that must be painted. Before you know it the job that was really quite manageable in the first place becomes a demon, possessed of the ability to both intimidate and discourage all at once. The task becomes bigger than the one who tasks and the task becomes the taskmaster rather than we. Instead of seeing the “small stones” laying around that could easily be picked up and removed, we wrap our arms immediately upon the nearest “boulder” only to discover that it won’t budge. If we had taken the time and possessed the patience to remove the small stones upon which it rested, it is quite likely that it would have rolled away without much labor at all.

Sometimes, when we are taking in the whole, drab picture and we find ourselves discouraged, we need to rely on the courage of others to lift us up and dispel our fears. I ran across this beautiful story years ago and, to this day, it has always been a source of encouragement for me when everything seems to be going wrong and I just want to quit. “One man who was ousted from his profession for an indiscretion took work as a hod carrier simply to put bread on the table. He was suddenly plunged into a drastically different world; instead of going to an office each day, he was hauling loads of concrete block up to the fifth level of a construction site. Gone was the piped-in music in the corridors; now he had to endure blaring transistors. Profanity shot through the air, especially from the foreman, whose primary tactics were whining and intimidation; ‘For––sake, you––, can’t you do anything right? Near the end of the third week, the new employee felt he could take no more. ‘I’ll work till break time this morning,’ he told himself, ‘and then that’s it. I’m going home.’ He’d already been the butt of more than one joke when his lack of experience caused him to do something foolish. The stories were retold constantly thereafter. ‘I just can’t handle any more of this.’ A while later, he decided to finish out the morning and then leave at lunchtime. 

Shortly before noon, the foreman came around with paychecks. As he handed the man his envelope, he made his first civil comment to him in three weeks. ‘Hey, there’s a woman working in the front office who knows you. Says she takes care of your kids sometimes.’ ‘Who?’ He named the woman, who sometimes helped in the nursery of the church where the man and his family worshiped. The foreman then went on with his rounds. When the hod carrier opened his envelope, he found, along with his check, a handwritten note from the payroll clerk: ‘When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer with it. Just wanted you to know that I’m praying for you these days.’ He stared at the note, astonished at God’s timing. He hadn’t even known the woman worked for this company. Here at his lowest hour, she had given him the courage to go on, to push another wheelbarrow of mortar up that ramp.” (Dean Merrill, Another Chance, Zondervan, 1981, p. 138.)

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