Summary: We must maintain hope and perseverance until the second coming
We have often heard the axiom that when life serves us lemons we should turn the lemons into lemonade. I don’t know about you, but I find that is not always an easy thing to do. There have been times when I have been confronted by an issue the seemingly overwhelms me. I twist and turn and cannot see my way around the issue or circumstance. It is as if my brain, if not my life, has been put on pause. How can one turn lemons into lemonade if you do not have the water, sugar or a lemon squeezer?
I must confess there have been times when it took me a few moments to remember that prayer will provide the tools to get beyond the problem that perplexes me. I might even be provided with the smile and cheerful outlook to overcome the issue.
This is not something new, I imagine all of you have confronted similar situations. Certainly, history is fraught with individuals confronted with a situation and finding unique ways to overcome life’s most difficult problems.
On April 15, 1912 the RMS Titanic, the Unsinkable Ship, did the unthinkable and sank after hitting an iceberg. Unfortunately, there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate all the passengers and crew. Famously, a decision was made to save all the women and children first. Then the men and crew members. Knowing that there was not enough room in the lifeboats for them the Titanic’s band led by Wallace Hartley played music continuously to keep the passengers calm until the ship slipped under the waves.
There are many legends, myths and folklore surrounding the sinking of the Titanic, but the story of the band in the face of certain death playing music to soothe the passengers is an enduring and true story.
To persevere even under the worst of circumstances is truly a daunting and difficult task. Oftentimes we may not succeed in completing the task, yet there is strength and honor in the attempt.
Paul, was often beaten, bruised and lonely at times. Yet, he continued to pursue his task of spreading the Gospel message. He left us these words of encouragement:
Php 3:13 My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before,
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul knew that he stood out. That he was different. Others may have looked upon him as a perfect Christian, but he knew better. He also knew that he needed to set an example. Not to rest on what he has already achieved, but to continue forward, always improving, always reaching for the prize that God is holding out to all believers.
A famous theologian from the early 20th century Peter Marshall is quoted to have said this truth, "Never let the past be so dear as to limit the future."
And in Luke 9:62 we find this quote: And Jesus said to him, No one, having put his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
In 1992 during the Bosnian War the city of Sarajevo came under siege. A siege that lasted four years and resulted in thousands of deaths. Vedran Smailovic and cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet was haunted by the killing, the hunger of the children and the daily crescendo of bombs falling.
So, every day he brought his cello and a chair and sat in front of a bombed out building in the city square by the Sarajevo River and played his cello. He usually started with Albioni’s Adagio in C Minor.
It should be noted that where he sat every day was in direct sight of a sniper who was in a bell tower overlooking a bridge. A bridge that was necessary for the citizens to cross to the market for their food. On some days the sniper killed as many as 12 men, women and children. Mr. Smailovic was never targeted.
Mr. Smailovic played to give encouragement to the living as well as to honor the dead. He played on that street corner for over a year. A book has been written about him and an opera also. Mr. Smailovic now lives in Ireland.
58 So then, my beloved brethren, be firm, immovable, abounding always in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in [the] Lord.
Paul is telling us to not resign ourselves to our fate, but to keep on trying, to keep on moving, to keep on challenging what fate throws our way. We will never fight in vain, as the Lord will be fighting right along beside us!