Summary: Faith in the resurrection reality of Jesus Christ produces perseverance for the journey and hope for the future.

Holy Spirit Series 2000

Life in the Spirit: Faith For The Distance

1 Corinthians 15:58

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Life is a marathon, not a sprint, so the saying goes. The same is true of the Christian faith. Finishing well, not just starting with a flurry, should be every believer’s goal.

Writer Eugene Peterson, in his excellent book on the Psalms, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, explains the problem we face with this principle,

“Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgments. It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest.”

It is just this quality of finishing well, persevering until the very end, that marks great lives and strong faiths.

It was perseverance as much as genius that made some of the great heroes of all time what they were. Thomas Edison didn’t just sit down one day and decide to invent the incandescent light bulb. He sent messengers around the world searching for just the right fiber for the filament. But even that wasn’t enough. Edison tried over 18,000 combinations and experiments, each one failing, before he finally succeeded. A starter and not a finisher? What if he had given up after just 17,000 attempts?

Reportedly Jonas Salk, one of the great medical heroes of the twentieth century, worked sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, for three years before he finally developed the polio vaccine. What if Salk had been a sprinter but not a marathon man?

On a less serious note, but equally impressive, is the record of one of baseballs greatest legends. Do you know who holds the major league record for the most career strikeouts at 1300? Probably not. But if I told you the same player also held the record for the most homeruns for most of baseball history, you would guess his name immediately. Indeed, Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns but struck out nearly twice as often. If quitting at the first sign of failure or difficulty had been in his nature, Ruth’s name would have never made the record books in either category.

One of my favorite all time stories deals with perseverance, sort of. Perhaps you read it in Reader’s Digest several years ago. There was an accident in a West Texas oil field. An explosion set an oilrig on fire. The flames were burning in controllably. Smoke clouded the horizon for miles.

All efforts to extinguish the inferno proved futile. The local riggers did their best. Texaco sent in a crew. All to no avail. A call went out to Red Adair and his oil fire experts in Houston. Within twenty-four hours a crew of dozens and trailers loaded with millions of dollars worth of the world’s best fire fighting equipment arrived.

After several tries, the Houston crew, exhausted and soot covered, reported to the site office set up about a half mile from the blaze. “It’s no use,” they told the company reps. “That fire is so hot no one can get within a hundred yards of it and live. We’ll just have to let it burn down some and then try again.”

At millions of dollars a day of lost revenues, the company wasn’t ready to take no for an answer. Surely there was someone who wouldn’t give up so easily. They called a press conference and announced to the watching world that a check of $100,000 plus expenses would be waiting for any fire company that could extinguish the oil well blaze.

About 50 miles away in a little dusty cow town, a volunteer fire department consisting of four weather-beaten old Texans and a rusty pumper just happened to have the TV on. As they watched the news conference, the old cowboys looked at one another and looked back at the TV and then back at one another. “Ain’t no fire around these parts we haven’t been able to put out. What do you say, we give it a try?”

Quickly they loaded up their equipment and headed down the country road toward their meeting with destiny and riches. They revved the old diesel to the max and roared in the direction of the well.

The volunteer captain wrestled the steering wheel of the old pumper around the final turn toward the fire as two of the old cowboys turned firefighters held on for dear life to the rear of the truck with one hand and their ten-gallon hats with other. Rusty fenders clattered and pistons knocked as the truck roared past the property sign. It gained speed as it approached the site office at the half-mile marker and blew right by Adair and Company’s staging area. The engine kept rolling and finally came to a grinding halt not fifty yards from the fire.

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