“The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winner was not the runner who finished first. It was the runner who finished with his torch still lit. I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him.” Joseph Stowell
I love heroic stories. Probably, my very favorite stories though are about people who persevere. I just love stories about people who finish well, who overcome the odds, who keep going when it gets tough. It’s easy to start and many do. There is just something so fulfilling and even exhilarating about those who finish and finish well.
Did you hear the recent news report about Daniela Holmqvist? She’s a rookie golfer who was recently on the Ladies European Tour. Apparently, she’s something of a cross between Chuck Norris and Wonder Woman.
Having grown up in the South, I have a healthy respect for scorpions, the Brown Spider, and of course, the infamous, Black Widow. Though the bite of a Black Widow is rarely fatal, you don’t want to take needless risks. That’s why if you’re bitten, you probably should seek medical help immediately, just in case.
Daniela Holmqvist though has a whole new way to take care of a pesky Black Widow bite. Apparently, you can also dig out the venom with a golf tee. Holmqvist was on the fourth hole at the Royal Canberra Golf Club during a pre-qualifier for the LPGA Tour’s ISPS Handa Australian Open in Yarralumla, Australia. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her ankle. She then looked down, only to see a spider with the markings of a Black Widow. Now that’s when most people panic but not this young Swede. Rather than seek medical attention, Holmqvist decided to perform impromptu surgery…on herself. So as her leg started to swell and the pain became intense, she made a quick decision to take matters into her own hands (she’d just been informed that a Black Widow bite can kill a child in as little as 30 minutes). Pulling a golf tee out of her pocket, (“it was the only thing I had handy,” she told Svensk Golf) she used it to cut open the wound so she could squeeze out the venom and keep it from spreading inside her body. “A clear fluid came out,” she said. “It wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever done, but I had to get as much of it out of me as possible.” And then without skipping a beat, she finished her round, playing the next 14 holes with a medic following. Ultimately, she shot a 74.
The 24-year-old later said that she’s on a double-dose of antibiotics and is doing fine, though golf will have to take a temporary backseat. When she asked the doctor whether she could work out, the doctor responded with a “death stare.” Unfortunately, her 74 wasn’t good enough to get her into the ISPS Handa Australian Open. Daniela Holmqvist though is a young lady with perseverance!
Mark it down you can’t be successful in the Christian life (or, for that matter, life, without perseverance). Yet, if there’s a rare trait among Christians today, it’s perseverance. Wimpy Christianity is epidemic. Life gets a little tough so we stop reading our Bibles, stop praying, stop giving, stop serving, stop attending church, stop witnessing. Too many Christians are great “stoppers,” few are great starters…even fewer are great finishers.
Some years back when we attended college freshman orientation with Charity, there was a time for Q & A with one of the deans. I almost fell out of my chair when one parent asked, “My son is so homesick (the parent hadn’t even left yet) and wants us to take him back home, what should we do?” I’m not sure what that parent did but I’ve seen others over the years who “rescued” a homesick adult child. And oftentimes, it limits them the rest of their lives. That young person never learns to persevere.
Over the years I’ve seen parents rescue a child from a bad teacher, coach, youth leader, etc. And there may be times to step in but they are very, very rare. Over the course of a lifetime, everyone is going to have a bad boss (probably more than one), bad neighbor, bad college professor, bad co-worker. They’re probably going to have to deal with a few bad cops who will be a little tough on them and won’t let them off with a warning.
This lack of perseverance is why we have such a low view of marriage and commitment, and are so quick to bail. Those words in that vow are often little more than empty words: “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.” Sadly, when you’ve bailed from one marriage, it’s easier to bail the next time around, which is why divorce rates in America are off the chart. It’s not first time marriages that end so easily in divorce; it’s second and third ones.
The same is true when it comes to churches. We’ve lost a biblical understanding of commitment and church family. One doesn’t easily throw away family. That’s one reason at Grace we discourage church hoppers from landing. We know if you’ve left one church for some minor reason, you’ll probably repeat the behavior. Sadly, because we teach our church family to reach out in love and grace to new people and build relationships, it hurt the faithful members of our church family when that person jettisons. We wonder what’s wrong us. It leaves fractured relationships.
Recently, a friend of mine compared the church and Christianity to being in combat. The attack of a lost world is heating up. We are in a life and death struggle for lost souls. It’s not a time for nose wiping over silliness. And then he said something that really stuck with me. He said, “Scott, it’s a battlefield today and I want to know that the Christian in the foxhole with me has my back.” That’s perseverance!
May more of us have spiritual toughness and may we reach the end of our race and be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).