The Persistent Decision
August 9, 2009
It was the spring of 94 or the fall of 94, I get them confused, only because we were in Australia and it was April, which is fall there but spring here. Regardless of what it’s called it was April and in April in Queensland you could get these really neat torrential rainstorms that lasted 15 minutes. And when I say torrential, I mean torrential. It’s like round them up Noah one more time.
It was a beautiful day I had the kids to a softball practice and we were driving home when we saw it. It looked like something out of a movie. It was a literal wall of water. We were driving under a clear blue sky and up ahead the sky was black and you could see the edge of the downpour hanging like a curtain in the air.
When we drove into the rain it was like driving into a carwash, and we were probably no more than a couple of hundred metres in when we noticed a car coming toward us pull over and stop. The driver obviously had enough of the storm and the horrible driving conditions and decided to quit and let the storm pass by.
What he didn’t know and I did was that if he had of kept driving in just a matter of a minute or so he would have driven out of the storm onto dry pavement and beautiful sunshine. As it was he was sitting still while the storm was moving over him and eventually he was going to have to drive through it all over again. Why? Because he had quit when he should have kept going.
So we are at the end of my series on the Traveler’s Gift. To bring you up to speed if you have missed any of the weeks, or to probably just annoy you if you have been here for all seven sessions and you are thinking: if I hear this one more time I will scream. Who has been here for all seven messages? Tired of it yet? Discovered something interesting this week, The Traveler’s Gift, became the first book in American publishing history to make the best-seller list in six different categories simultaneously.
So here we go, the author of the book Andy Andrews had what he referred as a normal middle class childhood, his dad was a preacher and his mom a home maker. That changed the year Andrews turned 19, his mom died of cancer and his father was killed in a car accident. Through a series of less than wise decisions young Andy found himself homeless living under a pier on the Gulf coast of Alabama.
A man he only knew as Jones came into his life and challenged him to become what God had created him to be. Jones got him reading biographies of famous people and eventually he would go on to read over 200 biographies of people who he felt had excelled in their lives.
And he found there were seven characteristics that successful people share and he decided to implement them in his life. He eventually became a comedian, headlining in Vegas and opening for people like Kenny Rogers, Joan Rivers, Randy Travis and others. He said that he kept putting the Seven Decisions into his routine and finally Kenny Rogers said “why don’t you write a book about them?” And the rest as they is history.
The Traveler’s Gift is a novel and in it we are introduced to David Ponder, a man who has problems. He has lost his upper management position, he has a sick child and is broke. As he drives toward home after losing his minimum wage position in a hardware store and contemplating suicide he misses a corner and his car careens toward an oak tree, and at that point through unexplained circumstances he is able to travel through time meeting 7 historic figures who offer him direction for his personal success.
So in week one we looked at the “Responsible Decision” and we joined with David Ponder as he met with Harry Truman in Potsdam Germany on July 24th 1945. It is the closing days of the Second World War, the Germans have been defeated and President Truman is about to make the decision that will end the war with Japan. And he tells Ponder that he needs to understand that where he is in life is because of choices he has made. And that week we looked at the choices that Adam and Eve made in disobeying God. And I challenged you to accept responsibility for your lives. That we are today, the good the bad and the indifferent is because choices we have made. We will no longer blame our parents, our friends or circumstance and it’s only as we take responsibility for the past that we take control of our future.
The next week we looked at the “Guided Decision” . The hero of our story now finds himself standing in Solomon’s throne room . And King Solomon tells Ponder that if he is going to succeed in life than he will need to choice wisdom. And we looked at the story in the scriptures about how Solomon, as a new King, was offered the desires of his heart and how he asked for the wisdom to guide his people well. And so we looked at the challenge of finding wisdom in our lives and how we find that wisdom by reading books, by learning from others and by seeking the wisdom of God, through prayer and the reading of his word.
From ancient Israel Ponder goes to Gettysburg Pennsylvania where he discovers the “Active Decision” . It’s July 2 1863, the American Civil War has been under way for over 2 years and this battle would prove to be pivotal in deciding who would win at Gettysburg and ultimately which side would win the war.
And it was the actions of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine, who lead an almost suicidal attack against the Confederate Army that made the difference. And he tells Ponder that if he is going to succeed in his life he will need to choice action, to do something, to push forward and take a chance and a risk in order to change his world. I looked at Peter who upon seeing Jesus walking on the water on the sea of Galilee said “If it is you Lord tell me to come, and I will” and how Peter alone among the twelve took a chance and did the impossible.
And then it was onward to the “Certain Decision” . From Gettysburg David Ponder is transported to October of 1492 on the deck of the sailing vessel the Santa Maria just days before Columbus would land on the “New World”. I wonder if the folks of that little Island ever thought, “Well there goes the neighbourhood”?
Columbus who had spent years trying to find someone to sponsor his expedition in the belief that the world was not flat but round and after years of rejection and disappointments found those sponsors in King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus reminded Ponder and us to hold tight to our dreams and visions even in the face of disappointments and we looked at what we learn from our disappointment that week focusing on the story of Joshua and Caleb standing at the edge of the Promised Land.
The “Joyful Decision” was next and it was from Anne Frank a 14 year old Jewish refugee, hiding from the Gestapo in an Amsterdam attic, that Ponder received this direction. She encouraged him to find his happiness from within instead of from circumstances. And that week we looked at how we could find happiness in our lives. First by choosing to not complain, then by choosing to be grateful and finally by choosing to smile.
Last week was the “Compassionate Decision”. From German occupied Holland Ponder finds himself whisked back in time to once more stand on the Battle Field of Gettysburg, this time four and a half months after the battle was over in the presence of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was there to dedicate the war cemetery at Gettysburg and that is where he delivered the address that begins with the words “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And it was Lincoln who encouraged Ponder to “Greet each day with Forgiveness.” And so last week I spoke about forgiveness and the necessity of forgiveness in the life of the Christ Follower, and we looked at several fallacies about forgiveness. That it needs to be asked for, that it’s a feeling or that it means that once you have forgiven someone you have to trust them. Forgiveness is about the past, trust is about the future.
And here we are at decision number 7. And it is at this point that the book changes a bit, the other six decisions were given to David Ponder at specific points in history by historical individuals. This time Ponder finds himself in an immense warehouse stocked with a variety of stuff. Pictures, inventions and achievements. And his host is the Angel Gabriel, wings and all. And Gabriel tells our hero that he is standing in “the Place that never was” Gabriel goes on to say “This is the place where we keep all the things that were about to be delivered just as a person stopped working and praying for them. The contents of this warehouse are filled with the dreams and goals of the less courageous.”
And Gabriel encourages Ponder and us to embrace the “Persistent Decision” and to persist without exception.
And so we go back to the scripture that was read for us earlier, in particular Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Think about it we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. There are two thoughts here; the first is the reward or the harvest of blessing. The second is giving up. And you can either obtain the reward, or you can give up but you can’t do both.
I sometimes wonder about the harvest of blessings that have been missed because people gave up to soon. Could the cure to cancer have been one more experiment away for a researcher who just tired and quit. Did we miss another Gretzky because they didn’t want to get up that early to practice so they quit. Perhaps the person with the potential to be the greatest political leader of our time got discouraged and quit and now works in an office all day.
But more important then that I wonder what potential is in this congregation, the potential perhaps to change the world, the potential definitely to change lives. I wonder what blessings are there for us to reap if we don’t quit
Because, we cannot, cannot, reap the harvest of blessings if we quit, it will not happen. So the question then is this: why do people quit? I mean face it we live in a generation of quitters.
And really there are all kinds of reasons to quit.
I’m sure that every one of us could think of some reasons why we should chuck everything and give up whatever it is that we are doing. Don’t tell me why you can’t go on, don’t tell me why you have to quit. People have told me why they were quitting as a spouse, why they were quitting as a parent, why they were quitting their job or why they were quitting school. And they had pretty good reasons and do you know what? I don’t want to hear, because I know that you’ll have a good reason, but good reasons aren’t what God is looking for.
Does the scripture say in Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we have a good reason for giving up. No and it doesn’t say you will be rewarded if we can provide an excellent excuse for giving up.” No it says Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
This morning we are going to look at what happens when you quit.
1) If You Quit You Will Never Come Up To Your Potential. God has a plan for your life; God has something special for you to do. God can perform miracles through you if you are willing. God doesn’t just use preachers, God doesn’t just use singers, God uses special people and all of God’s children are special.
God has a plan for every Christian here, every man, woman and child. God has something for you to do. God has a special plan for you, and they do not, do not, and do not include giving up. When God gives us a task he expects us to stick with it until He release us, not until we release ourselves. And don’t go blaming your quititis on God. I used to have a laugh at college; Christian colleges are a scream sometimes, especially when it came to dating. And I used to love the line that couples used when they were breaking up; well it’s just not God’s will for us to be together. Why not tell the truth? They were tired of one another, he had seen a prettier girl or she had seen a better looking guy. Why blame God?
But I’ve seen it carried to an extreme, when a pastor who left his wife and child for a married woman later testified that it was in God’s will because he and his wife weren’t happy and God wanted all of his children to be happy. If you quit, don’t blame God, he doesn’t want anything to do with it. And listen up; quitting is a sin if it moves you out of the will of God.
It bugs me to see churches where things are happening and the pastor quits, or the people quit him and the church never reaches its potential. Now sometimes it is time to leave. But why does God only call pastors to bigger churches. I would suspect that it has more to do with the callee then the caller. When we were planning on moving to Australia Laurel Buckingham the pastor of Moncton Wesleyan church counselled me against it because he felt that I hadn’t finished my work in Truro. And even though I obviously felt that he was wrong he said something that has always stuck with me and it was this “The will of God is more often thwarted through opportunity then obstacles.”
Think about it. Quitters never live up to their potential and they will be sorry because of that. This is important so perk up, and write this down. We will be judged not only on what we have done but we will also be judged on what we should have done but didn’t, ouch. James the brother of Christ wrote this to the early church in James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
There are things that need to be done, projects that need to be completed, there are lives that need to be touched, there is potential that needs to be fulfilled, and they will never be done, completed, touched or fulfilled if you quit. God has given you a barrel full of potential don’t destroy it by quitting. God has a multitude of special plans for you, and none of them include the word quit. Quitters never come to their full potential.
2) If You Quit You Will Damage Your Self Respect. I have never met a quitter with a positive self image. “Oh I’m no good, I can’t succeed at anything. Everything I do is a failure; I’ll never amount to anything. I can’t do anything right.” How would you know? You’ve never stuck at it long enough to discover whether or not you can make it. And every time you quit it gets easier to quit and easier to feel bad about yourself, all over again. “What an utter failure I am.”
When I was a teenager we had horses, and my folks insisted that we take riding lessons, and while I was learning to ride my instructor gave us some profound advice, he said, and I quote, “every time you fall off your horse you will get back on a better rider.” Now why I don’t ride in the Olympics I will never know because as many times as I fell off I should have become the best rider in the world. But the secret wasn’t the falling off it was the getting back on.
When my sister was about fourteen she took a really bad spill off of her horse. The horse bolted, Dianne got dumped and walked home covered in blood. When she got home she was bundled into the local hospital and stitched back together again. But it took a while to get her back in the saddle again. She didn’t want to ride, because she was afraid of falling off again. And she never regained her self confidence on horse back.
Friends if you fall in your Christian life, get back on again, don’t stay off cause the longer you stay off, the more you’ll put yourself down. Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of your quitting. You aren’t a failure, prove your self worth by getting back up and back on.
The biggest problem is that when you don’t feel good about yourself, you won’t feel good about your fellow man. When you feel this high then you won’t be happy until everybody else feels this high. And if they don’t then you are going to make it your business to ensure that they feel just as low and rotten as you do, after all isn’t that what it means when it says bear on another’s burdens. Don’t let yourself become negative, don’t let your quititis affect your view of everybody else’s life and projects. Some people have quit so many times, and have become so negative that they see problems in every solution.
3) If You Quit You Will Lose Your Dream, your vision the hope -which God has given you. Every one of you either has dreams right now today, or you had dreams yesterday and lost them. Dreams of what you want for tomorrow, for yourselves, for your children and for your church. And when you take away the dreams, then you might as well take away the life. To live without hope for tomorrow is not to live, it merely exists. Proverbs 13:19 It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them.
When you quit time and time again you don’t lose your dream you give it away. Whatever vision you had just shrivels up and dies inside of you. You’ve never seen a dream fulfilled, you’ve never taken a vision through its natural course, you’ve never had a hope realized. So why dream? Why hope? Why see visions? That happens to churches doesn’t it? Pastor comes in with dreams and sets goals for the church and for whatever reason they aren’t met, and the pastor quits, and the church loses the dream, and if that happens enough then finally the church is unwilling to dream dreams and have visions, and we are content to become a caricature of what we ought to be. It doesn’t have to be that way, because you can see your dreams, hopes and visions through to fruition, just don’t quit.
4) If You Quit It Will Encourage Others To Quit.
Have you ever noticed that quitter’s band together? There are a couple of reasons for that the first one is deep and thought provoking. And that is this “birds of a feather flock together”. Winners don’t want to hang around with quitters and quitters don’t want to hang around with winners. And the reason that winners don’t want to hang around with quitters is that they find it depressing. The reason that quitters don’t want to hang around with winners is that they find it depressing. I mean face it if you finish dead last in a race, the last place you want to be is with number one.
And so quitters and losers band together, because success reminds the failure of where he is, or where he thinks he is. And you say, “Oh it’s terrible nobody notices me, I’m not appreciated, I’m taken for granted, I’m not needed, I quit.” And somebody else says, “funny that, me too,” and somebody else says, “Me three” and pretty soon you have a whole bunch of unappreciated people who have quit. And they all get together and have a great big pity party or poor me party. Know what I mean?
Christian listen up, there are people who are watching your life, and they just need one excuse to throw up their hands and say “I quit, I’m through.” Don’t let your life be that excuse. No man is an island, your life influences somebody. Parents it may be your child. Children’s worker it may be a student. Teen it might be a friend. I don’t know who you influence but I know that you influence somebody who if you quit, will take it as an omen that they should quit too. And listen up because this is scary, when you quit and by doing so encourage or influence somebody else to quit, you are responsible not only for your failure but also for theirs.
Fail not, do not give up, don’t quit. But don’t count on everyone cheering you on. People won’t understand, we live in a society where quitting is normal. And your persistence will be seen as a rebuke to those who quit. Andy Andrews writes “People will encourage you to quit if you’ve persisted, because society no longer holds a penalty for quitting . . . as long as you persist a little bit.”
But in the long run it won’t matter because it’s not their life and it’s not their success it is yours. And so let me end this series with two quotes, the first is from the scripture we started with this morning, Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
The second comes from that great American philosopher Dr. Seuss “You have brains in your head.You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
So today will you commit to preserve without exception?