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Hang In There!
January 2, 1994


A very wealthy man bought a huge ranch, and threw a party. After touring some of the 1500 acres of mountains and rivers and grasslands, he took everyone to the house. The house was as spectacular as the scenery, and the swimming pool was the largest they had ever seen. However, this gigantic swimming pool was filled with alligators. The rich owner explained, "I value courage more than anything else. Courage is what made me a billionaire. In fact, if anybody here is courageous enough to jump in that pool, swim through those alligators and make it to the other side, I'll give you anything you want, anything--my house, my land, money." Of course, everyone laughed at the absurd challenge and proceeded to follow the owner into the house for lunch. But, suddenly, they heard a splash. Turning around they saw a man swimming for his life across the pool, thrashing at the water as the alligators swarmed after him. After several death defying seconds, the man made it, unharmed to the other side. The crowd cheered. The host was absolutely amazed, but sticking to his promise, said, "You are indeed a man of courage. You can have anything. Just tell me what you want and it is yours." The panting swimmer looked up at his host and said, "I just want to know one thing. Who pushed me into that pool?"

He may not have been courageous, but he endured. Once he got into the water, however he got into the pool, he endured. Whatever life dealt him, he hung in there. Not giving up, and not giving in, he endured. Calvin Coolidge once said, Nothing in this world can take the place of endurance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Endurance and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

But, endurance is not so something we covet or enjoy. Who wants to pursue endurance? Endurance is something we have to endure! A surprised mother found her four-year-old son crying while he was tying his shoes.

"Why are you crying?" she asked.

"I have to tie my shoes," he sobbed.

"But you just learned how. It isn't that hard, is it?"

"No, but I'm gonna have to do it the rest of my life!" he wailed.

I remember when fuzz began growing on my face, my Uncle Bob warned me, "Don't be too anxious to start shaving. Once you start shaving, you're going to have to do it the rest of your life." He was right. I solved the problem of tying my shoes by buying loafers, but shaving is something I have to endure the rest of my life!

But, endurance is essential, especially when you find yourself in a pool filled with alligators. The wise men endured a long journey from their home in Iran to Bethlehem. They endured a difficult interview with King Herod, and had the courage to defy his orders by returning to their homeland without telling Herod where they found the Christ child. Endurance is a common theme of the Bible. Psalm 111 is a song about endurance.

God's righteousness endures forever. His praise endures forever...
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people and he has commanded his covenant forever.

God's righteousness endures forever. God's words are everlasting. Relax, trust in the Lord, because what God does is forever. When the barbarian hordes were attacking Rome, and the great Roman Empire, ruler of the civilized world for centuries, was falling, a Bishop sat down in that hour of darkness and despair to write a book which has since become one of the classics of Christian literature. St. Augustine called his book, Concerning the City of God. In a nutshell, the book's message is: Human cities may rise and fall, but the City of God endures. The fall of Rome was not the end of the world. Rome was an earthly city and perished; the City of God is eternal and indestructible.

As we begin a new year, remind yourself again there is no safe and secure place on this earth. The stock market will go up and down; your health will eventually fail; there is nothing material or earthly that is everlasting. But, be of good cheer, God endures. God's righteousness, God's works, precepts and redemption will last forever.

What about you? What is there about you that will endure forever? Your good looks won't last forever. Little of what you accumulate will last very long. What did Jesus say? Matthew 6:19-21

Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What you have will not long endure, but what you do will. A member of the British Parliament was journeying to Scotland to make a speech when his carriage got stuck on a bad road. A Scottish farm boy happened along and offered to help. He hitched up a team of horses and pulled the carriage out of the mud. The Member of Parliament asked the boy how much he owed him.

"Nothing, sir."

"Well, is there anything I can do for you?"

"Oh, no, sir. I was glad to be able to help."

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A doctor, sir."

"Well, let me help."

And he did. He made it possible for the Scottish boy to go to the university.

Fifty years later a world leader lay seriously ill with infection in Morocco. But a wonder drug was administered, a new drug, penicillin. Penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming who was the young Scottish lad. The man who helped sponsor his education was Lord Randolph Churchill, and the leader whose life was saved by penicillin was Lord Churchill's son, Winston, one of history's greatest statesmen. Good deeds endure, and they come around and around to bless you. Bad deeds also endure, and they come around and around to curse you.

When you get discouraged, and are tempted to quit, evaluate what you are doing. Is it significant? Is it important? Is it furthering God's righteousness? Are you doing God's will, God's plan for you? If so, then hang in there. If not, get right with God. Find out why you were placed here on this earth, and what is your present call.

Whatever happens to you, recognize and rejoice in your personal future. When you are with God in the eternal City of God, nothing can harm you, nothing can get you down. You will prevail; not always on your terms or according to your desires, but you personally will prevail. You will live forever. God has made a covenant with you, and it will endure forever. God reaches out, claims you as one of his own, and promises to be your God forever. That covenant endures. Nothing can shake it or change it. Your relationship with God is forever.

Perhaps a task will fail, a job will fail, your health will fail, or even a marriage will fail; but you personally are still valuable. You are made by God, redeemed and loved by Jesus, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. You cannot fail. Even though you die, yet you will live forever. Hang in there.

At the beginning of a new year, the Wesleys, founders of Methodism, reminded their followers of the covenant God has made with us. The Covenant Prayer which was written by Charles Wesley is No. 607 in the hymnal. During the offering, please read it. Following the offering, I will ask those of you who are ready to make such a covenant to pray it aloud with me.

© 1994 Douglas I. Norris