“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness.” (2 Peter 1:5-6)

We have spoken of our purpose. Our purpose is not that which we do for a living, as our vocation is the support for our purpose. Our purpose is the meaning of our life, it is that which we strive to accomplish for the good of those whom we love, our family, our neighbor, and all that God brings into our path. Our purpose in life is the sum total of the value that we place on our efforts while in this world. In choosing our purpose or goal for our life we want to choose that which will last beyond this world and follow us into the next. Jesus gave us a high calling, one that cannot be surpassed by the endeavors and trappings born of the world. I ask, what higher call can one answer to than rescue a soul from an eternity apart from the love of God and His presence. Jesus presented us with the purpose of our life in the last two verses of the Gospel of Matthew with this command. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

We have also spoken of passion. That passion is a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred. Passion is also defined as the sufferings of Jesus in the period following the Last Supper and including the Crucifixion, as related in the New Testament. We are totally committed to what we are passionate about. Without passion our labors become a burden and we do not have a real interest in what we are doing. Even when we are involved in an activity that is not the most enjoyable, still if it satisfies our passion we will continue on in earnest.

Today we are going to discuss the third “P”, which is perseverance. Perseverance is that Hound-Dog hang on no matter what that keeps us keeping on. If we are to achieve what we have set before us then we must discipline ourselves to not turn back from the goal or purpose of our endeavor. Our passionate desire to achieve our purpose will give us the perseverance to overcome the obstacles in our path. Nothing worth accomplishing will come easy. The harder the struggle the greater the value of our accomplishment.

My dad told me a story of a great example of perseverance. The story is about the childhood of Henry Armstrong. Henry was born, Henry Jackson in December of 1912. He was the 11th child of a family of 15 children. His father, Henry Jackson Sr. was a sharecropper in Columbus, Mississippi and his mother was an Iroquois Indian. When Henry was four years old his father moved the family to St Louis, Mo. At six years his mother died and his grandmother took over the rearing of the children. His grandmother, like his mother, hoped that Henry would pursue a career in the ministry, which Henry accomplished in his later years.

Henry’s claim to fame was that he became the featherweight, welterweight and lightweight world champion in 1938. He was the first boxer to hold three different titles simultaneously in 1938.

But our story settles in the days of Henry’s youth while growing up under the care of his grandmother. His grandmother had a little banty rooster that she loved almost as much as she loved her children. It was his grit, dignity, and rooster integrity that she loved, and she’d spank any of her children who dared pester the little beauty. One day young Henry made up his mind to catch that little rooster – something not yet accomplished by anyone. The chase began. The banty took refuge on the high roof of the henhouse and it was driven off. He scampered here, there, everywhere, with a panting, tireless youngster right on his tail feathers. It went on for hours. All movement in the barnyard and the house ceased, except the movement of the hunter and the hunted; even grandmother paused at her washtub to watch it, fascinated. Those who watched felt as sorry for Henry as they did for the banty; neither child or the rooster would give up, and the child was certainly in for a grade A spanking if he caught the rooster.

The rooster tired first; he toppled over, exhausted. Henry sized him, held him high. “I got him! I got him!” he held up his prize – but the prize was dead, run to death.

Grandmother was calm as she turned from her tub and placed her hand on her hip and took a deep breath. The rest of the family stood without smiles, waiting for the terrible punishment to begin; when Grandmoter put her hand on her hip, so, the punishment was never lenient. But suddenly she smiled, walked slowly toward the hunter as she wiped the perspiration from her brow. She took the dead banty in her own hand and passed it to another son who was told to bury it. Then she said, “I always whip you children for disobeying, and I should whip Henry, hard, right now. You ran my pet to death, Henry. But today I’m not whipping you, my son. Because you have done something that if you do all your life, you’ll make a man out of yourself. I don’t never have to worry myself about you if you go after what you want in life like you went after the rooster. Remember that. Remember this day, and why I didn’t spank you. Go after whatever it is you want, just like you did after that banty. But be sure what your want is what God wants you to have.”

If we are to run the race that God has set before us, if we are to assure the goal of achieving our purpose, then we must strip off that will hinder our race. The athlete never runs a race bogged down with heavy clothing and we should not and we cannot run being bogged down with the weight of sin in our lives. We have a daily need to confess and repent from the things that hinder our walk. It is a daily walk, a daily task in which we ask the Lord for our daily bread.

We are in the midst of a spiritual battleground fighting for the lost souls of this world. Our adversary is a strong foe and if we are to run against the big dog, then we must not carry the burdens of our stumbling nature. Those who fall are not the ones who lose, it is the ones who do not pick themselves up. It is a daily task then at the end of the day to free ourselves of the chains we may have collected along the way. We must feed ourselves upon the manna, console ourselves in the thoughts of our Lord, and run in the path He has prepared before us daily.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, March 23, 2014

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