Lessons from a Father

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:4

My father, George Murray, was a well-known and prosperous business man in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt from him:

Firstly, success only comes to those who persevere. My father weathered all sorts of challenges in business. He was bankrupt, had innovations stolen, had his stock destroyed by fire and floods, was defrauded by an unscrupulous accountant, and even blazed it out in a gun battle with desperate criminals. On top of that he survived the anti-apartheid sanctions, struggled through a stagnant economy, and went toe to toe with the opportunists who would gladly see him out of business in order to advance their own interests.

The business world is like that. It’s a dog eat dog world. It’s survival of the fittest.

It’s no different in ministry. When the church is doing what it’s supposed to do there will be people in opposition, people trying to run us out of town. After all, a healthy church is in opposition with the world, competing for territory, struggling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” Ephesians 6:12. And, as in the business world, success will only come to the church that perseveres.

Secondly, you cannot sell a product that you’re not wholeheartedly behind. My father was so committed to his product he worked night and day, six days a week. He ate, slept, and dreamt about his business. He was tireless in his efforts with a work ethic that few could match. His single-minded purpose was to give everything in him to fulfill his objectives.

Ministry should be no different. You can’t expect others to “buy in” to Jesus unless you’re sold out to Jesus. There can be no half measures, no nine to five attitudes, no slipshod approach. God must be given our very best. Our love for Jesus must be characterized by a passion and fortitude that is unsurpassed. We must settle for nothing less than Jesus as Lord of all. Believers must be charged with a single-minded purpose, to promote Jesus Christ, and focus their lives on the attainment of this goal.

Thirdly, my father’s business success was built, in part, on his creative abilities. His business interests adapted to meet market expectations. He changed with the times. He pioneered new products and came up with concepts and ideas with which to sell the same “old” product. He looked for ways to catch his customers’ attention and capture their buying power. He worked hard to keep current, to be one step ahead of his competitors. He established and maintained an environment, an atmosphere, in which his customers had confidence in him and his product. And he strived for what he called a “win – win” situation in which both he and the customer come out on top.

If he didn’t do what he did, he would have gone out of business.

Likewise, the church must be creative. Innovation must be encouraged. Adaptations must be made to engage shifting cultural trends. An environment must be created in which sinners will have confidence in Christ and His Church. Without compromising the gospel, the church must do what’s needed to come out on top, to be in a “win – win” situation. We must catch the attention of the world and capture the souls of the lost. Which means we must tell the “old” story in a fresh and vital way.

Fourthly, it’s all about profit. My father was constantly motivated to take new ground, planning on how to capture a bigger piece of the pie, strategising and pursuing practices that would open up the marketplace in a way that would increase his company’s turnover and profits.

The church must have the same determination. Not for financial profit but for spiritual dividends. We must constantly plan to take new territory and attempt to advance the kingdom of God. We must never be content with the piece of the pie that we’ve got. Our aim must be to hot wire every person to God. To this end there must be strategies and practices that will result in noticeable advances every year.

Finally, never give up. After my father went bankrupt, he went right back into the fray. He refused to call it quits. He walked the streets until his only pair of shoes was worn out. He slept on the floor in his office after the bank took his assets and his home. And he struggled until he found a way to get back on top.

Thus when business started to improve I wasn’t surprised when my father prepared calendars, catalogues, and T-shirts printed with the words, Don’t Ever Give Up. Above these words was a caricature of a wattled crane trying to swallow a frog. It graphically portrayed the struggle my father had been through. The frog had its “hands” around the crane’s throat and was squeezing with every gram of strength it could muster. And even though the crane was being strangled, and the frog was being swallowed, neither would give in.

So don’t ever give up. Press on despite the opposition. For, as it says in James 1:4, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

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