New Beginnings

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

Here’s a great story: It’s about a fellow who’d been raised in the back hills of West Virginia – I mean, so far out in the sticks he had never even seen a big city, to say nothing of modern conveniences such as electricity. Well, he married a gal just like himself and they had one son whom they creatively named Junior. When Junior was about sixteen, his dad realized it wouldn’t be long before his son became a man and went off to face the real world. So, feeling responsible for his son’s education, the man started saving for a trip to the city. Three years later they were ready to go. They tossed their belongings into the back of an old truck and started the long journey over the rough winding roads.

It was a time of tremendous anticipation but their excitement soon turned to apprehension as they approached the outskirts of the city. The busy roads, the flashing neon lights, the tall buildings, all heightened their sense of anxiety and by the time they reached the hotel, Papa was quite jumpy. Mama was therefore instructed to stay in the truck while the men went in to have a look around.

Papa and Junior walked wide-eyed toward the lobby. They had never seen anything like it before! When they stepped on a mat, the doors opened automatically. As they walked inside, they were met by a shimmering chandelier that hung from a ceiling three stories high. Off to the right there was an enormous waterfall, pouring out of a wall and rippling over inlaid stones and rocks. And in the adjoining mall they could see an ice-skating rink, ­inside! They were awestruck.

Both stood captivated, watching one breathtaking sight after another, until their attention was arrested by a clicking sound behind them. Turning around they saw an amazing little room with doors that slid open and closed from the center. It was magical. People would walk up, push a button, and wait. Then lights would flicker above the doors, there would be a ‘click,’ and the doors would slide open. Some people would walk out of the little room, others would walk in and turn around, another ‘click,’ and the doors would slide shut. By now Papa and Junior were totally transfixed.

At that moment a wrinkled old lady shuffled up to the doors. She pushed the button and waited a few seconds. Then, ‘click,’ the doors opened with a swish and she hobbled into the little room. No one else stepped in with her, so ‘click,’ and the doors closed. No more than twenty seconds later the doors opened again – and there stood this fabulous attractive blonde, a young woman in her twenties – high heels, shapely body, beautiful face – a real knockout! As she stepped out, smiled, and turned to walk away, Papa nudged his boy and mumbled, “Hey, Junior  …  go git Mama!” (Source: Stories for the Family’s Heart).

Now we laugh, but it seems to me that everybody’s looking for a room like that.  We would love to be able to push the right button, wait momentarily for the door of opportunity to slide open, then ‘click’, magic! In only a matter of seconds we’re instantly transformed. Without any effort we’ve got a new beginning. But that’s not the real world. When it comes to reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

This is especially true as we consider personal revival or the renewal of the local church. It doesn’t just happen. It takes prayer, patience, hard work, and requires an ongoing struggle against the grip of mediocrity.

Which implies a “long obedience in the same direction” Eugene Peterson. Recognize that faithfulness and fortitude are essential ingredients for success. For true religion is far more than a visit to an attractive meeting when we have adequate leisure. True religion is something quite different from the world’s passion for the immediate and the casual. And two thousand years of church history teach us that there will be no short cuts in the years ahead.

Yes, we’re called to be life long apprentices to our master, Jesus Christ. We’re called to put in a solid effort. And we’re encouraged to perseverance and the pursuit of holiness.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” Hebrews 12:1-3.

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