1 Corinthians 16:13
Years ago a certain issue of Sports Illustrated featured a lengthy article on Tom Landry, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Those who know me won't be surprised to hear that I read every word of it.
I was living in Dallas when the Cowboys were formed into a team and Tom Landry was first introduced as the head mentor of that original, rag-tag bag of unknown athletes. The first few years were bleak, to say the least. The crowds were sparse and instead of cheers there were groans. One losing season led to another, and as you can imagine, the public soon made Landry the target of their savage verbal assaults. Sportswriters added insult to injury in their vicious criticisms, as did the broadcasters who implied and stated that the team needed a coach with more outward enthusiasm, more flair, and more creativity. Landry quietly plugged on. Maligned and plagued with misunderstanding, he hung in there with bulldog determination, refusing to succumb to public pressure. Quit wasn't in Landry's vocabulary. The idea of ditching when the going got rough was never a consideration. His disciplined determination paid off—again and again—as his Cowboys rode into pro football legend.
Later they called Landry a legend . . . but he hadn't changed within. With the same inner tenacity of undaunted, untiring determination, Tom Landry gave God the glory and claimed that the life of the apostle Paul is an example we all should follow. How true.
Our day, unfortunately, has made quitting fashionable.
After all, if you can quit a job or a team when the road gets bumpy, why not apply that philosophy to everything. Like a diet or a class or a church or a marriage or parenthood. The fog of failure clouds the issues and the cramp of criticism sucks away the motivation. Conviction is now being viewed as a neurotic tendency. Discipline is considered somewhat sadistic. Determination is, in the minds of the mesmerized masses, that which characterizes a stubborn fool . . . a quality not needed and not wanted by those who seek public approval.
Ah, but what then are we left with?
Take away conviction, discipline, and determination and you have cut the heart out of real living. You have eliminated the challenge that keeps the game of life exciting and rewarding. You have settled for nothing better than a tie with the opponent. You have erased the very things that made the Pattons, the MacArthurs, the Pullers, the Kellers, the Churchills, the Beethovens, the Lombardis, and the Landrys giants amidst dwarfs.
I can assure you that the gospel was laid in the lap of Europe because Paul was ablaze with sufficient determination to proclaim it—no matter the sacrifice or cost. When he wrote to the Corinthians, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13) . . . he knew whereof he spoke! In case you question that, you've not read his autobiography recently . . . written in blood (2 Corinthians 11:22–33). His final words reflect the same heart-throbbing determination:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Show me a company that is efficient, progressive, dynamic, and organized—and I'll be willing to guarantee that behind the scenes, somewhere near or at the top of that company is a well-disciplined, determined leader. The same applies to a Christian organization or a school, a hospital, a home, a ball team, a city, a military outfit, a bank, or any other enterprise.
Let me close by making this personal . . . to you. Are you lagging behind in areas of determination? Are you becoming negligent, for example, in your financial obligations . . . or in some personal discipline . . . or in the quality of work you do . . . or in your study habits . . . or in your correspondence . . . in your promptness . . . or in finishing the tasks you begin? Believe me, this is a rebuke to me as much as anyone . . . and not an easy thing for any of us to fulfill—but it is essential!
The history of man is strewn with the litter of nameless people who faced calamity and hardship, suffering and criticism—and gave up. Or—in the words of Psalm 78:9—"They turned back."
To you who are tempted to turn back . . . I urge you instead to "stand firm . . . act like men, be strong"! The benefits of determination far outweigh the alternate course.
Take away conviction and determination and you’ve cut the heart out of living.