Monday, 27 July 2009

Plod, plod, plod...

My wife and I listened to a sermon by MP3 last night that was very helpful. (Our church doesn't have an evening service). It was Stuart Olyott's final sermon in his 1982 series on Elisha, which you can find from his website here.

Elisha's life is often remembered for its impressive miracles - it was part of one of only three "ages of miracles" in the Bible history. But Dr. Olyott showed us that there is ample evidence in the text to demonstrate that the great majority of Elijah's ministry was one of faithful, persevering plodding. The recorded events of his 58-years ministry cover no more than 20 days. But the text shows us that at the other times, he was busily getting on with simply doing the same repetitive ministry, teaching and training others, faithfully and continually.

I think a little examination of people who've achieved a lot in their lives consistently shows that this is the way to do it. Plod, plod, plod. There are of course a few geniuses in the world who can master a range of things very quickly. But they are very few and far between (and their duty is then to combine that talent with the plodding to reach an even higher level of achievement).

I saw this lesson again this morning at Eldoret's "nature reserve". I'd never known that termites are so tiny - and yet they can build such enormous mounds, twice the height of an adult man and more! How do they do it? Plod, plod, plod. If termites can do it, surely men must be great sinners if they can find so many ways to let years pass by without achieving anything of note. And yet the self-discipline is hard because truly we are great sinners. Growing up in the modern West the culture is to seek instant gratification. We need a thrill every minute (perhaps to keep the gnawing feelings of emptiness that come from trying to live God-less lives away?). Anything that's going to be hard and involve disciplined effort over years can't be part of this scheme (that's one reason why modern secularists dislike having children, or if they have them they want to farm them out to nannies, playschools and nurseries as soon as it's possible). But this isn't God's way. Man is meant to grow to maturity in Christ through patient perseverance. That's true whether on a large scale - consider the big-picture development of Christian history over the last 2000 years - or on the individual scale of one life.

Tough lesson. But there's no other choice. You can plod forward, or stagnate before spending your last years in bitter regret because now you can't achieve what you could have done in the wasted years of strength. The memorable and dramatic days of life may come - 20 days worthy of being recorded in 58 years, in Elijah's case. But for the rest, God has set us a work, and our job is to do it. If we can trust him for the big and momentous - why not for this too?

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