The new preacher was standing in the back of the sanctuary at the end of the service, greeting folks as they left. A man in the line walked up to him and said, “Well, that was THE most boring sermon I have ever heard.” And then he walked on. About 2 minutes, however, he was coming through through the line again, “You are the worst public speaker EVER!” And then he walked on. But sure enough, about 3 minutes later, he came through yet again, “I haven’t heard you say anything YET!” And he walked on. The pastor was getting pretty frustrated. But soon, a deacon of the church came through the line, so the pastor asked him about the man. “Brother Ralph, what’s the story on that guy over there?” Brother Ralph looked over, chuckled and said, Oh, don’t mind him, he’s a little…touched in the head. He’s harmless…he just repeats everything he hears!”
That minister was having a bad day! Do you ever have bad day? Have you ever felt like you had nothing left to give? Have you even thought to yourself, “I can’t even get up today”? Do you ever need that extra boost of endurance? We live in a Instamatic society. We are always looking for quick fixes, overnight successes, fast solutions and instant gratification. And if those expectations aren’t met immediately, then we have a tendency to simply quit and go somewhere else- move on to the next thing. We also tend to seek overnight spiritual maturity. In fact, we have a lot in common with Jesus’ disciples- they were all gung ho…but when it counted, they couldn’t even stay awake. Yep- when the going got tough, the tough…took a nap. And when the going gets tough for us, we often want to bail and run. But I just stopped by this morning to tell you that God wants so much more for us!
Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Today, we wrap up our current Sunday morning sermon series- Toy Box Leadership, based on the book by Ron Hunter Jr. and Michael Waddell. This series was designed to focus on lessons of Christian leadership from the toys in our childhood toy boxes. The 1st week, we focused on the Slinky Dog as we considered vision. The 2nd week, we focuses on Little Green Army Men as we considered strategy. Week 3, we focused on LEGOS and considered relationships. The 4th week, we looked at Mr. Potato Head as we focused on communication. Last week, we looked at the Rubik’s Cube as we considered ethics. And today, we wrap it all up in a tidy little bow as we look at Weebles and consider endurance.
Do you remember the TV show Romper Room? I absolutely LOVED Romper Room. In fact, when I was 4 years old, I wanted to MARRY Miss Lois- that’s what the host was called in our TV market! I would wait every day for her to see me in her magic mirror! And not only was she the dream of a four-year old boy growing up in a dysfunctional house, she also introduced me to the Punching Clown. And although it sounds strangely like a bad guy from Walker, Texas Ranger OR a WWE wrestler, it was, in fact, an inflatable clown with a weighted bottom- insert your joke here! You know what I’m talking about- you would punch it, it would go over…and then pop right back up?
In 1969, Hasbro bought Romper Room and they wanted to market the Punching Clown. I mean, who wouldn’t?! But they felt it was too big, so they made it smaller! And on July 23, 1971, the world was introduced to…Weebles Do you remember their slogan? “Weebles wobble but…!” The truth of the matter is that Weebles DO fall down…they just don’t STAY down! And because of that, Weebles teach us a powerful lesson endurance- and endurance is, I would argue, a mandatory characteristic for any Christian. Weebles teach us that staying down is NOT an option. The late, great Nelson Mandela lived that fact. He was wrongly imprisoned from 1969 to 1990 and yet went on to be the president of his country from 1994 to 1999. And through it all, he refused to stay down. He once said, “The greatest glory in living lies NOT in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.”
1Timothy 4:15-16- Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and your doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Soon after my family arrived at this church, I preached a sermon series that featured a weekly story about an old friend, we’ll call him Gary, who was always getting into one crazy situation or another. I want to lift up one of those stories in relation to today’s topic. It was raining REALLY hard and had been for some time. The creek behind Gary’s house flooded and overtook a brush pile, which was swept to the end of his yard, where the creek ran under the road through a HUGE culvert. This culvert was tall enough to stand in and ran under the 2-lane road that ran past his house. As the brush pile swept down the creek, it got stuck against the mouth of the culvert. Enough brush piled up that it caused the creek to back up to the point that the culvert was almost completely underwater. So Gary went out to try and pull some of the brush away to let the water get through and lower the level of the water that was backing up in his yard. He was right next to the road, standing at the edge of the rising water, pulling on limbs, when…the ground gave way and he fell in! The water, which was deep and fast, swept him against the brush at the mouth of the culvert. As he was sucked INTO the pipe, he grabbed ahold of the top edge. So there he is, hanging on for dear life, hands on the edge of the culvert, body entirely IN the culvert, water rushing around him, trying to pull him in. Finally, he couldn’t hang on anymore and got sucked into the culvert, which was full of limbs…and water! The current dragged him through the pipe, literally ripping him through the jagged limbs. One snag on one branch and he’s stuck in the culvert…drowning. Fortunately, he made it through the culvert and was SPIT out the other end, dropping 10’ into an ever-deepening pool. He hit the water, which was about 8’ deep, and the force of his fall caused him to go to the bottom…where his boot got wedged between two branches, trapping him UNDERWATER! He started to panic and wrenched his foot completely out of his boot. He pushed off, surfaced and swam to solid ground. He was cut up, bashed and bruised and had torn his foot and ankle to shreds. Meanwhile, his sister saw him fall in from the window and told their mom, who ran out, found him and IMMEDIATELY…took pictures of him! She did, however, take him to the hospital! The truth is that you don’t drown by falling in the water. You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by STAYING in the water.
Did you hear what Timothy said in the passage I read? “Be diligent…give yourself wholly…and persevere”. Boil that down and you get one word- endurance. And the message of endurance applies to every situation, no matter what you face. And that message is this- don’t run and don’t give up. No matter what you’re going through…go through it. There will be a blessing waiting for you on the other side.
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever lace up a pair of Nikes. I’m sorry if you would pick LeBron or Magic or Larry or Kareem or Wilt…but I’m right!! He was a 5-time Most Valuable Player and won 6 NBA Championships. Although he has done a LOT of TV commercials, I especially remember one of his ads for Nike. He walks into a packed arena. All of the people are chanting his name. But then he shocks them as he steps right up to the microphone, “In my career, I have missed 9,000 shots. I’ve lost 300 games. I’ve missed 26 game-winning shots. I have failed over and over again. And THAT’S why I succeed!” Whether or not we fall down isn’t the issue. We are GOING to fall down. No, the issue is what we do AFTER we get knocked down. And the 1st step to getting back up is simply deciding that staying down is not option
I want to share two truths about endurance that are designed to help you get back up when you’ve been knocked down.
- Falling down is inevitable. It’s a fact of life. But it doesn’t have to be the final act. We can either let failure grip us…or we can get a grip on it. Failure is inevitable, but it’s not automatically a bad thing. Everybody falls- but how far you fall is in part determined by how prepared you are. You have to anticipate the fall. And you have to learn from the fall. But you do NOT have to duplicate the fall.
- Endurance requires a good center of balance. It’s no coincidence that Weebles are shaped like eggs. That design is one of nature’s best support structures. The shape allows the energy to be displaced throughout the toy instead of just one part of it. And that design acts in union with the intentional low sense of gravity. Weebles have an inner sense of balance AND an outer shape that allows for quicker and better recovery.
Like Weebles, we need a strong center of balance. And there are 3 important factors that go into a strong center of balance- determination, resilience and purpose. Determination is a wake-up call to the human will. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Purpose is what God calling you to. So when you fall, stop and remember your ultimate goal, your reason for being, your purpose.
In the New Testament Book of Hebrews 12: 1, Paul says, “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 endurance the race that is marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus as the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Paul’s appeal to run the race with endurance suggests that the Christian life is more a marathon than a sprint. We’re supposed to continue to press forward toward the mark. The verb “press” comes from the Greek and it literally means “to follow after or pursue.” The Greeks used it to describe a hunter who eagerly and relentlessly pursued his prey. You don’t become a winning athlete by listening to lectures, watching movies, reading books or cheering at the games. You become a winner only when get into the race with a steadfast determination to win- to not quit, to not turn back, to not give in, to not throw in the towel, to not slow down.
When the world says, “Give up!”, God whispers, “Try one more time.” If want to be winner in the Christian race, you have to have a spirit of endurance. You have to be willing to pick yourself up. You have to decide that staying down is simply NOT an option.
During World War 2, England’s greatest nightmare was the German army taking over Europe. In the middle of that, the British people were bombed regularly. Also in the middle of that, Winston Churchill addressed his people. He said, “Never (7X) give up! This could be our finest hour!”
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us.
No matter what quitting point you might be facing today, I want you to take a lesson from Jesus. Regardless of your personal struggles, remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Remember that, at some level, He wanted out. Remember that part of Him didn’t want to face the coming day. Part of Him didn’t want to go through the ordeal. He prayed that God might take that “cup” away from Him. But He also made it clear that, regardless, he was in it for the long haul. He realized that He was part of a bigger picture. He realized that He had been called to a special task, an important task…a holy task. He could have SO easily slipped over the Mount of Olives and simply disappeared into the wilderness. But He didn’t. Instead, He persevered. Instead, He summoned his will power. Instead, He faced the coming day, head on.
Our greatest inspiration for enduring is found in the One who endured Calvary’s cross for our sake. When I survey the wonderful cross, how He willingly died for OUR sins/ and for OUR forgiveness I am encouraged to endure. We all face times when we want to quit. But when you find yourself there, my earnest prayer for each of you is this- hear God’s voice calling you back to the race. So…will you be like the Weebles and refuse to stay down? Will you throw off everything that keeps you from running the race? Will you run with determination? Will you run with conviction? Will you run with endurance? Will you invite Jesus Christ into your heart so that He might more fully and completely fix your eyes upon the finish line of faith?