Duty is Never Easy

Pursuing duty may not always lead by smooth paths.

William McKinley

 

I have to admit that McKinley is not on my "top ten list" of favorite Presidents, but I will give him credit for the truth contained in the quote above.  It may be 100 years old, but it is just as pertinent now as the day it was written. Here is the full context of President McKinley's quote:

 

"Duty determines destiny. Destiny which results from duty may bring anxiety and perils, but never failure and dishonor. Pursuing duty may not always lead by smooth paths. Another course may look easier and more attractive, but pursuing duty for duty's sake is always sure and safe and honorable."

 

I sometimes wonder if the sense of duty and honor has faded from modern society. It seems that such things are not discussed much nowadays. We would rather talk about the political correctness of the day - what passes for the ever shifting morality of our culture - instead of the never changing standards of Godliness and character. The reason for this is that duty and honor are hard, so most people don't pursue them. What a shame.

 

The fact is that duty is a destination that has never been found at the end the easy path - the worthwhile things of life rarely are! But Heaven awaits those who recognize the absolute necessity of doing the right thing in the right way. The nice thing about the path of duty is that, though rarely easy, it is always clearly marked.

 

And, for those who are willing to do the hard things that character demands, the rewards are substantial - both in this life, and in the life to come!

 

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life. and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14, RSV

 

Drudgery + Perseverance = Success

Success is the child of drudgery and perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price and it is yours. Orison S. Marden

Nobody likes drudgery. Drudgery means hard work. Often repetitive, always monotonous, drudgery implies the need for hard and consistent labor. That's why it is so important for us to determine in advance whether the things we are considering becoming involved with are worth the drudgery.

When I was a kid, I had a passion for baseball. I loved to watch it, I loved to play it, and I especially liked to practice at it. I got a little plastic bat and ball launcher when I was about seven. It was pretty primitve - you put three or four plastic balls in a chute that dropped the ball onto it's "launching pad". You stomped hard on a lever and the ball that was fed into the launcher went up into the air, where upon you smacked the ball as hard as you could. I must have hit thousands of homeruns and won dozens of World Series games with this little device.

The thing about this baseball game was that, while it took a little work to get the hang of it, it was not work in my eyes - it was fun. So, what would have been pure drudgery for those who did not like baseball was pure joy for those of us who loved it. The perseverance that was required to master this little device did not seem like perseverance at all, because I loved baseball.

There is a lesson in this for those of us who would serve God. There is a lot of "drudgery" or hard work associated in learning what God wants of us. Serving God requires much more than a passing fancy - it requires hundreds and even thousands of hours of Bible study. At first, it will require some perseverance, especially after the initial enthusiasm for the task begins to fade and the reality begins to sink in that hard work is required.

Because of this perceived drudgery, the zeal that so many have when they first consider becoming a Christian will often fade. But, for those who are absolutely in love with the Lord, the task of service will not seem so bad. In fact, it will become part of the joy. When you are in love with that special someone, it is no burden to read their letters, over and over, because you are in love. In the same way, reading the words of God will not be a burden to those who are longing to hear His message.

When I was seven, practicing baseball was no burden - it was pure joy. When we decide to follow Christ the early process may at first seem like what it in reality is: Hard work! But if we truly love the Lord and want to serve him, then that love will result in perseverance, and that perseverance will lead to success. Drudgery plus perseverance will always lead to success. The only question is will we be willing to pay the price?

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. Hebrews 10:36, NIV

 

Do We Walk the Walk?

If you are going to talk the talk, you are going to have to walk the walk.

Anonymous

The whole world hates a hypocrite - I guess maybe because we all have a bit of hypocrisy in our own lives, and we despise that weakness. Maybe this is we are so impressed with those who actually  walk in the way they talk. One such a man is Jack Carter. Jack is one of those rare ministers who can preach for 45 minutes and make you think he has been speaking for about 10 minutes (I think most of us who preach fancy ourselves with that gift, but only about four in the history of preaching have actually had that ability). One of Jack's most powerful sermons is on how to handle those truly difficult situations that come up in life: His conclusion? You handle them in advance.

This is one of those statements that is easy to say, but hard to do. But, and this is critical for you to understand, Jack has done it. Jack married Nancy, his childhood sweetheart, and they had a beautiful family including a daughter named Chris. Chris was born just about the time that the vaccine for Polio was developed - but it came too late for Chris. Jack and Nancy watched as their sweet child was ravaged by this cruel disease. A few years later, Nancy developed cancer and was taken from Jack.

As if this were not enough difficulty for one man, tragedy was about to strike again. Jack went on a long anticipated fishing trip with his son, Dave, and his two grandsons. A squall came up which capsized their boat in the icy waters of a large lake in Yellowstone, Wyoming. Jack and Dave dived beneath those freezing waters in a desperate attempt to find the boys, but to no avail. Heartbroken and exhausted, Dave slipped below the same waters that had claimed his two boys.

How well would you have handled this string of tragedies? Jack, years later, stated that when he wakes up in the morning and prays to God, all he can say is "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Holy Father, thank you for all that you have done for me. How can he pray in such a way? Because his daughter Chris is a beautiful Christian wife and mother of two. Because Nancy and Dave were devoted Christians. Because Jack looks forward to his reunion with his wife, his son and his grandsons. Because, more than anything, Jack believes in the faithfulness of God - so Jack walks in the same way that he talks.

Jack, my dear friend Jack, has cancer now. As always, he is meeting this new struggle with poise and dignity. Someday he will go home to a joyful reunion. I want to be there, and I hope that you want to be there, too. Until then, may we all walk the walk that God has laid out for us with the poise and dignity befitting true servants of God.

Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

James 1:22, NIV

 

Do We See the Open Door?

When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.

Alexander Graham Bell

One of the hardest things we face is to look at the bright side of life when the sun has set on our dreams. Human nature causes us to stop and lick our wounds when we have seemingly been crushed by defeat, but we need to resist that impulse. The reason we need to do this is found in the observation by Alexander Graham Bell: If we spend too much time stressing over that which cannot be, we will fail to see the possibilities that God provides for us in the things that can.

Have you ever heard the principle of "opportunity cost"? The theory behind opportunity cost is that every important decision we make will cost us the opportunity of doing something else. For example, the opportunity cost of getting married is the forfeiting of the chance of marrying anybody else. The opportunity cost of taking one full time job is the giving up on accepting all other full time endeavors. This is why, in the big things of life, we need to choose wisely. 

Having said that, isn't it sad how many people will miss out on one job and think that their careers are over. In fact, their career paths are now wide open. It's the same in our relationships. While no one wants to break up with the one that they love, it does have a way of opening up opportunities to new and interesting people.

It's sad that so many people fail to see this. Often, something doesn't work out for them and they are cast down into the depths of despair. This is only human, but we must resist these impulses to wallow in self pity, for the closing of one door always leads to the opening of many others.

This is especially true when we pray for God's help, but then don't get what we want. When this happens, isn't it more that just a bit possible that our loving Father has saved us from a big mistake, while at the same time opening the door for the path that He knows will bring us lasting joy? It's something to think about... if we will just open our eyes and hearts to the infinite possibilities that God has provided for each of us in this wonderful life.

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things... Psalms 119:18, NIV

 

Don't Miss Today

The good farmer must be aware of the drought in order to make proper plans. But, should he focus to much on the lack of rain, he will miss the beauty of today's sunshine. Anonymous

Are you like me? Every dry day is the potential beginning of a drought, every economic downturn is the start of the next depression, and every sneeze is the possible onset of pneumonia. I wonder sometimes how much of God's beauty I have missed because I was worried about the bad things that might happen.

Now, for those without Christ, I can understand how that type of thinking can take hold. After all, their lives really are one disaster after another - just waiting to happen. But, for those of us whose hope is in Christ, how can we be so foolish as to worry about the things that might be? God is in Heaven!

While it is true that we must take proper precautions against the harsh realities of life (this is part of stewardship), we must never allow life's challenges to ruin our joy. After 50 years of life, I have made an important discovery concerning every single thing that I have worried over: It either happened, or it didn't. "Brilliant", I'm sure you must be thinking to yourself, "Why hasn't this man been awarded a Nobel Prize for his incredible grasp of the obvious?" But, isn't it true, that much of the important things in life are obvious?

Since our goal is to be in Heaven someday (with as many of our loved ones as possible), then why do we worry about the things that draw us closer to that goal? God is in Heaven! And, He is in control.

So, let's not miss out on the beauty of His blessings, today.

Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4, NIV

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow... 

Matthew 6:33-34, NIV