Mar 28 2013 - Luke 8:4-21 – Perseverance
In Luke's account of the parable of the sower Jesus says that the seed that falls into good soil and produces a good crop "stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).
Perseverance may not be a popular virtue in these days of fast food and instant results. I get annoyed waiting for my computer to boot up and be ready to use. I get impatient waiting for a kettle to boil. I don't like waiting in queues. But many precious things are produced only with time. The pearl takes time to grow in an oyster. Nor does the Christ-like life appear overnight; it's the result of years of listening, learning and following the Master. It's the result of spiritual formation and layer upon layer of character formation.
I have tried to play a variety of musical instruments in my lifetime. The piano I found too challenging as it required you to read and play several notes at the same time. That seemed to me quite ridiculous. I then tried the clarinet for a while before having a go at the saxophone. I made some progress on these instruments but never gained any real skill. I was not prepared to devote the time to them that they demanded. Now I deeply regret it and envy those who seem able to make music effortlessly for their own pleasure and to the delight of those who hear them. Their effortless skill is the result of many many hours of serious training – and they retain their skill only by continued practice.
In his book, Virtue Reborn, Tom Wright retells the story of Captain Sullenberger’s crash landing of an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River on January 15th 2009. It was a remarkable piece of flying at a moment of great danger and immense responsibility. Tom Wright’s point is that Captain Sullenberger was able to make good decisions quickly and under great pressure because of a lifetime of training and experience. These had forged habits and character that enabled him to respond well under pressure and to act promptly and appropriately in a way that led to the preserving of all the lives in his charge.
The Christian life is never effortless – it always requires perseverance. But years of learning from the Lord Jesus and practicing the life of the kingdom build character and develop habits of godliness which make the life of faithful discipleship “second nature”. This depth of good soil is evident in a fruitful life – a life that continues to bear fruit for the kingdom even in adverse conditions. But the call to perseverance reminds us that we can never relax our guard and deceive ourselves into thinking that we have arrived. We need to go on learning and following and practicing the life of faith if we are to act and react well amid the pressures of our daily lives.
But what will enable us to keep going and not give up – as I did with the piano, clarinet and saxophone? In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul writes that “love … always perseveres.” It’s no hardship to keep company with one whom we love. Christ’s great love for us draws out our love for him, a love that will keep us following him and bearing fruit for him.
Lord Jesus, you have loved me with an everlasting love, a love that does not give up on me even when I grow cold. Stir up the fire of my love for you that I may keep on following and serving. Tune my heart that I may play my part in the orchestra of your people, sounding out the great symphony of the kingdom to the delight and blessing of others.