The race is not always won by the fastest. Or the game won by the strongest. But rather by the one that keeps hanging on, who refuses to give up. Consider the postage stamp. Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. Former racecar driver Rick Mears reminds us, “To finish first you must first finish.”
Former President Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are overwhelmingly powerful.”
Persistence begins with an unwavering belief in what you are doing. Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely, the 20th of 22 children. Her survival was doubtful. When she was four-years-old she contracted polio. Doctors said she would never walk again. To make matters worse, Rudolph was a black child living in Clarksville, Tenn., in the 1940s. Her options for medical care were limited. Still, Rudolph had two powerful forces working in her favor: One, her mother, who decided she would prove the doctors wrong, and, two, the undaunting power of persistence.
Rudolph said, “My mother taught me very early to believe I could achieve any accomplishment I wanted to. The first was to walk without braces.” At age nine she did that. By 13 she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. The same year she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she actually won a race. And then another.
In 1960 Rudolph, the girl who was told she would never walk again, became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track in a single Olympics.
Discouragement is that subtle but dangerous compulsion to give up, to quit, saying what’s the use?
When the former world chess champion Bobby Fisher was a young boy his mother took him to a museum. He happened upon a painting that caught his eye. It depicted a bedraggled, exhausted older man slumped over a chessboard. Few of his pieces were left on the board, and he was conceding the game. On the other side of the board was his fresh and snappy opponent, Satan. The painting was entitled “Checkmate”.
Already a chess prodigy, young Bobby Fisher stood looking at the painting for a long time. His mother soon tired of it and moved around the remainder of the gallery, finally returning to find Bobby still entranced by that painting. “Come now, Bobby, we have to go.”
Fisher continued to stare, thinking. One more time his mother insisted, “Bobby, we have to go. Come now!”
“But, Mom,” he pleaded, “he has one more move!”
When you are tempted to quit, resist. We must endure in the battle until the evil day is over. We must press on in the face of the temptation to quit. Until the war is over, we must battle to the end. Until the race is finished, we must keep running.
In a race, it does not matter who starts but who finishes. In a ball game, the most meaningless statistic is the halftime score. Persistence is the power that keeps us from giving up. We need to be like an oak tree. An oak tree is a little nut that refused to give his ground.
Have you ever wondered how the snail made it to the ark? By persistence.
Don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. God’s rewards await us in the distant future not near the beginning; and we don’t know how many steps it will take to reach the prize. So, keep going. You’ve got one more move.
• Rick Ezell is managing partner at Employee Care of America. Ezell, who lives in Greenville County, has served the church his entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. He writes on personal development, church leadership and the changing culture. Ezell has written eight books and collaborated on others.