By Larry Ray Hafley
An elder in the church where I preached in Alabama used to offer the advice stated in the title of this article. It is sound counsel. Tenacity is greatly needed in the church today. There is a fine line between stubbornness and “stick-to-it-tiveness.” However, “bullheadedness” can wait for another theme. For now, we shall be content to discuss “hanging in there like a rusty fish hook.”
Jesus, Our Example
No one ever exhibited greater steadfastness than our matchless Master. His discouragements and obstacles were numerous and diverse. His own received Him not. His familiar friend betrayed Him. His enemies resorted to treachery of every kind. They were ruthless and relentless in their attempts to destroy His mission of mercy. Still, He persevered. When death, “even the death of the cross,” loomed before Him, He met it without flinching or fleeing. “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour” (Jn. 12:26). Surely, no one ever had greater cause to abandon ship than did our Lord, but He held a straight course through the tempestuous waves of death and sailed into the harbor and haven of life. Thus, He stands on the everlasting shore beckoning us to the calm waters of life eternal. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (Jas. 1:12).
Reasons To Quit?
Brethren you have known and loved turn and spurn you; children become rebellious and incorrigible; a husband or wife refuses the overtures of human and Divine love and seeks to drag you down with them; a loved one contracts a horrible disease and dies by degrees; an accident, so useless and needless, claims the life of the dearest on earth to you; financial ruin envelopes your purse and your health begins to fail; in your agony, you writhe and cry and hear only the echo of your own misery; you look around and the wicked prosper while your life appears bankrupt, devoid of meaning and purpose – are these your reasons to quit?
If any of the above items of depression describe you, do not forget that they also, in part, describe the fears and frustrations of Job, Joseph and David. But they did not quit! They did not give up or give out. They clung to the lowest rung of the ladder of life, but they hung on. They overcame. By prayer, by reflection and meditation on the word of God, they remained true and faithful. And you can, too. Consider Him who is invisible, who endured such contradiction of sinners. Contemplate the great cloud of witnesses who say you can make it as they made it despite the trials, troubles and tribulations that threaten to consume you. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4).
One second after you are dead, it will not matter. What will not matter? Nothing will matter. Whether men and brethren were good or bad to you, whether your were healthy or sick, whether your were rich or poor, whether others succeeded when you failed, whether loved ones lived or died, whether life was fair or foul – none of these things will matter! What will matter is your soul and your relationship to God (Mk. 8:36, 37).
Suppose you do cave in? Suppose you do renounce and denounce faith in men and God? What then? What will be gained? Will it make you prosperous? Will it restore your health? Will it make your enemies into friends? Will it bring back the dead? No, it will avail nothing at all. Denying the Lord will not bring you any advantage. Turning from God will only insure more misery, torment, weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, and everlasting shame and contempt, without hope of release or relief.
Knowing this, you have only one real alternative — “Hang in there like a rusty fish hook!”
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 6, p. 175
March 17, 1983