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The Power of Plodding

Scripture: John 6:16-21, Galatians 6:9
Date: 01/05/2002 
The Christian life is not so much a sprint as a marathon. It is not always a mountaintop experience, but has valleys. Like the human heart, just plodding forward turns into great power. It's easy to lose heart, but if we keep moving forward in our Christian life we will reap a harvest.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I hope you’re glad that you’re here in the house of the Lord today, and I want to wish everybody a Happy New Year. You think Y2K’s gonna hit soon? This message this morning will be the coalescing of a Bible theme that also reflects my own need. A lot of what I share with you springs from, or is borne from, my own experience, my own need, and I figure that if I’m human and you’re human, that there’ll be some things in common you can glean from that.

The title of the message is, “The Power of Plodding.” I was wondering whether or not to use that title because it sounds like “plotting”. It could be misunderstood. It’s “plod.” “plodding.” Now, there’s a lot of good virtue biblically in plodding along. The Christian life is not so much a sprint as it is a marathon, and it’s more important that you have a good finish than a quick start. There are some people who’ve had a very bad start, but if you’d be in the kingdom you need a good finish. I would rather do the funeral for somebody that had a good ending than a good beginning and a bad ending, and that can often be determined by how they understand the power of plodding.

Plodding. “Plodding’s” not a pretty word, is it? If I say, “Hey, let’s all get together tomorrow and go plod together,” who would want to join me? Plodding usually conjures up images of a person trudging along with their feet stuck in the mud or taking deep steps in the snow or crossing a barren desert. Plodding along, you’re making slow, laborious progress. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a definition here I should probably stick to: “plod: to work or to act perseveringly or monotonously; to drudge; the act of moving or walking heavily and slowly.” The Christian life is not so much a sprint as it is a marathon. We plod our way to the kingdom. And if we can get used to the idea that being a Christian is not always dazzling excitement up on the mountaintop, but sometimes plodding through the valleys, we’d do a lot better, once we adjust to that.

Now, I’d like to talk with you for a moment about the human heart. Most of us here have one. Here are a few amazing facts. The human heart is a tenaciously hardworking dynamo. It can continue beating automatically even when all surrounding nerve endings are severed. And what a beat! It beats an average of 75 times a minute, 40 million times a year, and you should put your hand on your heart while I read these things. You’ll appreciate it more. 40 million times a year, 2 and a half billion times in the average life. Whew! That’s getting up there with the national debt! At each beat, the adult heart discharges about four ounces of blood. This amounts to 3,000 gallons a day, or 650,000 gallons a year. That’s enough to fill more than 81,000 or 818,000 gallon tank cars. In fact, the heart produces (that’s in a lifetime) – the heart produces enough energy in one hour to lift a 150-lb man to the top of a three-story building. Enough energy in 12 hours to lift 65 tons one foot off the ground – that’s one heart – or enough power in 70 years to lift the largest battleship completely out of the water. One human heart. And you know how it does it? By plodding. Your heart typically does not race. If it did race very often, your life would be much shorter. You know, there’s something interesting that you notice in the animal kingdom. If you want to know something about how long an animal lives, you can look at how quickly its heart beats. Now, one of my favorite creatures is a hummingbird. They’re beautiful little iridescent creatures. I think I told you that the one got caught in our shop one day and I was able to – he kept bouncing himself off the window until he knocked himself unconscious. – I didn’t know if he was dead or not. I picked up and he did not weigh anything in my hand, and he revived and he looked at me, and he sat up for a second, got his bearings and just went ‘whizhh!” And flew out of my hand. Didn’t weigh anything. He was so beautiful! But I felt his heart beating. Did you ever hold a mouse – a mice? No, that’s not said right. Did you ever hold a mouse? And you feel the little “b-d-d-d-d-d-a?” Or a puppy? One human year is how many dog years? Seven, they say? They’re questioning that. Do you know why? Their hearts beat faster. The longer a creature’s heart, or the quicker a creature’s heart beats, typically the shorter it lives. A galapagos turtle’s heart beats very slowly. As a matter of fact, some amphibians can almost stop their heartbeat when they go into this quasi-hibernation, bury themselves in the mud, and it’s like they just shut down their whole systems. They live much longer. There are some birds that are equally as beautiful as hummingbirds that live in the rainforest, but their hearts beat very slowly. It’s like this rainbow, I don’t know what you call it, pretty rainbow-colored parrot-like bird, that’s their official scientific name.... My brother’s got a whole collection of these. They’re not cockatiels, what are they? I forget their names. Parrots? Yeah, you know, too. Anyway! But their hearts beat very slow. You can hold them, and they live 80 years, 70 years, an eagle 50 years, because of the speed of their heartbeat. If you want to live forever, you’ve got to learn to plod, and that means you just keep on going, even though it may not be very fast, even though you may not experience a lot of immediate progress, you keep plodding along.

I would like to submit to you that the Lord loves those who plod on. God loves those who plod on. Sometimes we get discouraged because we’re not seeing immediate results, our dreams are not realized, we want to throw in the towel, and if we’d only plod on a little longer, we’d get there. There’s a story in the Bible in the gospel of John chapter 6, verse 16, where Christ sent the disciples across the sea, and you can read this as I said in John 6, verse 16. “When evening had come, His disciples went down to the sea, and they got into a boat and they went over the sea toward capernaum.” At Jesus’ instructions, He sent them across the ocean. He said, “I want you to cross over.” They were getting ready to make Christ king, you remember, He’d multiplied the loaves and the fish and they wanted to make Jesus king, and Jesus sent His disciples away, He said, “You cross the sea and I’ll meet you.” He didn’t tell them how. He dismissed the crowds. He thwarted their plans to coronate Him, and so His disciples got in the boat, and the sun went down, and they began to row across the ocean. Verse 17. They got into the boat and they went over the sea toward Capernaum, and it’s dark. And it was cold. And Jesus had not come to them. “Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.” So when they had rowed about three or four miles, that puts them approximately in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, what were they doing? They’re rowing. Another gospel tells us “their wind was contrary.” That means they’re rowing into the wind. It’s dark, the wind is blowing against them, they’re rowing into the wind. Would you be able to row? It’s fun to paddle around in a pool. It’s something else when you’re rowing across an ocean. You know, there’s a man who rode across the Atlantic, and I don’t know if he succeeded or not, but someone else tried to row across the Pacific. Did he make it? I don’t remember. I think some have tried and failed. I know one man rowed across the Atlantic ocean by himself. Talk about a plodder! That man ought to be preaching the sermon today. The monotony of one stroke after another into the waves, over and over, day in and day out. And that’s the disciples were doing. And the Bible says that they were doing their best to do what Jesus told them to do. They were doing it in the dark, they were doing it against the waves and against the wind, and that’s when the Lord came to them. This to me is a very important, profound point and I don’t know if you’re catching it, friends, but Christ came to them when they were rowing. He did not come to them when they were sailing. He did not come to them when they were just floating. He came to them when they were rowing, stroke, stroke, stroke. And they were rowing in the dark, in the cold, against the waves, against the wind, and the Bible says, “when they had rowed out to the middle, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat, and they were afraid.” And you would be, too! They saw this apparition on the water, and they thought, “What is it?” They cried out in fear, and Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. It’s Me!” “and when they recognized Him, they willingly received Him into the boat” – notice this – “and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” Now, according to where they left, and where theY were going in Capernaum, and how far they rowed, you can calculate they were smack dab in the middle of the dark, windy ocean. When Jesus got in the boat they were as far away from shore as they could have been. That’s why I think the Bible writer gives us the measurements here. They were as far from shore as they possibly could be when Jesus got in the boat. But when they received Him into the boat, what happened? They were “beamed” (for lack of a better word), they were immediately transported. I don’t know if angels picked the boat up and rushed it to the shore, but suddenly they were at the destination.

Now, who got them to shore? Their rowing, or Jesus? Their accepting Jesus into the boat is what brought them to shore. But when did He come to them? While they were rowing. They were doing what they could humanly do to go where he told them to go, and that’s when he came to them. Now, I think that’s a very, very, very important spiritual tRuth, friends, is that you keep doing what you humanly can do to go where God wants you to go. It may seem like you’re not getting anywhere, it may seem like the waves are starting to swamp the boat. It may seem like the wind is contrary, it may seem like you’re two strokes forward, one stroke drifting backwards. But if you keep on doing what God told you to do, and you receive Jesus into your boat, He’ll pick up the slack. He’ll bring you the rest of the way. But don’t think He’s going to get in you boat if you’re not rowing. You need to be doing what you can do. God blesses the plodders. The power of plodding.

I’ve got a number of heroes in history, and almost all of them are people who were tenacious. I admire people who plod along because I need those kind of heroes. They’re good examples for me. I am running away from my past. My past as a runaway-er. I grew up – you know I was a runaway at 13 the first time. I’ve always tried to get out of doing anything I didn’t want to do. One reason I went to 14 different schools is because I’d get into trouble at one school, I’d run off to another school. I’d talk my parents or manipulate in my way or get into so much trouble I got expelled and I’d go to another school, and I spent a lot of my youth just running away from responsibility, and I’m running away from that behavior now. I have been trying in my, well, recent years, that’s the only way I could think to say it, to stick to what God has called me to do. You know I’ve been here eight years now? That’s the longest I’ve ever done anything in my life. I have done so many different things, but not for very long, so there’s no merit in that. I could tell people, “yeah, I picked oranges” – for half a day, and then I quit! I can tell people, “I worked at a golf course” – for half a day, and then I quit. I shoveled sand for half a day into a sandpit, and I said, “That’s long enough for me to know I don’t want to do this with my life,” and I quit. But you know what? I think sometimes I gave up too soon. And I was supposed to stick to it. And I think I’ve missed a lot of blessings in life because I kept running away from something that didn’t show immediate results.

Are you impatient? Anybody here impatient? I think we’re more chronically impatient in North America where we honk our horn at the drive-up window if we have to wait too long, right? We become irritated if our fast food is not fast enough. “Well, I’ve been here five minutes. I’m starving!” You go to Russia and stand in line. They stand in line all day, for toilet paper! We’e a very impatient people. We get restless if there’s three commercials, right? You’re laughing because you know it’s true! Impatient! And you know that means that we’re also impatient with ourselves? We get impatient with God. Some people give up in the Christian life because they do not see progress fast enough. Anybody here like that? You feel like throwing in the towel because you want to be like Christ, you want to experience what God wants you to be, but it seems like it’s taking forever, and you say, “I’m not getting anywhere. I don’t see any progress. What’s the answer?” Keep on plodding. Keep on plodding. Sometimes you can look back and then you’ll see the difference. “I resisted that temptation 1000 times, and you know how may times I fell? A thousand times. I’m going to quit and just give in!” No! Take one more step. Keep on plodding. God wants, God comes to, God blesses, people who are tenacious that way.

One of my heroes is Thomas Edison – now I’ve got several “p”s in my stories today. I’ve got “purpose,” I’ve got “perseverance,” I’ve got “patience,” and “plodding,” of course, and “prayer”. Purpose – it’s a new year. We need to have goals. If you’re plodding, plod toward something. Thomas Edison set very ambitious goals for himself every year. His plan was to come up with a new invention every six months. And that was a major invention. A minor invention every 10 days. You know he had this factory in Menlo Park. They called him the Wizard of Menlo Park, anD there in his factory he had his crew of scientists and inventors and engineers, and he challenged them to come up with at least a minor invention every 10 days, a major invention every year. When he died – now you might think that’s a crazy goal – when he died he had 1092 U.S. patents, and over 2000 foreign ones for inventions. Edison knew that by setting such goals for himself and striving to reach them, he was bound to increase his output.

The same principle applies in our work. Do you have goals this year? Now, New Year’s resolutions are something that make people edgy because we tend to make these resolutions, we set these goals, we have a purpose, we fail, we say, “I’d rather not try than try and fail.” Anyone ever felt that way before? “I’d rather not try.” Some people do that in relationships. “I’d rather not make friends, than to make them and get hurt.” So we live in our shell, cloistered and safe. We’d rather not set goals than set them and fail. Matter of fact, our society is built on the belief that people are going to fail to achieve their goals. The health club industry counts on it.did you know that? This right now is peak season for the health clubs. After everybody gorges themselves between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, one of the most popular resolutions is what? Take care of their health, lose weight, and so everybody has the best intentions and they go to these health clubs and the health clubs know that a lot of people are not going to stick to it, and so when they sign you up, they really push to sign you up where it’s an automatic deposit method, so that you won’t know you’re not going anymore, but they still get their money. Are you aware that if everybody signed up for health clubs attended the health club, there’d be no room for you? Only a fraction of the people who are members of any given health club actually go, and that’s probably good for you. There’d be no room! They count on people losing their resolve and giving up! They count on them getting too busy! They’d be in a real quandary if everybody that signed up January first showed up that week. They wouldn’t have room for 10 percent of those people. They’re planning on it. So, what do you do? Never sign up for a health club? No? I recommend you do. I recommend that you keep going, though. Set goals, because if you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it every time. You’ve got to keep setting goals. And then you’ve got to find some – it’s good for you to discipline yourself to find some way to achieve your goals.

Something old Thomas Edison would do – he was a plodder, he needed an Olympic medal in plodding. For instance, Thomas Edison one time, he wanted to challenge his factory workers, his scientists, and his chemists, he said, “We need to find a solution that’ll dissolve rubber.” Rubber was still a comparatively new invention. And he said, “Start working on that.” Well, they got out their paper and their formulas and they began to calculate with paper what the different compounds were and what they might develop that would dissolve rubber. While they were doing that, Edison got frustrated. He took a strip of rubber, and he went to a well-stocked chemical warehouse that he had in his factory, and he went from one jar vial to another and he opened them up, and he stuck the rubber in, he pulled it out, and he said, “Nope. That doesn’t work!” And he went through another one, and he did not pass a jar. He stuck it in everything from orange juice to motor oil. He just went right down the line. He didn’t even know what half of it was. He’d stick it in. Finally, he found something that would dissolve rubber. He went back, and they were still calculating with paper. It took him probably about a week going from one jar to another jar to another jar in this massive warehouse, sticking his strip of rubber in there, cleaning it off, finding another one, until finally he stuck it in and it dissolved the rubber. He said, “There it is!”

That’s called plodding. But that’s how you achieve what you’re looking for. You know you can find a needle in a haystack if you’ve got your mind made up, right? But you’ve got to pull the haystack apart, one straw at a time. That’s plodding. That’s persistence. Our goals should be high enough to challenge us, high enough that we can climb with care and confidence, but not so high they’re impossible to reach. Well, you know what might happen if you set high goals? You might fail, but you might reach some of them. You might trip, but you might win the race.

Psalms 37 verse 23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall –“ wait a second, this is a good man. The steps of a good man. The Lord is delighting in his way—“though he fall” – the good man is on his way. “though he fall...” Though he fall on his way? Can a good man fall going the right direction? Yeah! That’s what the Bible says. “Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” God will pick him back up again. Would you rather take the risk of trying and maybe failing than never to try at all? Thomas Edison said, “He who is afraid to fail, is afraid to succeed.” You’ve heard me quote that, but it’s a great quote. “He who is afraid to fail is afraid to succeed.” Here is a poem I found. I don’t think you’ve heard this:

“I’d rather stumble a thousand times

Attempting to reach a goal

Than to sit in the crowd in my weather-proof shroud,

A shriveled, self-satisfied soul.

I’d rather be dueling and daring

All of my error-filled days

Than watching and waiting and dying,

Smug in my perfect ways

I’d rather wonder and blunder,

Stumbling blindly ahead

Than for safety’s sake, lest I make a mistake,

Be sure, be safe, be dead.

Set some goals. You might fall, but if you keep plodding toward your goals, you’ll look back one day and say, “Hey, I’ve made progress! I’m at least halfway across the Sea of Galilee.” You know, I read that during the moonshot, the NASA people did not want the general population to know, they wanted them to think that everything was under control, but in reality, they were off course about every 10 minutes. Did you know that? As these capsules were going to the moon on virtually every one of those missions they were constantly making corrections? They’d say, “You’re drifting off course!” And they’d hit the little electrode rockets and they’d get it straight again. A few minutes later they’d say, “You’re off course again,” they’d hit the little... And it was amazing how often they got off course. But, fortunately, they corrected often enough where they made it to the moon. And on the way back, same thing, kept drifting off course, had to keep on correcting. They made it back home again. They did not lose anyone between Earth and the moon. You know why? Constantly correcting.

You know what that would be for you and me? Daily devotions. Prayer. Every day, if you’re going to reach your goals as a Christian, you need constant correction. You need to keep calibrating your compass, and otherwise, if you take your eyes off... In my airplane, I’ve got something called a Wandering Willie auto pilot. It’s ... My airplane’s a very old model, and it still has the original auto pilot. And it sounds like an oxymoron to call it a “Wandering Willie auto pilot.” But the reason they call it that is because it’s only made when you can take your hands off the wheel or look at your maps and know the plane’s not going to just turn upside down. It keeps you relatively on course, but because of the way it’s designed, it was made before they had the GPS stuff, it starts to drift. And if I’m flying with the family and Karen and I are enjoying the sights where I’m looking at the map or I might even, I hate to tell you this, but sometimes I open my laptop, and I’ll be working on a sermon while I’m flying, I can get too preoccupied, because if I get too involved in what I’m doing, I’ll look and though I’m supposed to be going 270 degrees, which is about due west, I’ll look up and all of a sudden I’m watching the sun come up! I’m going East, because it’s wandered all the way around.

It takes constant correcting in order to get to your destination. That can be irritating, but I believe that God has designed that we operate that way. We need a little bit of plodding sometimes in our witness. Have you become discouraged because you feel like, “I’m not really bringing anybody to Jesus?” Anybody? You look back and you say, “I can’t think of very many people that I’ve led to the Lord.” God has called every one of us to be witnesses, amen? I believe it’s important to witness verbally, thank you for that amen, (laughter..) It was off key, but I appreciate it! I believe that the Lord has called every one of us to be witnesses. You might witness verbally. I heard that an insurance salesman typically, and I don’t know if they still do it the same way, would call 45 people. For those 45 calls, only 15 of the 45 calls are even willing to talk to the insurance salesman, and of those 15, only 2 who talk to him will actually sign on the dotted line and buy some insurance. But that’s how they make their living. They manage to survive. And that’s something how it is with witnessing. You need to be able to verbally witness.

But, you know, there are other ways of witnessing. We need to witness by our lives, and some of us are being witnesses and we don’t know it. One of the greatest missionaries to Africa – who do you think of when you think of a great missionary to Africa? Livingston, I heard somebody say. How many of you have heard of David Livingston? In his day, they looked upon him as an abject failure. Because as he went to Africa, he married a missionary’s daughter hoping that would help him. He married Moffitt’s daughter. He really wasn’t able to raise up a church anywhere. You can’t every point to anywhere in Africa where it says, “This is the congregation that David Livingston raised up.” He was such a Godly man, and such a good man, and he was so helpful that the natives just loved him, but you know what happened is he said, “Look, I’m not doing very good as a missionary as far as raising up a congregation and sharing doctrine.” He knew what he believed, he prayed on his knees every day, read his Bible on his knees, knew the scriptures, trusted the Lord, had a miraculous life, but he didn’t leave a trail of congregations anywhere.

What he did is he became an explorer. He opened up Africa for all of the other missionaries. And the other thing he did was, he showed what a Christian was. As a matter of fact, you know Henry Stanley that went in search of David Livingston, and he crossed the continent looking for him. He finally found him and uttered those famous words, “Doctor Livingston, I presume.” He spent several months with him there in Africa. And let me read this to you from his own words. “When Henry M. Stanley went to Africa in 1871 to find and report on David Livingston, ---“ - they had not heard from him in England for years. They thought he was dead – “... He spent several months in the missionary’s company, carefully observing the man and his work.” Livingston never spoke to Stanley about spiritual matters. He figured, “I’m just a failure as a missionary.” He never said anything. Stanley was not a believer at that time. “but Livingston’s loving and patient compassion for the African people was beyond Stanley’s comprehension. He could not understand it. Livingston literally spent himself in untiring service for those for whom he had come to serve. Stanley said in his journal, ‘when I saw that unwearied patience, that unflagging zeal, and those enlightened sons of Africa, I became a Christian at his side though he never spoke one word to me.’” By beholding this man plodding along, he was converted. And many more were, and he opened up the continent for all these other missionaries.

Do not be discouraged. If you want to be a Christian, you’re following someone, the Bible says, who refused to be discouraged. Isaiah 42 verse 1, one of the messianic prophecies about Jesus, “Behold My servant who I uphold, mine elect one, in whom my soul delights, I have put my spirit upon Him. He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles, He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and smoking flax He will not quench. He will bring forth justice for tRuth,” – listen to this – “He will not fail nor be discouraged.”

Jesus was a plodder. He will not fail nor be discouraged “‘til He has established justice in the earth, and the coastland shall wait for His law.” Christ refused to be discouraged. Did He have reason to get discouraged? Did it seem at times like his work was fruitless? Jesus once had to turn to the apostles and He said, “Will you also leave Me?” because the crowd turned their back on Him. They could not understand how they could “eat His flesh” and “drink His blood.” They did not know what He was talking about. They got discouraged, they turned their back, they went away, and Jesus turned to the 12 apostles and said, “will you also leave Me?” And they said, “Where would we go? You’ve got the words of life.” And when He was betrayed after 3 ½ years of ministry, even His disciples forsook Him, and fled. It looked like He was a total failure. At Pentecost, after you’ve got those thousands of people, He’s got 120 in the upper room, and that’s 3 ½ years of ministry, but He would not be discouraged. Plodders must be persistent.

The heroes of faith in the Bible were heroes of persistence. You’ve heard of Webster’s dictionary? That wasn’t written by Daniel Webster. I used to think that. It was written by, I think it – was it his grandfather? Noah Webster. He labored 36 years writing his dictionary, crossing the Atlantic Ocean twice, gathering material. That’s persistence and plodding. Gibbon, who wrote The Rise and Fall -- Edward Gibbon - of the Roman Empire, -- twenty-six years on one book! You know that book I recently finished on Mary Magdalene? I’m not trying to put myself in the company of these great authors, but I spent eight years on that. You know how many times I thought, “I’m never going to finish that!”? And then I would think about my weakness to give up on things, and I said, “Doug, you’ve got to pick it up, you’ve got to do it,” and Karen, bless her heart, she kept saying, “Go do a week of prayer somewhere where you can focus without distractions and finish the book. Finish the book. Finish the book.” Praise God, I finally finished the book. But I’ll tell you what, it took forever! A lot of research went into that. If you haven’t read it, then, um.... You’re fired! What can you say to a congregation?

How long did Elijah pray before the rain came? Seven times? He prayed until the rain came. Luke chapter 15 tells the story about a woman who loses a coin. What does she do to find the coin? She prays, and she plods. She gets a broom, and she sweeps, and it doesn’t say how long she swept, but she swept until she found it. She swept, and she swept and she swept. It tells about a shepherd who lost his sheep, and how long did he look for that lost lamb? Until he found it! He got out and he searched. They were persistent. Somebody said that triumph is just “umph” added to “try”. If you’re going to succeed and triumph, you need to add a little “umph” to the word “try”. Ecclesiastes 9 verse 10, “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there’s no work, or device, or knowledge, or wisdom in the grave where you’re going. If you know something is God’s will, then start doing it, and keep doing it until He tells you what else to do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met somebody who’ll come to me and their life is a big zero, and I’ll ask them what their goals are, what they’re doing. And they’ll say, “Well, I don’t know, I’m waiting on the Lord.” Maybe they didn’t like the job, and they give up on their job, and they had a job, but it wasn’t what they wanted, and so they quit, and they’re doing nothing. And I said, “Don’t ever do that. You do what lies closest at hand with all your might until God tells you to do something different. And until God tells you to do something different, you’ll assume that that’s God’s will for you.” If you’re willing to do God’s will, He is responsible to make His will know, is that right? Some people are not very happy with their jobs, and you know what they’re doing? They’re plodding along.

You think about the story of Ruth. You can read about this in Ruth chapter 1 verse 16 through 18. Now Ruth and Naomi – Naomi in particular – she had reason to be discouraged. First of all, famine. That can be discouraging. Then she has to move out of her house. Any of you ever moved? That can be discouraging. She goes to a foreign land where they speak a foreign language. That can be discouraging. Then her husband dies. Depending on the relationship, that can be discouraging. Then her sons marry out of the faith. That can be discouraging. Then they die, one at a time. They had no social security back then, no husband, she’s lost her house, she’s lost her sons, all she’s got is Pagan daughters-in-law, and so, empty-handed she is on her way home. Would you be discouraged? As a matter of fact, she says, “Change my name. Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara. Bitter! Because I went out full, and I’ve come back empty.” And then God gives her a gift in Ruth, but Ruth said to her, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following you, for where you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people. Your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me.” Once she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her, and they plodded back to Bethlehem together.

Now what was Ruth’s job? The only work that she could find was picking up the sheaves that the reapers of Boaz had left behind. How many of you would like to do that for a living? You’re not a farmer. You’re a beggar of farmers. You’re going on behind the farmers and you’re picking up the scraps of grain that were not good enough for them or that fell out of the bundles. Does Ruth complain? Does she ever pine? Do you hear her moaning? Is there one gripe that comes out of her lips? No. She keeps doing, she’s made a commitment, she keeps doing what’s close at hand until God opens another door. (unintelligible) ... Situation change? A prince in Israel married her, she received a great inheritance, and she ended up becoming an ancestor of King David and Jesus himself!

Ruth was a plodder. She did not give up. Do you have a job – don’t raise your hands -- some of you have a job where you feel like, “Lord is this really my lot in life? I know I have other gifts!” Moses watched sheep. I mean, he grew up in the courts, learning the calculus of the Egyptians, that built the pyramids, and here he is following around these stinking sheep. And he probably thought, “This education going to waste!” There are people with doctorates that are working at Taco Bell and Burger King out there that are thinking, “Lord, is this where you want me? Here I trained for ministry, and I am making burritos, Lord!” And until God opens another door, what do you do? Keep on plodding, keep on plodding. And the Lord gets in your boat when you’re plodding. You keep doing what lies close to hand, you do not give up and He might surprise you.

First Corinthians chapter 2 verse 2--Ruth was determined, you and I must be determined-- Paul says, ‘for I was determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.’ God’s people are a determined people. And we should be as determined to be saved as Christ is to save us. Have you ever asked that question? How determined is Jesus to save you? He is desperate. He wants to do everything He can. How determined are you to be saved? He’ll get in your boat if you’re rowing when He finds you. See how important this is, friends? If you’re doing what you can do, God will perform a miracle of grace and take you to the destination. We are saved by grace, you’re out in the middle of the sea, but He wants you to be plodding when he comes. He doesn’t want us to throw our hands in the air. Even if you’re the thief on the cross and it looks like there’s absolutely no hope. One of them said, ‘If you’re the son of God,’ the other one said, ‘Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.’ At the very last moment of his life, he had faith. Could Jesus save him? Because he wouldn’t give up, even at the end like that. God wants us to be a people that will plod on persistently.

Patience! Plodders must have patience. I like to think of Joseph when I think about this. Put yourself in his shoes for just a minute. Has these dreams that God has a big plan for his life, but his dreams aren’t being realized because he’s sold by his brothers for the price of a slave. They want to kill him but they can’t make up their minds, “Should we kill him? Should we sell him?” They sell him. That would be really bad on your self-esteem, don’t you think? He’s got this dream that he’s supposed to be great. These great dreams that God has given him. Where does he end up? He’s sweeping a Pagan’s house. But he says, “Well, you know what? I don’t know why God has me here, but I’m going to plod along. I’m going to wait until God does something different.” Joseph is faithful, and then things go from bad to worse. Falsely accused of illegal advances to Potiphar’s wife. He’s thrown in prison, and do you realize from the age of 17 to 30, he was plodding and patient. What is that? 13 years? 13 years of being a slave and a prisoner! Who here would get discouraged? Would you think that your life is over? Would you think there are no dreams of greatness? It’s going from bad to worse! Pampered son of a nomad to being a slave to being prison custodian. But do you know what he did in prison? Said, “whatever I do, I’m going to do my best.” And he plodded along in prison. And then one day when Jesus came to him, what was he doing? He was doing faithfully his work in prison when Jesus came to him. And one day he went from the prison to the palace. You missed a good chance to say “Amen!”

That story, I’ve told it a thousand times. It never ceases to amaze me. Joseph is a great example for you and I not to lose patience or give up. The Bible says in Romans chapter 2, verse 6 and 7, “He will render to each one according to his deeds eternal life to those who by—“ --who’s getting eternal life? Your ears ought to perk up. When God says, “eternal life to -----“ you should say, “huh? Huh? Yeah?” On the edge of your seat? You ready?

“--eternal life to those who by patient continuance...” You know how that translates in the greek? “plodding!” -- not really. But that’s really what it means. “by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality.” I’ve got big dreams. I don’t know abou you, but I want to be a king someday. I want to live and reign as a priest and a king with Jesus. Is that wrong of me? Or is it a promise that I can claim? Big dreams! And you know how I’m going to get there? By patient continuance in doing good.

Don’t get discouraged in seeking God’s will. Galatians 6 verse 9: “and let us not grow weary while doing good. For in due season...” What’s the date? He doesn’t tell you. He says, “in due season.” What’s that mean? At the right time. That frustrates you. You want to be able to mark it into your Daytimer, don’t you? “When is it going to happen, Lord?” He’s not telling you. He says, “due season.” In the meantime, what do we do? Keep plodding. He says, “in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Do you sometimes lose heart and feel like you’e not reaching your goals? It can even happen here. There are people, we’ve got, especially some of the senior citizens. They say, “Well, doug, you’re talking to the young people. There’s still hope for them to change their course.” How old was Moses when God started His big plans for him? Eighty! Don’t give up. Don’t think God has given up on you. Have you given up praying for something specific? God wants us to plod in prayer.

There’s power in ploddng. Abraham is my exhibit here I’d like to bring forth. What did God tell Abraham? “You are going to be the father of a multitude.” As a matter of fact, his name was Abram, and God said, “I’m going to change it from Abram.” “Abba” means father. “Abram” means father. “Abraham” means “Father of a multitude.” And here Abraham is told when he comes out of Heron, “I’m going to change your name from Abram to Abraham. You are Father of a multitude!” And as he went into this new land, they’d say...

- “Hi! How do you do? What’s your name?”

- “Father of a multitude.”

- “Where’s your family?”

- “Don’t have any yet!”

- “How old are you?”

- “Uh, eighty-eight.” (seventy-five, I think, when he left.)

“Father of a multitude”.... It’s like, do you ever see someone that’s bald and they call him “curly?” They give him a nickname? You know, or someone that’s a little rotund, they call him “Slim”? And they called Abraham “Father of a multitude,” because he had no kids! And they figured that it was just an ironic name. But he kept praying, because God made a promise.

Did God keep his promise? Yeah, He did. Hebrews 6 verse 15 tells you about it. “and so after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” He had to endure. He had to wait. He had to plod along. He had to pitch his tent and take it down and go from place to place. And then finally Isaac came. I like to talk about perserverance and endurance. They’re very similar. Luke 18 verse 1 through 7, you know the story? Jesus – we’re taking about perserverance and prayer, specifically, now – you know there’s that widow, and she’s being unjustly treated. So she goes to a judge, but the judge is unjust, and she pleads her case, and says, “Please! Appeal on my behalf. My adversary is mistreating me!” And the judge says, “Ehh, she can’t bribe me, she doesn’t have any money, I have no time for her.” But she comes back, every day, she comes back, and she says, “Plead my case! Plead my case!” And she perseveres! And ..... she just keeps on coming to the judge. And finally – he’s getting faxes, every time the phone rings he looks at the caller i.d. – it’s her again! And he wonders, “what am I going to do to get rid of her?” Finally, he thinks, “I’m going to have to deal with it!” And he takes care of her case.

And Jesus closes that parable by saying, “Look at what the unjust judge does to this persistent, perservering widow. How much more will your Father in Heaven answer the prayers of those who cry day unto Him day and night?” Do you think He’s not going to hear the prayers of His elect? He will! Don’t give up praying. Keep asking. Are you praying for a loved one that’s lost, and you see no progress? Are you going to quit? No. God blesses those who plod along. Keep on going. Second Timothy 2:12: “If we endure, we shall reign with Him.” That’s a promise. If we endure, we shall reign with Him. James 5:11: “Indeed we count them blessed who endure.” This was part of our scripture reading. You’ve heard of the perserverance of Job, and of seeing in the end by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. Job had to be patient. At the end, his last was better than his beginning. Why? He hung in there. Matthew 10:22. You know what Jesus says: “You’ll be hated of all nations for My name’s sake, but he that endures—“ endures what? Endures people hating you – “—the same will be saved.” Don’t give up. Don’t try to be like everybody else. You might have to endure it. Matthew 24: “and because lawlessness will abound, the love of men will grow cold.” You might have to endure cold love. “...but he that endures to the end shall be saved.” Now, there’s got to be a delicate way for me to say this. Those of you who are married, sometimes you need to plod in marriage. I’m not asking for an amen – it might get you in trouble. But sometimes, you’re married and you’ve made a commitment, and it may not have panned out as Hollywood promised it would. Sometimes the zing in the romance may start to sag. And you think about, you know, this glitzy picture of marriage that’s often portrayed by society, and you think, “Man, you know, there’s got to be something better. The grass has got to be greener on the other side of the fence.” Sometimes you’ll find your greatest blessings in marriage if you hang in there, and you plod along. God has you with that person. And sometimes, not only your job, not only your finances, paying your bills, plodding along. Can you say amen? You think, “Thirty years I’m paying for this house.” Plodding along. And one day, it’s yours. You’ve got to plod. But even in marriage, sometimes you’ve got to plod along. People, so often they give up so easy. God will bless those who endure, even when love appears to grow cold, He says those who endure to the end will be saved. Mark 4 verse 16, it talks about the seeds sown in the stoney ground. When it receives the word with gladness and springs up, but because it has no root, it endures only for a time, afterward when tribulation comes for the word’s sake, they stumble.

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every wait...” ---running the Christian life is like running a race --- “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that does so easily ensnare us, and let us run with endurance –“ that’s the word there –“—let us run with endurance the race...” I think I told you, last year Karen ran in the California marathon, and I was very proud of her. I thought about doing it this year, but we didn’t have enough time to practice for that, and I was not going to run the whole thing because I’ve never run a marathon, and you can kill yourself trying to do that. But the key was, they don’t run the whole way. And we’ve got several people here who’ve run the California marathon. There are some people who almost sprint the whole way, but the average person – any of you ever see them do the California marathon – or the Sacramento marathon? They go right by the church here. What are most of them doing? What are they doing? They’re walking! Then we can see them, (huff) they get a rest, then they run a little bit, then after a while you see them, and you know what they do then? They plod. They’re tired, but they want to reach the finish line. And so, they keep on going. And are any of them carrying backpacks? No. They might have a little thing of water there, but they’re not carrying a load. They’ve laid aside the weight, and they plod on. And those people get an award when they reach the – they gave Karen an award. I saw her walking, I saw her plodding. She wasn’t sprinting the whole way, but when she crossed the finish line, her friends were there, and you know what they did? They cheered! They gave her an award, they gave her a t-shirt, this funny silver blanket, and I don’t know what else she got. Stuff! And she can say now, “I’ve run a marathon.” That’s right! But some of it wasn’t running, I’ll tell you right now! It was plodding. But she crossed the finish line. And they cheered. And that’s something what it’s like in the Christian life. Can you say amen?

You know, I’m running out of time here. Sometimes people get discouraged for the battles that they’re fighting. Fighting with temptation, fighting discouragement. Sometimes it seems like life is a series of wars. During World War I there was this British soldier, a young man, and he saw all his friends around him dying. Some were sick from mustard gas, and he got discouraged. He thought, “What is this for?” The trenches were filled with the sick and the dying, and one night he thought, “I’m going to go to the coast...” – he was in France fighting the Germans, and he slipped out of the foxhole. He thought, “No one will miss me. They’ll think I was killed in battle. Over half my squad is dead anyway.” He made his way through the town, he thought, “if I can get down to the ocean and steal a boat, I’ll row across the channel and get back to England.” And as he was making his way through this town, there was a fork in the road, and he couldn’t tell which way – it was a dark, foggy night – he couldn’t tell which way the ocean was, and he came to a fork in the road, and he saw that there was a signpost, but he couldn’t read what the sign said. So, he thought the only way to do this without being too conspicuous is, he climbed up the sign, like a person would climb up a coconut tree, and then he took out his matches and he struck a match to look at what the sign said and he found out that he had not climbed a sign, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. And instead of looking at directions, he was looking into the face of Jesus. And he thought to himself, “Man, you think about what Christ suffered.” There he was, on the cross, suffered for the sins of the world, and here I’m giving up and leaving my friends and my commanders and my country,” and his heart was changed. He got back down, and he went back, and he got back in the trenches. The Bible says, “When we consider Him who suffered,” it’s a little easier for us to suffer, also. Have you heard this poem about the frogs? I’ve shared it before, but you may not have been here then. I like this. This is for the plodders. Two kinds of people:

Two frogs fell in a can of cream, or so I’ve heard it told,

The sides of the cans were shiny and steep, the cream was deep and cold.

“Oh, what’s the use?” croaked number one, “’tis fate. No help’s around

Good-bye, my friends, goodbye, fair world.” And, weeping still, he drowned.

But number two, of sterner stuff, dog-paddled in surprise,

And while he wiped his creamy face and dried his creamy eyes,

“I swim awhile,” at least he said, or so I’ve heard he said.

“it really won’t help the world if one more frog were dead.”

An hour or two he kicked and swam not once he stopped to mutter,

But he kicked and kicked and swam and kicked and hopped out, via butter!

I read this week about a Norwegian explorer. He was actually a great man, a politican, among other things. His name was Fridtjof Nansen Some of you have heard of him. I don’t know if I said his name right. He and a friend, through miscalculations, got lost in one of their Arctic expeditions, and they ran out of supplies. And it turned out that they had to eat the dogs, one at a time. They had to eat the dog harnesses. They eventually became so starved that they had to drink the oil in their lamps. It was whale oil way back then, and it gave some nourishment. And they were trying to plod through the snow back to some help. His companion finally said, “This is a waste. We’re never going to make it. Why suffer any longer?” And he just laid down and he decided to die. And Nansen tried to encourage him on. He said, “There’s no hope. Why bother.” And he says, “Well, as long as I’ve got strength, I’m going to keep on taking one more step.” And he did that. And one more step. And one more step. And he went on like that for a couple more days, until he came over a crest of ice. And he saw there was the shore, and an American expedition that had been sent out to find him, and he was saved and he says the reason he was saved is that he went one more step, thousands of times. One more step, thousands of times.

You know, sometimes we wonder how we can go on. Nothing concerns pastors more than we see people who become discouraged with their Christian experience. They stop coming to church. They don’t see the progress that they want to see in their lives, and I’ve got good news for you. It doesn’t always come in spurts. The progress usually comes through plodding. You’ve got to keep on plodding. Are you discouraged with your financial situation? Keep on plodding. You’re still here, amen? Maybe you’re discouraged about relationships. Keep on plodding. You’re not happy with your job, or your station in life. What’s the answer? Keep on plodding. You want to be a better Christian? What should you do? Keep on plodding. Jesus gets in the boat of those who are rowing. Hang in there. Set goals. Shoot for the moon and you’ll hit the tree tops. Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. Set high goals, amen? Don’t be afraid to set goals. If you fall down, that’s ok. If you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to succeed. But don’t forget to keep on plodding. Putting one foot in front of another.

There is this pile of bones that was found over a sand dune. Somebody died in the desert of Saudi Arabia. And there by the bones was a note that was scribbled on some parchment. And it said, “I cannot go on any longer. Dying of thirst. No sense blistering in the sun.” He had evidently made a little makeshift shelter there, and just sat down and died. And they found him right across a dune from an oasis, they found the remains. How pathetic! He could have made it if he’d kept on going.

Friends, soon Jesus is going to come, probably sooner than most of us think, and I believe that He is going to bring us to the shore. He’ll get in our boat, He’ll work the miracle for us if we keep on plodding. Until then, until He does come, until all your dreams are realized, hang on. The Bible says, “If you put your hand to the plow, don’t look back, don’t let go.” Jesus “set His face” to go to Jerusalem. That means He decided to go to the cross for you and me, and He did not look back. And my encouragement to you is, don’t look back at Egypt. Keep your eyes fixed on the Promised Land. And ultimately, He’ll take us home, amen?

How many out there want to be plodders? Keep on letting your heart beat, your lungs breathe, one more step at a time, and that’s how we get the victory.

.... Father in heaven, Lord, we thank you for the message we find in Your word of encouragement, that, like Jacob, we can wrestle with Thee, and make up our minds to not let go, to hang on until You bless us. Like Joseph, we can perservere, knowing that if we are faithful, doing what lies close at hand, that ultimately we will see our name changed and our position changed. Like Abraham, if we continue to pray, we will finally realize the promise. Lord, we believe the message is filled, Your Bible is filled, with the message of those who perservere, patiently plodding along, and I pray that we can gain courage and enthusiasm, that we can be among those who will endure unto the end, that we might be saved. I pray, Lord, You’ll bless each of these people. I know that those who are watching, and those present here have struggles. That sometimes we want to give up and throw in the towel, and throw our hands in the air, and I pray that we’ll be determined not to take our eyes off Jesus, but to lay aside every wait, and to run that race with endurance, looking at our leader, the author and finisher of our faith. And it’s in His name that we pray, and we thank You, amen.

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Determining the Will of God (PB) by Doug Batchelor

Determining the Will of God (PB) by Doug Batchelor
God's Promises




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