Thursday, November 10, 2016

Tests of Resolve

Tests of Resolve
A sermon delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
November 10, 2016
at Gibson Memorial Chapel, Blue Ridge School
St. George, Virginia
Hebrews 12: 1-4

Fight On

When the road gets rough,
And the path grows weary,
We must find a way to fight on.
Though the world is filled with grief and wrong,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!

When life grows hard,
And struggle and pain abound,
Find the will to fight on.
Face the pain, attack the throng,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!

Though evil blocks your way,
Drop to your knees and pray.

The presence will
Come to you at last.
Take the strength and fight on,
Though it’s hard and the road is long,
Fight on, Fight on, Fight on!

Let us pray,

Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives   
For your eyes show the way
    Your mind knows the truth
    Your being is the life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.   4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

I don’t want to talk long this morning because there are some bet debts to be paid with a bit of a plunge, but I did want to take a moment to address some things that have to do with character. I have been speaking at my church over the last 4 weeks and will for the next 4 about what I have been calling 7 aspects of life, and it all came out something I put together for our football team, so many Mondays ago, and it is that life is all about 7 things, and though they are given in order and can seem like steps, they overlap and run parallel and are constantly happening throughout our lives, rather than working like one set pattern. The seven aspects are Humility, Discernment, Resolution, Perseverance, Fulfillment, Legacy, and Retirement.

It all starts with Humility. . . that momentary realization that you don’t know everything, and therefore must be seeking. . . Then Discernment. . . the seeking, the knocking, the asking, asking the two important questions of life, who am I and what am I being called to do. . . then Resolution. . . having enough discernment, enough information, that you can make a decision, and take a step, resolving to do and to be. . . which then leads to Perseverance. . . being committed, staying at it, facing the adversity head on, without looking back, without quitting, come what may. . . and then Fulfillment. . . feeling like you were in the right place at the right time, that self acclimation that lets you know that what you are doing is right and real and true. . . . then Legacy. . . that people can see your Humility, Resolve, Perseverance, and Fulfillment, and it touches them, it helps them, it makes a difference in the world. . . . and then finally Retirement. . . that it is time to pass the baton, or close up shop, hang up your spikes, lay down your stick, and move on to the next thing. . .  These are the 7 aspects of life, and they are constantly repeating, going on all the time all around us.

This past Sunday I reached the middle point, the hump of the week, and it really made sense in many ways for this week with all of the challenges we are facing. Because the middle piece, the central aspect is about Perseverance. . . the tests to your resolve. . . you have decided upon what is true, etched it in stone, and now it is coming to the test. . . and if it should crumble, none of it was true in the first place, but if you can persevere and therefore be able to weather the storms of life, holding firm and fast to who you are though the world is changing, or crashing down all around you, or that adversity is rearing its ugly head, and you face it rather than quitting. . . this is what Perseverance is all about. . . but it isn’t just about doing. . . because these aspects aren’t just about doing, but also about being. . . for these aspects are about our identity, who we are. . . and perseverance is about being that same cat when the chips are down, being that same guy when everything is going wrong, being the same version of you in all situations, in every situations, regardless of the circumstances, whether they are easy or hard, whether you are winning or losing, or whether things are fair or completely unfair. . . the you, the who you are shouldn’t change, should never change. . . this is the test of resolve.

So why is this important this week? Why did I think it is important to talk about? Two things: The first was last Saturday at the football game, and what a lesson it was, a character lesson. . . we were in the middle of a hard fought, physical football game, a game that was highly competitive, and to be honest got a little chippy and approached the edge. . . but when it was over it was time to forget the differences and come together. We had, both teams, shared an experience, shared the field, both taking part in the good and the bad. . . but one team couldn’t come across the field to shake hands. . . to me I thought, this was an example of allowing the circumstances, the difficulty, the adversity to define us, rather than our inner identity. They didn’t seek out that morning to not shake hands, but they allowed the circumstances to control them. . . and it was just such a picture of low character. . . I was up in the booth, I made the other coach up there shake my hand. . . and would have in defeat. . . because win or lose, fair or unfair, tough game or not. . . none of those things define me. . . do you let them define you. . . If you know who you are it is not about what others do, not about what others say, not about circumstances at all that define you, or have any effect whatsoever on how you handle yourself. . . to stand firm. . .  its quite a challenge.

Our nation went through an election the other day. . . and it couldn’t really have been more close. . . and it was contentious, and ugly, and there are many people who are really happy, and a lot of people who are sad, or scared, or disgusted, or afraid. . . but none of it changes who we are as Americans. . . none of it changes who we are as human beings. . . none of it changes who we are, nor what we are called to do because come what may, our resolve should not be shaken. . .if we began in humility, did the work, asked the questions of discernment, and made the decision, resolving to be who we are, then nothing should be able to shake that. . . and if anything does, it should simply send us back to humility. . . not bitterness. . . not fear. . . not rage and anger. . . we are each building our identity. . . life is constantly testing our resolve. . . hold firm and pass the test. . . I saw all the negativity of the day after yesterday and was called to write this. . . I think it speaks to both sides, and how nothing has really changed.

No Less Nor More

We are no less nor more human today
With no less nor more potential
To hate or be kind.

We have no less nor more duty today
Bound by no less nor more responsibility
To love and set free.

Nothing real has changed,
So do not allow yourself to be changed
No more nor less.

Nothing real has changed
So do not allow yourself to be defined
No more nor less.

Nothing real has changed
Do not forget who you are and have always been
A child of God
A human being
An American Citizen
No more nor less.

We have no less nor more duty today
Bound by no less nor more responsibility
To love and set free.
We are no less nor more human today,
With no less nor more potential
To hate or be kind.

Now we leave this place. Nothing has changed. We leave as brothers. We leave as friends. We leave as human beings. . . it is truly an amazing distinction. . . to be human. . . to be children of God. . . so let us run with perseverance the race, not letting anything change us, make us doubt or question our potential . . let us go through life knowing and seeking to know who we are. . . let us leave behind us a legacy. . . people will see that we know who we are, and that nothing can shake us from it. And then when it is time to lay down and rest we will have truly lived. . . and now let’s go see our brother’s from Cleveland pay their debt by getting a little wet! Gentlemen. . . to the lake!