Back in the seventies, dad bought me a car. It was a ’73 Duster in a light shade of green only a color-blind guy like me could love. It had no air-conditioning and in fact there was nothing fancy about it at all. It was just a car. The only luxuries on this baby were power steering and power brakes, they were options on a car then but I don’t think you can get a car today without those features. The transmission was a manual, just like the windows and everything else on that car. It was all manual or it just wasn’t there at all.
It had a rubber floor and vinyl seats. I put carpet in the car and speakers in the back window tray. I installed a really nice 8-track player and put the bobble-headed Boston Terrier dog in the back window. He would sit back there and nod in approval to the music being played at excruciatingly loud levels. I really liked that car even though at first I really hated it. I didn’t hate it because it was an ugly color or because it lacked A/C or even because it looked cheap on the inside. I hated it because I couldn’t drive it.
The first day after dad bought the car, he took me out to learn to drive that stick. We drove out to a seldom used gravel road. On the way there, which was only a few minutes, I sat in silence picturing myself grabbing gears and popping the clutch like a professional race car driver, skillfully careening through the country roads where we lived.
We pulled onto Stump Road, which is now wide and paved, and we switched places in the car. I already knew what to do. I was sixteen and I knew everything. I got in the driver’s seat and got ready to drive. I didn’t buckle my seat belt. In those days, most seat belts were stuffed deep into the seat or even behind the seat so they were out of the way. People preferred to adhere to the urban legends of the day that seat belts caused people to be killed in otherwise harmless accidents. I grabbed the wheel and pushed in the clutch. So far, so good, this was going to be cake! I pulled the car into first gear and away I almost went.
I killed the engine, I killed the engine what seemed like a hundred times. At first dad laughed, then he got a little aggravated and then he just didn’t say anything. Flames were shooting out of my eyes. I was so mad that I couldn’t do this seemingly simple task. I tried and tried until the flames were extinguished and could no longer hold back the tears.
I had grown accustomed to learning everything simply and easily. It really got on my last nerve that I couldn’t get the hang of this one thing. I went home and gave up.
Fortunately for me, I only gave up temporarily. My fire was re-lit and I was ready to try again after much thought and replaying my mistakes over and over again showed me exactly what I was doing wrong. We made the drive back out to Stump Rd. and I drove it like I stole it from then on out. Mom and dad worried day and night because I drove that car like an idiot, but I was an idiot that could really drive a stick.
Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
I’ve tried a lot of things because the bible said to. I’ve failed at quite a few of them and given up. I’ve heard people say that God gives us gifts and we should stick to the gifts God gives us. That sounds pretty good but what if I am not good at doing some things that God commands me to do and the only reason I can’t be skillful in doing them is that I refuse to work through my failures? If I am failing at doing good, don’t I just need to keep going out to Stump Road and learning?
Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Paul wrote these words from prison. He was imprisoned several times. I’m sure that I would have had the mentality that if I was ending up in prison that I should probably give up my whole ministry before someone killed me. But while sitting in prison, Paul was surprisingly upbeat and refused to see failure. He took time to write letters to churches he had been to or started to guide them in their newly found faith. Paul had learned from every setback and used his downtime to bring glory to God.
I had heard and read the verse above a lot of times, it is engrained into my head forever. I will never forget it. But it is way past time to brand it on my heart and to put it into practice. If I fail, I cannot give up. I need to do what God calls me to do knowing that His work in me may not be the destination but the journey. This verse doesn’t apply to things that bring praise and credit to myself, things that make me live a life of luxury and comfort, it applies to the things I do to bring glory to God. God used the time Paul spent in prison, time the religious leaders took away from Paul to shut him up and get him out of their hair, to write the letters that encourage me thousands of years later. God’s strength is pretty amazing stuff. Paul’s words were immortalized when he was being silenced. His preaching was gone when those who heard it were gone. His writing lives on as God’s Word. I am eternally grateful that Paul didn’t give up.
God, help me to not be intimidated by failure. Give me endurance and perseverance to do your good works. Help me to seize opportunity from the mouth of failure and keep doing your will not matter what the situation. Amen.