The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.
If you want to develop the quality of persistence, you first have to appreciate the value of persistence. Second, you have to begin regardless of how you feel. Remember how Solomon described the sluggard? “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!’” (Proverbs 26:13). The sluggard will always find a reason not to begin. But if you wait until you feel like it to begin working toward your God-given goal, you will never do it. As psychologist Jerome Bruner wrote, “You more likely act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action.” Whatever it is God would have you do, do it now.
And third, once you begin a task, you have to commit to working hard. In Proverbs 20:4, Solomon said, “The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, so he begs during the harvest and has nothing.” The farmer who refuses to exert the effort to plow the land and plant the seed will not have anything to harvest.
Why would somebody refuse to plow and plant? For one thing, it is hard work. But another reason is that there is not an instant payoff. You cannot go out at two o’clock in the afternoon and plow the ground and plant the seed, and then go back at four o’clock and harvest the crops. No, you exert the effort and then you have to wait months and months for the payoff.
We live in an age of instant gratification. Whatever effort we make, we want it rewarded now. If that first job interview does not turn into an offer with a six-figure salary, we are disappointed. If we write a book and it is not instantly a New York Times Best Seller, we think, “This must not be what I ought to be doing.” If we share our faith with somebody and they are not receptive to the gospel message, we think, “I must not have the gift of evangelism.” But the truth is, it is little steps over a long period of time that produce success.
Some of the most encouraging words about persistence come from missionary Amy Carmichael, who wrote, “Sometimes when we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. ‘I shall never be like that,’ we feel. But they won through, step by step; by little acts of will, little denials of self, little inward victories; by faithfulness in very little things they became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps, they only see the accomplishment; but even so, those small steps were taken. There is no sudden triumph, no spiritual maturity that is the work of the moment.” A persistent person commits to working hard.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Power of Persistence” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Jerome Bruner, “On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand,” 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 1979), 24; Amy Carmichael, “Edges of His Ways” (Fort Washington, PA: CLC, 1980), 188.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.