Out Our Way: Don't quit! - Matthew 4:16-17
Last updated 8/27/2021 at 8:02am
Out our way, the best riders are the ones who never give up. They will get thrown and tossed and stomped, but they don't quit. They "cowboy up" and get back in the saddle. Granted, there are some of us who take longer than others - who spend more time on the ground than in the saddle - but though we may never become great riders, we can become adequate.
Learning to just keep at it is a good thing in daily life as well as working cattle, and it is amazing how many folks have managed to overcome a whole slew of inadequacies in their lives simply by never quitting. Robert the Bruce of Scotland was defeated time and time again by the English king and came close to just admitting defeat and giving up. But legend has it that while hiding in a cowshed, he watched a spider trying to make a web - and time after time the spider leaped out to spread his thread and failed. But that spider refused to quit. And finally, he made it ... he took a desperate leap across the rafters and managed at last to hook his web. Bruce took courage from that and rallied his troops once again, and this time defeated the English and won Scotland's independence. The impossible became possible because he never quit.
It is hard to avoid the pessimism and fear that fills our nation these days as we see one crisis after another tearing our country apart as corruption, division, greed and self-centeredness seem to dominate the headlines. We have seen the massive failure of our nation to deal with the COVID crisis. We daily hear of the crisis on the southern border as illegal immigration along with the drug trafficking, gangs, soaring crime rates that follow is a constant threat. We see cities burning as gangs and soaring crime rates devastate whole communities - especially in minority areas - and the politicians just get rich and the poor get dead. Now we see the threat of global terrorism arising again as the crisis in Afghanistan while our government plays into the hands of the Taliban. What are we to do? We are helpless! Things just keep getting worse and while everyone is ready to blame everyone else, no one is offering a solution or hope. Or are they?
As terrible and dark as our times may be, it is nothing new. The prophet Isaiah lived in times that were worse than these. Israel was dying, the end of the Jewish kingdom was at hand. The pagan Assyrians and Babylonians - modern Iran, Iraq, Turkey etc. - had become the dominant forces in the Middle East and were destroying every nation and culture in their way ... including Israel. Yet, behold, Israel survived. In Matthew's time, quoting Isaiah, it was the Romans that dominated the world and while the Jewish people were allowed to live in the homeland and rebuild the Temple, the corruption of the pagans was nothing compared to the corruption and self-righteousness of the religious factions who divided the people, Pharisees and Sadducees being the main culprits. More focused on power and control, they hated Jesus and His followers for reminding the people that God - not the priests and rabbis - was in charge. Israel and Judah ceased to exist for 2,000 years because of these dark times, yet God remained active and restored the faithful.
Now, the USA is not a religious nation, although we claim "in God we trust," but we are a nation that God seems to have called into being for His purpose. If you believe that, as I do, then the words of Isaiah as quoted by Matthrew give light in the midst of the darkest despair. Yes, our nation is in big trouble - these crises just seem to keep coming .tearing down our nation. Perhaps we need to be torn down in order to be built back up. Do we really "trust in God" as our coins say? Do we really believe we are "one nation, under God" as our pledge states? If not, then maybe those agnostics and atheists who presently dominate our politics, media and culture are right. But if they are wrong then even if they manage to get rid of the motto and the pledge, and the faith that was once part of the norm, they will not rid the nation of God. As you read the history of God's people - from Abraham to this very day, there has always been the threat and the power of darkness seeking to blot out the faith ; and always a "faithful remnant" refused to quit and held on. And always, in time the faith burst into flame again.
Remember that Russian priest who laughed at Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and so forth when they claimed to be one generation from stamping out the faith forever under their regimes. They all died but the church survived. Why? "Because our babushkas - grandmothers who never quit even when the government, schools, media and pop culture did - never die!"
The darkness is here and is growing. It has been here before. But the Light still shines now as it did then and the Dawn always comes.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way." He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected]