SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #8
February 19, 2011
Resilience is a characteristic we all wish we had. We think of resilient characters in the Bible or in modern life and sometimes we wish that we were more like them. There was Martin Luther King, who was threatened, beaten and jailed. He always seemed to bounce right back and say, “We shall overcome.” Princess Diana was despised and rejected of men, (at least one man, her husband), and yet she went about doing good with a cheerful smile and a positive message. President Abraham Lincoln was a resilient character. He lost many a political race before he finally won the highest office in the nation. There are many who under difficult circumstances displayed a robustness of heart and a determination that we wish we all had in the face of extreme difficulty.
There was Job who endured unimaginable sorrows. The loss of ten children in one day was enough to break the spirit of most mortals. Yet he soldiered on even after his wealth was gone, his health failed and even his wife suggested he should curse God and die. Job said, “He knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10). And “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). It is comforting to know that even when every human soul has forsaken us and we are tempted to believe our case is hopeless, God understands what we are going through and He stands by our side. He weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice.
Joseph was dealt a difficult lot. After being sold by his half brothers and betrayed by his master’s wife, Joseph had reason to believe that doing right wasn’t worth it. In the prison he could have found many reasons to become bitter. Yet he kept his head up. He looked out for those around him and showed genuine concern for other prisoners. This led to disappointment as the prisoner forgot him for two years after he was released, but it eventually led to his freedom and exaltation to an office next to Pharaoh. If Joseph hadn’t had the resilience to show concern for two fellow prisoners who were troubled by their dreams, perhaps he would never have become the prime minister of Egypt. Perhaps we would never have heard his story.
Naomi is an encouraging figure to consider. She apparently lost everything when she lost her husband and two sons. Yet in the end she discovered that she had not lost everything. One daughter-in-law had seen something in Naomi’s devotion to her God which was worth risking everything to understand. Naomi must have had a resilient spirit. She must not have looked utterly cast down. She must have retained the peace that passes understanding to provoke such a beautiful response from Ruth.
Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people, and 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.
Such words of devotion are more than any mere mortal could ask of another. Ruth’s devotion is a pledge that each of us should take toward the Lord. “Entreat me not to leave you….” It must have been a most resilient spirit that provoked such earnest devotion. Would to God each of us might show such resilience.
This devotion of one woman to her mother-in-law resulted in blessing to the world. Ruth became one of the grandmothers of the Messiah. God honored her recognition of her mother-in-law’s faith and gave her a special place in history. When truth is modeled with resilience, it is a powerful witness to those around us.
Esther is one of my favorite Bible characters. Her decision to appear before the King even if it should mean her death is a foreshadowing of the commitment of Christ to go to the cross even if it should mean His eternal death. Yet that moment was not the only admirable decision of Esther’s life. She had made many decisions before that one which modeled the characteristic of resilience. Both of her parents had died while she was still young. That alone was enough to break the spirit of many children. But she had followed the council of Mordecai and entered upon a daring, high risk proposal and become the queen of the kingdom of Medo-Persia. Every step along the way required a faith and resilience of character which excelled that of her peers. And each of those steps strengthened her for the ultimate decision to risk everything for her nation. If she had not made the Lord her habitation; if she had not dwelt under the shadow of the Almighty, she would not have known what to do when the crisis hour arrived. Daily she had lived for God until the final moment of truth came. Thus is must be with each of us.
Resilience is certainly a good word to describe the life of the apostle Paul. Considering all of the difficulties he faced, one wonders how anyone could have continued to fight “the good fight”. Yet Paul tells us the secret of his courage. He was determined to have but one achievement at the end of the journey.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:8-9).
Paul understood that enduring those trials got him no merit at all. It was by faith that he soldiered onward. No matter how the enemy attempted to discourage him, his mission had to be completed. His purpose was to be found in Christ. That must be our purpose. When the difficulties of this life thicken around us and we are tempted to give up or express our hopelessness and frustration, we must remember we are on a mission. Our mission is to be found in Christ. This does not mean having a flawless record. It means continuing to fight the good fight until the Lord gives us relief. This is the secret of resilience.
“In these dreadful hours we must learn to trust, to depend solely upon the merits of the atonement, and in all our helpless unworthiness cast ourselves upon the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour” (Ellen White, God’s Amazing Grace, p. 114).