Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keep On It

A few years ago, my brother and I were up in Spartanburg, SC, tending to our grandmother’s affairs. Since we were not from there and were not very familiar with the town, we asked one lady how to get where we needed to be next. She told us to go out to the main road and turn right, and then “you keep on it and keep on it and keep on it.” Then she gave us the name of the road where we were to turn after that, along with a few landmarks to watch for.

My brother and I laughed about that as we drove along, repeating her words, “Keep on it and keep on it and keep on it.” We could see that there were some good reasons for her to emphasize it that way. As we began following her directions, there were many opportunities where we could have turned off the path and gotten ourselves lost. We were also unsure how many miles we would have to go before we reached the proper intersection. And I don’t know about you, but I have often had the sense in such situations that maybe I had gone too far and missed the proper turn, wondering whether I should go back and see or keep moving forward?

Take this as a sort of parable of faith — or more precisely, of faith and patience, because the two go together. We receive a promise from God, by the Word or the Spirit, and we have determined to believe it. But there can be quite some time between faith and fulfillment, between “Amen!” and “There it is!” We may also find that there are things that immediately arise to test it, and many opportunities to turn off the path of what we have been promised.

Abraham certainly experienced this. So did Joseph and Moses and David, not to mention Jesus. In fact, anybody who ever accomplished anything worthwhile by faith has experienced it. But they kept on.

Jesus told a few parables about what it means to keep on.

Like the one about the man who knocked on his neighbor’s door at midnight because he had a friend come to see him and there was no bread to set before him. Though the neighbor was tucked in for the night with his family and did not want to be disturbed, the man stood shamelessly at his door and refused to be turned away — he really needed that bread! (Luke 11:5-8).

Or the parable about the woman who sought justice from a judge who could not have cared less. He tried to turn her away but she would not relent. Finally, just to get her off his back, he gave in and granted her request (Luke 18:2-8).

What if they both had just given up and gone home. He would have had no bread to offer his hungry friend, and she would have had no justice. But they kept on.

Jesus said that those who ask will receive, those who seek will find, and those who knock will have the door opened up to them (Luke 11:10). But the asking and seeking and knocking must be done in faith, not in doubt, and that faith must be persistent.

How long should you persist? Let me answer that with another question: How much do you need the answer? We continue to press in patiently with our faith until we have received what we have asked, found what we have been seeking and the door stands open before us.

In other words, we keep on it. And keep on it. And keep on it. Until we see the promise has been fulfilled.