True Grit - Part 1: The Art of Showing Up
On Sunday 24th March we began our series 'True Grit'.
In this blog you will find a summary of the talk.
To listen to the talk, please click here.
When I was 13, my best friend was Colin. We went to the same school in Kent and were interested in the same things, especially sport. Then one day Colin told me that he had become a paperboy, delivering daily newspapers around the area where we lived. He had got a job working for the newsagent who had a shop about a mile from my house. Best of all, he was supplied with company transport to do the job…… OK, not a car, but a bike. It was one of those bikes that are called a “butchers-bike” that have a large metal tray or basket attached to the front in which were put papers for delivery. It meant that he didn’t have to carry them in a bag over his shoulder. He was earning 15 shillings (75p) a week for doing this work, and of course, I wanted to do the same!
But how could that be possible, because the newsagent didn’t need two boys to deliver daily newspapers in the same area. However, there was a solution, because the newsagent that Colin was working for had a competitor in the form of a rival paper shop, and it was with Mr. Potts, the owner of the rival newsagent, that I secured the position of head paperboy, delivering daily newspapers in the local area, similar to Colin. (By the way, when I say “Head” paperboy, there was only me…..).
I was paid 14 shillings (70p) a week, rather than the 15 shillings that Colin was paid, but there was a reason for that. On a Friday evening Colin had to go to each house, to which he had delivered daily newspapers, and collect the money owed from the residents. I’m glad to say that I didn’t have to do that (Mr. Potts did it). There was also another difference in that I didn’t get a company vehicle; no bike for me! What this meant was that I had to carry the newspapers in a large canvas bag on my shoulder. This wasn’t too bad on most days, but Fridays and Sundays were different. Each Friday, the Kent Messenger was published. It was very popular and had many pages, which meant that the bag became heavy; in fact, twice as heavy as normal. Sunday was just as bad, because although there weren’t daily newspapers, there were Sunday newspapers, which were large and bulky, and the majority of customers had two different Sunday papers to be delivered.
To prevent my shoulder from getting sore, I used to wear an old jacket that my dad had discarded. It was two sizes too bid for me, but the shoulders were large and, more important, padded: Almost “Tailor-made” for carrying a very heavy bag, full of newspapers.
As I said, I started that paper round when I was 13, and continued until I was 16, and as far as I can remember, I never had one day off, except for 1 week in the summer holidays when I went away with my mum, dad and brother, and Christmas day when newspapers weren’t printed. Up at 6am to start at 6.30am: Summer and winter, whatever the weather, in the freezing cold, in the sunshine, in the rain, in the snow I never missed a day.
This is when I learned discipline and the “art of showing up”; grit and doggedness if you like. And the thought of asking my mum or dad to do the round for me is laughable. It never, ever occurred to me, because it was my responsibility, and I always turned up.
There is a character that appears in the Old Testament part of the bible called Daniel, and he most definitely displayed grit and doggedness in his life. I think that most of us will have heard about Daniel and his exploits in the Lions Den, but how did he manage to get himself served up as the Lion’s lunch in the first place?
The “back-story” is that the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem, and Daniel, along with three companions had been deported to the city of Babylon. In this alien city, they receive some intensive training and development by their captors. Then, following the accurate interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel began to prosper. So much so, that when a new king called Darius is crowned, Daniel is appointed as only one of three to administer the extensive realms of the kingdom.
So successful is Daniel that it seems likely that he will become the king’s favourite. However, professional jealousy puts a stop to all this. Daniel’s rivals attempt to end his promotion prospects (not to mention his life!) when they gain the king’s approval for a new law, which states that no one may worship any other god than Darius himself. So how does Daniel react to this?
We can read this here from Daniel 6:10-12.
Prayer was so important to Daniel that he refuses to compromise, even though it means putting his life at risk. He clearly displays grit and doggedness in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. Note that when he prays he gives thanks to God in spite of the circumstances.
Just a few weeks ago, our Team Leader Simon Lace was at EBC on Sunday morning reminding us of something that the apostle Paul wrote centuries later to Christians in Philippi:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
We know that Paul was flogged, beaten, thrown in prison; ship wrecked, went hungry, and faced many other hardships. Yet, like Daniel, he was a man of grit and doggedness, and he insisted that whatever the circumstances, followers of Jesus should always pray and give thanks to God.
The greatest example of true grit of course, is Jesus himself. He knew what his mission on earth was and he stuck to it, doggedly, even though it meant a cruel and excruciating death on a cross. And when it comes to prayer and showing up, then again Jesus is our example and role model. In his account of Jesus’ life, Luke tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (5:16) and on at least one occasion he went out to a mountainside to pray and spent the night praying to God (6:12). Prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life, as it was for Daniel and Paul.
How about you? Where would you rate yourself on the “showing up-grit-doggedness” scale? In particular, when you consider the personal discipline of prayer? Are you committed to prayer (talking to God) in the same way that Daniel was? In every situation and circumstance, do you present your praise, thanks and requests to God in Prayer as Paul recommended? And is it your habit, as it was Jesus habit, to pray regularly to God?
There is no doubt that if we are at all serious about our spiritual growth, then prayer is a key factor. If you already knew that, and I suspect that many people reading this did know it, then what are you going to do to make it a habit (like Daniel), if it’s not already?
It has been said that forming a habit takes between 20 days and 120 days (or even longer) depending on the person. Here is a challenge: write on a card the Lord’s Prayer, which is found in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life 6:9-13
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Read it through slowly and thoughtfully, with your mind fully engaged on the words, at the same time and in the same place if possible, every day for at least 30 days. More days (60 to 90) would be even better to ensure that prayer becomes a habit.
Prayer was a key factor in Daniel’s spiritual growth. Even in dire circumstances he showed up before God in prayer, and he displayed doggedness and grit. This was endorsed by Paul, and modelled by Jesus whom we claim to follow. We need to take this seriously.
Can you think of a time when you had to stick at something (or failed to!). What happened?
How do you think you would react if you were forcibly deported to a foreign land? Would you work hard for the prosperity of your captors? (Read Jeremiah 29:4014)
If praying to God put your life at risk, would you continue to do it?
Are there times when you feel that you should show up for something, but you don’t? What are you reasons for “giving up?”
Jesus was and is the Son of God, so why do you think that prayer was so important to him?
If praying to God were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Are you going to take the “Lord’s Prayer Challenge?” If yes, when will you start? If no, what are your reasons for not doing it?