Glory of the Grind

“Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.”

Samuel Johnson

“How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”

Lou Holtz

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Someone recently described his job description as being written in “…two parts caffeine, one part adrenaline and four parts blood.” Now, I’m not sure if that describes your personal experience or philosophy of ministry, but it certainly is descriptive of at least some weeks! Life and leadership is full of ups and downs; good times and bad; fortune and misfortune; and although some weeks are genuinely exciting, those tend to be the exception, not the rule.

Much of what we do in our careers, ministry and in life is routine and repetitive: paperwork, returning telephone calls, administrative duties, planning or required meetings. So in the context of the ordinary, have you learned to appreciate the grind?

Of course we have periods and times of “mountain top” experiences but how do you handle the valleys or the plateaus? The unusual and adventurous weeks are electrifying but how do you navigate the predictable and the routine?

Isaiah 40.31 is a familiar verse that speaks of “mounting up with wings as eagles” but it also reminds us to “walk without fainting.” Typically that’s not easy, but the reality of life is that there is a lot more walking than there is flying. The grind tests a man’s character.

The exceptional moments of life aren’t a test of a man’s mettle, the question is, how does he handle the ordinarypersevere moments? A man’s worth and character is revealed in his attitude and commitment toward common, ordinary, everyday things. Not when he’s on stage or in the limelight, but in the often lonely grind time. And the truth is there are many more mundane moments in leadership than there are mountaintops.

In 1968, the country of Tanzania selected John Stephen Akhwari to represent it in the Mexico City Olympics. Along the racecourse for the marathon, Akhwari stumbled and fell, severely injuring both his knee and ankle. By 7 PM, a runner from Ethiopia had won the race, and all the other competitors had finished and had been cared for. Just a few thousand spectators were left in the huge stadium when a police siren at the gate caught their attention. Limping through the gate came number 36, Akhwari, leg wrapped in a bloody bandage. Those present began to cheer as the courageous man completed the final lap of the race. Later, a reporter asked Akhwari the question on everyone’s mind: “Why did you continue the race after the you were so badly injured and the winner was already determined?”

His reply: “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race.”

Greatness, both in athletics and in leadership comes not just from ability, but from tenacity and endurance. Leadership over the long haul is difficult; perhaps that’s why it is so rare. The drudgery of the ordinary and routine serve as temptation to your long term effectiveness.

How are you doing in the routines of life? Are your ordinary moments characterized with integrity and perseverance? Is your ministry and walk with Christ marked by a consistency in the predictable routines of the usual? Have you learned to appreciate the glory of the grind?

Stay the Course,

Dr. Greg Morris

 

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