The Discipline of Determination
''And having done all, to stand'' (Eph. 6:13).
Too soon to quit'' has become a watchword at Wheaton College; it is a campus countersign of dogged determination to do one's duty with the utmost devotion. Some years ago I read an article with that title that had been prepared and presented by W. J. Cameron on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour program of January 10, 1937. Since then it has been reread or discussed in chapel, with added illustrations from Scripture, at least once a semester. It has become part of Wheaton's philosophy of life, and Wheaton students look forward to its exposition in chapel as one of the college traditions. Through the courtesy and permission of Mr. Cameron the article is here reprinted.
''Young persons sometimes ask Mr. Ford, 'How can I make my life a success?''as if anyone could answer that question half as well as the one who asks it. But occasionally Mr. Ford does give a valuable tip, even if at the moment the young person receiving it fails to appreciate it. One such tip would be'If you start a thing, finish it.' It sounds rather
familiar, a piece of old-fashioned advicebut it is part of an engineer's design for livingfinish it!
'' 'Yes,' one says, 'but the thing may not be worth finishing.' Of course, when he says 'finish it,' Mr. Ford isn't thinking about the thing at all, he is thinking about youyou, Miss Maiden, and you, Sir Youth. In the preparatory time of life the real job is not what you are working on, but what it is doing to you. You start it with a great gush of interestyou miss your meals for itthen suddenly it goes staleand you quit. Or you find that your plan is wrongand you quit. And all that you have as profit from your effort is the knowledge of how to quit. 'Well,' you say, 'the thing wasn't worth it!' Quite probably, but you are, and that's the whole point.
''Plausible reasons for quitting are always at hand. Mr. Ford told us one day that when he was making his first car in that little brick building on the alley in the rear of his home, he worked away with all the ardor of young enthusiasm looking forward to great results. Then the thrill and the interest simply evaporated. Why? He said he had gone far enough on that first car to see how he could build a second and a better one, and the glowing new vision got in the way of his work. What was the use of finishing the car he had started? Some untaught inner wisdom must have warned him, for he forced himself on. He soon discovered he was learning more and more about his second car by going on to complete his first. But so strong was the temptation
to quit that he realizes it was precisely thata temptation to quit, not merely an urge to do betterand had he yielded, he might have failed to finish the second car too. So, here is one plausible reason for dropping a thing unfinishedthe chance to start something better.
''Another handy reason for quitting is just the oppositewe want to quit, not because we think we see something better, but because we see nothing at all;so, why continue? Why not throw up the sponge? Well, that depends. Was this thing laid on you to do? Were your motives sound? Had you a clear right and a clear reason to start it? Very wellwhat has happened? Oh, a cloud has settled down and you cannot see? Well, many a man has never seen the light he needed, or the work he needed, until he entered that cloud and walked through it. Following faithfully on never leads anyone into permanent darkness. But for the quitter, all he is likely to get is a stronger habit of quitting and a lower place to begin again. The man who will not give up, even if he fail of his objective, is led through to another objective; the man who hangs on as if he were paid to hang on can always start again at par or betterhe has strengthened himself.
''Most of us are where we are for a very good reason. This is our post which has no one to hold it but us. If we abandon it, we discover that it is something in ourselves we abandon. Just keeping on, through the most hopeless aspect of keeping on, may be the important act of one's career. The last
dejected effort often becomes the winning stroke! After years of observation one is ready to say that most of the people one has seen quit have quit too soon. Another week; a few more good licks; standing by just a little longerand the whole situation would have opened into a larger phase. But, no! they were more practiced in quitting than in staying. Only recently one saw a man quit in spite of earnest counsel because he couldn't get what he wanted; two days later the very thing he wanted came looking for him, and he wasn't there. He had quit too soon. It is always too soon to quit.
''The theater of this drama is ourselves; the mind may forge a circumstance into a shackle, or it may lift us into the sphere where events are plastic. The power of courage and endurance to rearrange our whole relation to events is proved daily as one of our commonest experiences. In its lowliest form, this compulsion, this power, is simply the act of hanging on, plodding on, doggedly forcing oneself on for yet one hour or one more day. Persisted in, against all odds and all reasons, this attitude leads throughit does lead through. Quitting makes a dead end of any roadoften just as it was ready to open. Transfer if you must; catch another wavelength; change your level to a higher one, but don't quitit is always too soon to quit.''
Determination to finish what we have begun is a discipline we need. We trifle with one task, and when it becomes trite we want a change of scenery. Every semester several come to me to bid farewell,
with work unfinished. Were they led of God to Wheaton? Has some other place, or person, or project become more pleasing than the routine of studies? They think that just over the horizon there are greater advantages and opportunities. Some glowing vision dazzles them, and they cannot stick to their appointed duty.
Pre-eminently is this discipline exemplified in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. At an early age He was about His Father's business (Luke 2:49). In the strength of manhood He declared, ''My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and finish his work'' (John 4:34). When earthly service was complete He could pray, ''I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do'' (John 17:4); and from Calvary's Cross rang out His triumph, ''It is finished'' (John 19:30).
Can we not follow His footsteps, filled with His Spirit, to finish the task appointed, with heart aglow and hurrying feet, with strong hands and steady mind, with shield of faith and sword of Spirit, with patience to run the race that is set before us? Can we not trust Him for grace that is sufficient, for strength that is perfected in weakness, for help that is sure, and for faithfulness that will not fail, in order that we may know the discipline of doing our duty? Then it is always too soon to quit.
On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
''Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?''
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, ''God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousand at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.''
Chapter Eighteen || Table of Contents