Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Word on Perseverance or Finishing What You Start

The school year is once again at hand. As a seminarian I am looking forward to starting classes again both with optimism and with a bit of disappointment. I enjoy going to class and learning and am very much looking forward to finishing my M. Div. and receiving that diploma from SWBTS at the end of this academic school year (Lord willing). However, on the other hand I will miss summertime. I've been busy and have enjoyed doing many things that do not involve seminary work (although I did spend a good portion of my summer in class -- but that's for another post), but I've also gotten to relax a little bit.

As I prepare to go back to class I'm reminded of a subject that is close to my heart and one that I wish were as dear to the hearts of my fellow seminarians, namely, perseverance. As I look forward to the first days of class I have no doubt that many of the classes I will attend will be full of students who are eager to learn, hungry for knowledge, and present in class. However, over the past two years at seminary I've recognized a disappointing trend. While many, if not most of my classes will be full for the first few weeks, a number of these classes will have dwindled significantly before the semester is over. Why, I have often asked myself, is this the case? Why is it that so many who are called to the hard work of the ministry leaving the classes to which they committed at the beginning of the year?

Even now, I do not have a satisfactory answer to this question. I'll not accuse any of laziness or academic ineptitude, but rather I will endeavor to admonish my fellow seminarians, and indeed others who walk in other paths now, to remember the importance of finishing what we start.

Every semester at school we all register for classes. Some of the classes are those which are required, others are elective classes that we choose because we think that we might enjoy them or benefit from them. Sometimes we choose easy classes for whatever reason, other times we choose more difficult classes for an equal variety of reasons. One thought that occurs to me is that I have made a choice to be in school (even though I am tired of spending my life as a student now that I have reached adulthood). My choice was made as a response to God's calling on my life to ministry. I know that in order to be the best minister I can be, I am called to prepare in a myriad of ways, one of which is in the area of academics.

To me it is important for a Christian minister to be willing to work hard and persevere in a good work even if and when he or she may not enjoy it. Sometimes seminary can be that way. There are times when I find myself neither enjoying nor excelling particularly in some of my classes, yet I recognize that they are part of the package when I signed on for seminary.

There's another aspect of the problem as well--I pay for my education. Perhaps it's a matter of pride, but God has blessed me with work and a steady paycheck so that I can pay the CP subsidized tuition at my Southern Baptist seminary. I'm strongly convicted every time I hear it said that higher education is one of the only areas in which people want to get less than they pay for. I do want to get every bit of the education I am paying for. I also recognize that I only pay half of my tuition -- there are ordinary people sitting in the pews of Southern Baptist Churches who match every dollar I pay in tuition. I would be ashamed to squander their money by failure to go to class or failure to complete a class that I've signed on for.

I say all this to encourage my brethren (and sistren) to persevere. It makes me sad and considerably disappointed when I see so many of my fellow students dropping out of their commitments to their professors and to the members of the convention by quitting their classes for whatever reason. If you commit yourself to something, follow through! Don't quit.

Also a word to those who are no longer or not yet students, perseverance and following through on commitments are critical character traits for all of us. No boss wants to hire a quitter, nor do you and I work simply for an earthly boss, but for God (Col. 3:23-24) I also think of the importance of honoring our commitments and honoring our word. (Ps. 15; Mt. 5:37; James 5:12)

1 comment:

Ched said...

This is a good word, especially at the start of a new semester. Persevere!