No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God — Luk_9:62
The Ploughman: A Symbol of the Person Who Holds On
Holding to things doggedly was one of the controlling thoughts of Jesus. That was why He singled out the ploughman. Ploughmen are not usually learned persons, nor are they often poets in disguise. But there is one virtue they possess pre-eminently, and that is the virtue of quietly holding to it. And it is because, in Jesus’ eyes, that virtue is of supreme importance that He wants tis to take the ploughman for our model. “If ye continue in my word,” He says, “then are ye my disciples indeed” (Joh_8:31). Something more than receiving is required to reach the crown. To hold on when the sunshine vanishes, and there is nothing but clouds in the sky, that is the great secret of discipleship.
The Importance of Abiding at All Times
We see that with peculiar clearness when we meditate on the great word abide. That was one of the favorite words of Jesus. With those deep-seeing eyes of His He has discerned the wonder of the vine-branch. The branch was there—abiding in the vine—not only in the sunny days of vintage. It was there when shadows fell, and when the dawn was icy, and when the day was colorless and cloudy, and when the storm came sweeping down the glen. Through all weathers, through every change of temperature, through tempest and through calm, the branch was there. Night did not sever that intimate relationship. Winter did not end that vital union. And our Lord recognized that, as in the world of nature this is the secret and the source of fruitfulness, so is it also in the world of grace. To abide is not to trust merely. To abide is to continue trusting. It is to hold to it—and hold to Him—through summer and winter, through fair and stormy weather. Nothing could better show the Master’s vision of the great and heavenly grace of holding to it, than His love for that great word abide.
The Principle of Holding On Exemplified by Christ’s Life
Not only did our Lord insist on this; He emphasized it in His life. For all His meekness, nothing could divert Him from the allotted path of His vocation. Think, for instance, of that day when He was summoned to the bed of Jairus’ daughter. In the crowded street a woman touched Him, and He instantly felt that “virtue had gone out of him.” But the original is far more striking in the light it sheds upon the Lord—He felt that the power had gone out of Him. All of us are familiar with such seasons, when power seems to be utterly exhausted. In such seasons we cannot face the music; the grasshopper becomes a burden. And the beautiful thing about our Lord is how, after such an experience as that, He held to it in quiet trust on God. He knew, in all its strength, the recurring temptation to give over. He had to reinforce His will continually for the great triumph of continuing. Through days of weakness, through seasons of exhaustion, through hours when His soul was sorrowful unto death, He held to the task given Him of God. It is very easy to hold on when we are loved and honored and appreciated; when our strength is equal to our problem; when the birds are singing in the trees. But to hold to it when all the sky is dark is the finest heroism in the world, and that was the heroism of the Lord.
Jesus in Full Agreement with Heaven’s Perseverance
Nor is it hard to see where He learned this, living in perfect fellowship with heaven. For few things are more wonderful in God than the divine way He has of holding to it. The ruby “takes a million years to harden.” The brook carves its channels through millenniums. There goes an infinite deal of quiet holding to it for the ripening of every harvest. And if we owe so much, in the beautiful world of nature, to what I would call the doggedness of heaven, how much more in the fairer world of grace. We are saved by a love that will not let us go. Nothing less is equal to our need. We often think that God has quite forgotten us, and then we discover how He is holding to it. Through all our coldness and backslidings, through our fallings into the miry clay, He has never left us or forsaken us. When we awake we are still with Him, and, what is better, He is still with us; just as ready to pardon and restore us as in the initial hour of conversion. No wonder that our Lord, in perfect fellowship with such a Father, laid His divine emphasis just there.
If You Want to Be Victorious—Hold On
For (just as our heavenly Father does) we win our victories by holding to it. We conquer, not in any brilliant fashion—we conquer by continuing. We master shorthand when we stick to shorthand. We master Shakespeare when we stick to Shakespeare. Wandering cattle are lean kine, whether they pasture in Britain or in Beulah. A certain radiant and quiet doggedness has been one of the marks of all the saints, for whom the trumpets have sounded on the other side. In the log-book of Columbus there is one entry more common than all others It is not “Today the wind was favorable.” It is “Today we sailed on. “And to sail on, every common day, through fog and storm, and with mutiny on board, is the one way to the country of our dreams. Days come when everything seems doubtful, when the vision of the unseen is very dim. Days come when we begin to wonder if there can be a loving God at all. My dear reader, hold to it. Continue trusting. Keep on keeping on. It is thus that Christian character is built. It is thus the “Well done” is heard at last.