‘Hang in there’ and Colin Powell

Published 6:00 am Friday, October 29, 2021

When people came to me for spiritual guidance and counseling, I listened carefully and tried to offer sound, practical and biblical advice, but at one point, I occasionally said to someone, “Hang in there!” Poor choice of words!

• A couple with marital problems: “Hang in there? What is that supposed to mean?”

• An alcoholic struggling with addiction: “Hang in there? Is he really listening to me?”

• A friend diagnosed with cancer: “Hang in there? Does he think I’m a bat, or what?”

People, desperately looking for hope instead receive a canned response: “Hang in there!” They could watch a talk show for better advice. I sincerely meant what I said, but to someone else it could mean: “I don’t care enough about you to give a meaningful answer, so ‘hang in there!’”

Larry, what do you really mean when you say, “Hang in there?” I thought you would never ask. The Bible calls it among other things: persistence.

• Romans 2:7 – He will give eternal life to those who persist in doing what is good.

• Ephesians 6:10 & 18 – Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

• Matthew 24:13-14 – But those who endure to the end will be saved. And the good news about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world.

Persistence and endurance are critical to our faith: If you persist in doing what is good — be strong — stay alert — be persistent in your prayers — but those who endure — In other words, God understands your troubles, your disappointments and pain and says to you, “Be persistent!”

And if you persist? If you endure? He gives eternal life — you will stand firm — you will be saved — the good news will be preached throughout the world — All part of God’s reward for persistence.

In chapter six of Nehemiah, Sanballat and his cronies are doing everything possible to sabotage the building of the wall around Jerusalem including a campaign of threats and intimidation.

Nehemiah’s response? They were trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So, I continued the work with even greater determination. (Nehemiah 6:9) With persistence, I continued to work, I continued to “hang in there.” Why? Because God was with him, encouraging every step of the way.

Be strong. Stay alert. Be persistent. In other words: “Hang in there!”

Colin Powell’s leadership in many ways resembled Nehemiah. One of the things that stuck with me was his 13 rules for life and leadership:

1. It ain’t as bad as you think! It will look better in the morning.

2. Get mad then get over it.

3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

4. It can be done.

5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.

8. Check small things.

9. Share credit.

10. Remain calm. Be kind.

11. Have a vision. Be demanding.

12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.

13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Persistence, endurance. Be strong. Hang in there. And if you persist? If you endure? God gives eternal life. God gives the Holy Spirit to enable you to endure. You will be able to stand firm.

Nehemiah stood firm. Colin Powell provides a framework for standing firm during difficult times.

Are you having your own struggles? Remember Nehemiah. Remember the 13 rules. Remember the promise of scripture: Persist in doing what is good. Be strong.

In other words? “Hang in there.” God is with you.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.