I was ready to quit my master’s degree program. I had made an appointment with the professor who was in charge of my thesis project. My plan was to gracefully bow out of the program. I had finished all the coursework, but I made the mistake of looking at the bound copies of master’s theses in the school library. To me, they looked like books. Certain that I could never write a book, I knew the time to quit had come. As I explained to my professor why I would have to drop out of the program, he responded with a question: “Mike, have you ever done a ten- to twelve-page research paper?” I quickly responded, “Sure. I even did a couple of those in high school.” He then told me that I had a good outline for my thesis, advising me to stop thinking about writing a book. I need only to take the writing one chapter at a time, treating each chapter as a short research paper. Suddenly I began to believe that I could do it. Later, when I started another academic journey, this time toward a Ph.D., I created a new meaning for the letters P.H.D. To me, they stood for plod hard daily! Seven years of reading textbooks, writing papers, and attending classes was accomplished only by daily plodding. The director of the doctoral program, Dr. Robert Priest, warned us, on more than one occasion, “Getting a Ph.D. is a lengthy process in delayed gratification.” We learn the same lesson from the ant in Scripture:
Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. (Proverbs 6:6–8)
Another key to the plodding life comes from having companions along the way who encourage you to keep going. When I ran cross-country races in high school, my dad always positioned himself during the race where he could see me multiple times over its course. Then he encouraged me, yelling, “You can do it Mike! Keep it up! Keep putting one foot in front of the other!”
The ultimate encouragement to keep plodding in life comes by looking at Jesus. The writer of Hebrews says,
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2–3)
That verse reminds me of a poster I put on my bedroom wall when I was a boy. It showed a dejected football player sitting on the sidelines of a game and was captioned “I quit!” In one of the lower corners was a silhouette of Jesus Christ on the cross, with the words “I didn’t!”
REFLECTIONS: Can you remember a time when you were tempted to quit, but someone gave you a word of encouragement that helped you to keep going? Create a short motto like “plod hard daily” that you can post in places where you can regularly see it? Is there someone around you right now who is running a very difficult and tiring race who you could help cheer on to keep running? Create a daily prayer that you can recite to ask the Lord to give you a willing, sustaining spirit.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit