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Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth

As we labor for the renewal of the Church, for a return to Biblical thinking and practice, it is easy to get discouraged. The progress is often slow, people sometimes oppose, we see our own weakness and failures, and we can begin to wonder if we are doing anything worthwhile. We can be tempted to think that this guy may be doing something worthwhile, or that pastor over there, but we are simply spinning our wheels, wasting our time, stuck in a place of contempt. What’s more no one seems to notice our hard work. No one seems to be applauding our efforts. We can be tempted to give it all up. Of course we know better. God is in control, He loves His church more than we do, His approval is all that matters- but in spite of our orthodoxy the tempting, self-centered, discouraging thoughts still assail us.

Does our labor matter? We must speak forcefully to ourselves and say, “Yes, our labor most certainly matters- not because of us but because of God. God is at work whether I see him or not. Do we not walk by faith rather than sight? It is God’s job to see how and where things will develop mine is simply to be faithful in the place he has put me. And in doing so I may one day see the part I have played…. One of the most encouraging passages I have read in some time on this is Haggai 2:1-9. I would encourage you to check out Lee Tankersley’s sermon on this text. Much more could be said on this topic, and I hope to return to it. But in closing here is a poem I have also found helpful on this topic.

SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Arthur Hugh Clough

p.s. This poem also nicely speaks to those who in essence say, “Once you’ve got it worked out I’ll join you,” or the naysayers who while professing their agreement with the need for such work continue to say it is hopeless and so never put their hand to the plow, or those who for fear of failure never step into the fray.

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