How to be Tough
News anchor Brian Kilmeade offered up a very interesting perspective recently. He began by referencing Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington, who were contemporaries in time and in personal drive. Washington was born into slavery and worked hard after the Civil War to rise up from it. He overcame many difficult obstacles in the process of establishing schools in order to help people of color make their way. Roosevelt came from a wealthy family, but was a frail, nearsighted child with life threatening asthma attacks. In his early teenage years, he decided that he would make his body healthy through tough exercise. He stuck with it and that same strenuous dedication to overcoming hardship became the character that he personified as 26th President of the United States.
So, what was Kilmeade’s perspective? Comparing their day with ours, he said, “Too many Americans have forgotten how to be tough. Too many are just giving up.”
That brings to mind an old article written by Mr. Herbert Armstrong titled “Christians Have Lost Their Power!” A worthy question to such a title would be, “Am I as strong or spiritually tough as the faithful who’ve gone before me?”
Consider the Apostle Paul. “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27). How could Paul or anyone have successfully faced and lived through such experiences? Was he just born tough? He said, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:12).” Paul knew how to be abased or to abound because he had learned how. He wasn’t born that way. He learned, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Paul, had in essence, learned how to have spiritual toughness.
Just what is it that Paul had learned? What is the key ingredient in such strength? It is the diametrical opposite of the human “tough guy” attitude. Christ said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). Christ, as a physical man, knew He had no power of His own. Because He looked solely to His Father and therefore submitted to His will in everything, He was able to explain to another disciple, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10). God dwells in and works in those who seek to follow Christ’s example. That’s the very thing that Paul had learned and that he was continuing to learn.
The key to spiritual toughness is something learned. Mr. Kilmeade’s view was that many Americans have forgotten how to be tough and are consequently giving up. That is just another way to say that many Americans have forgotten God in the pursuit of their own will.
The toughness we all need is learned.