By Cecil Hook
At full throttle from the first leap, as the fable has it, the rabbit looks like a sure winner over the patient, plodding turtle, but he may become a disappointment in the long run.
As I think back over the last sixty years, I recall many good men who were once the “hottest horses running.” They had energy, charisma, and zeal to promote some phase of good work. Such men were sought after by churches to come for campaigns and seminars. They could influence and move people. They were specialists in evangelism, organizing congregations, promoting missionary activity, teacher training, and such. A few each decade were in the limelight with their names gracing the journals.
Then, after a few years, you might ask, “Hey, where’s What’s-his-name these days and what is he doing? That one had slipped out of sight, and attention was focused on other rabbits that had flashed into the lead. There was a burnout of zeal and the patient and persistent turtle that had stirred up no dust was in the lead.
These men did great good. I do not want to be disrespectful of them. My aim here is to point out the need for the day-by-day religion that lasts a lifetime. No one can run full speed all the time any more than his car can. To try to maintain maximum speed may be destructive for both the car and driver.
Congregations can become dependent upon enthusiasts. They engage a man to come among them who promises to convert the community, to get them all going in high gear, and to raise the spirituality an zeal of everyone to a pinnacle. After a few months or years, the daily grind of business as usual may begin to wear. Those whose zeal was intensified by him may become frustrated and those who looked to him as their remedy may begin yearning for a new jack rabbit. The preacher may begin to dream of another congregation that will renew his zeal and join in another dash of the high-speed race.
Burnout is the hazard. Our universities and seminaries (We may call them preacher training schools.) send a steady stream of young men into the pulpits, but little gain is made over the number leaving in discouragement.
The life of a disciple, whether a preacher or not, is a life-long marathon. Like the turtle, the runner must set a pace that is practical, keep the goal in view, and continually sustain a determination to run with patience the race that is set before him, looking to Jesus who is the initiator and goal of our faith.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).