Then the Lord said, “My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3
Most people today are familiar with the Wright Brothers – credited with inventing and building the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane. But unless you are an aero-enthusiast you may not know of Karl Wilhelm Otto Lilienthal (died August 1896). He was known far and wide as the “flying man” for his attempts to make successful glider flights. Because of his repeated and public attempts, newspapers and magazines influenced the public and scientific communities into believing flying machines were truly possible.
But imagine walking by his artificially made hill he built near Berlin and seeing this man running and leaping forward into nothingness with a wing on his back. You’d think he was crazy. You’d probably say he was going to break his neck one of these days – which he did. But until that fateful day when his glider took a nose dive, he influenced and educated many who would go on to create our modern “flying machines.”
History is replete with inventors and entrepreneurs who have been mocked, dismissed, and even jailed. Many failed in their endeavors while others succeeded – sometimes only after their deaths. But what they all had in common was their steadfastness. That commitment to the dream which was placed on their mind by some unseen force. In my series, “30 Days of Thankfulness,” I thanked God for placing that desire to create, to invent, to improve our world, on our hearts and minds. And when we look back through the history of the world one man can be described as the Father of Steadfastness to an idea, to a goal of a new beginning placed firmly on his mind – Noah.
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. Genesis 6:13-14
What makes this steadfast commitment to following God’s command even more amazing is that scholars believe the world had never seen rain. And here, a man is building a giant boat because something called “rain” or a “flood” was going to inundate the earth. Oh, how the mocking must have been endless! With each day spent placing yet another board on this 350 cubit (510 feet) long ship, Noah was like Mr. Lilienthal on his hill making another attempt at flight while the onlookers snickered.
But Noah wasn’t the only steadfast player in this scene of the world’s eminent demise. His not-named wife, sons and their wives must surely have been the subject of constant ridicule. Each day at the well or in the fields the slurs and evil behavior towards them must have been almost overwhelming. How many of us could say we would’ve remained true to God’s command?
The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. Genesis 7:1
As Christians we so often have been asked what we would do or say when we approach the gates of heaven. Imagine, however, being told before we leave this earth that God has found us among the few righteous! Would God say that to you right now?
During the last few years our world has been put to a test. We, as Christians, have been put to a test. A flood of sort began to overtake the earth. Some have fallen away out of the fear of that mocking. Out of fear of being set apart. Many have drawn closer, like Noah, in obedience and steadfastness. And their reward? A new beginning – a renewal of faith. A rainbow placed in front of them reminding us that God always delivers on his promises.
Like Noah, each day we commit to be steadfast in our faith we are renewed with His love and His presence. Noah toiled away for 120 years building that ark, not knowing what the fruit of his labor would produce. He had no idea what his new beginning would be. He just had a dream of a boat. And a promise from God of a new beginning. He put his head down and started building it, as God commanded. He let the mockers and scoffers slide off his back day after day after day. His family toiled alongside him, set apart from the world. And his new beginning was our new beginning. A chance to make the world a better place.
In our modern world we so often overlook the everyday obedience God asks of us as banal. Yet the steadfastness of say, Christian parenting, produces so much good fruit and beautiful new beginnings. When our children become successful, healthy adults we get told it is “luck.” But Noah didn’t go about his work with a rabbit’s foot in his pocket. He was diligent, sticking with God’s plan.
Each day it seems the work of Christian steadfastness gets harder and harder. I’d bet as Noah’s massive ship grew closer to completion and stood out taller than the trees more and more people threw insults at his family. God’s path to our new beginning is rarely easy. In fact, during the Christmas season I kept hearing the same Bible passage over and over:
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. Luke 12:51-52
This message from Jesus makes many uncomfortable. During the last 50 years or so the prevalent message painted of Jesus is as a kindly, gentle god. One who just wanted everyone to get along. But that rejects so much of Jesus’ teachings and life here on earth. It rejects the idea that there will be mockers and scoffers while we seek to be steadfast in obedience to God. The apostles, whom many were surely educated about the steadfastness of Noah, themselves were faced with the same challenge. And while we are called to be peacemakers where possible, when we “go along to get along” we join the audience watching Noah build his ark. But the flood will come – not as water but in the ways as described in Revelation.
Friend, it’s time for your new beginning. It’s time for you to make a commitment to steadfastness. The world, in general, may never know how your heart has changed but God will. Your family will know, your friends will know. Be ready for the mocking, but also be ready to help others board your boat.
What is God asking you to do today that might set you apart? Your steadfast commitment to it may just be your new beginning!