The Power of Grit

What do Colonel Sanders, Michael Jordan and Dr. Seuss have in common? It’s not what you might expect. Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel) had a rough time getting his first children’s book published. He was rejected by 27 different publishers before he gained any traction. Yet to date, his books have sold over 600 million copies.

Colonel Sanders (real name Harland David Sanders) famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it. And yet, you can find 18,000 KFC’s worldwide. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time was cut from his high school basketball team. Here is what he said about that, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Failure did not have the final word on these three, grit did.

Angela Duckworth, researcher and psychologist has spent the last 10 years of her life wrestling with the question: “what makes people succeed?”

In her research across a wide spectrum of vocations she found that the most exceptional people in every field were not child prodigies—-what set them apart was that they worked hard day in and day, they demonstrated consistent and persistent focus in the same direction, and after doing this for 10 to 15 year they rose to the top of their fields.

In all of Duckworth’s research one characteristic consistently emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t social or financial status. It wasn’t good looks, physical health or IQ. It was grit—defined by Duckworth a perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit is the ability to keep pushing, keep pressing, to transform failure into fuel, to get up time and time again after you have been knocked down.

Failure is full of possibility, sometimes the greatest character transformation comes out of the most unwanted experiences.

At the End of Safety

Pain, change, two words that regrettably belong together. My life and yours confirm this verbal wedding. When I point to best and worst my finger touches the same event. The transformation I want normally comes from things I do not want. In my journey, the things I would never choose to go through again are those that have left me different….and yet I still wouldn’t choose to walk those paths again, ever.

I suppose this is how transformation works… we don’t choose it, we are far too weak. Change assaults us….it does not ask for permission, it does not listen to our feeble objections. No, it’s author cares far too much about giving us what we truly need. We are divinely placed into the transformational rhythm of death and resurrection. True change always entails conformity to the pattern of Christ, Good Friday then Easter morning. These are two days that painfully, but thankfully belong together.

James Baldwin in a book titled Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son makes a profound point about the devastation that is change.

“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free – he has set himself free – for higher dreams, for greater privileges.”

Indwelling in Romans: Life, Resurrection, and Belonging

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

Paul’s treatment of the Spirit’s work is rich and nuanced in this text. Four times in three verses he uses language that firmly establishes the Spirit’s vocation of indwelling the believer.

We learn five important things about indwelling from this text. First, Paul connects being “in” the Spirit with indwelling. The man who has the Spirit residing in him is always “in” the Spirit. This is a static reality, one does not move in and out of the Spirit.

Second, an inextricable link is made between the Spirit and Christ. Paul identifies the third person of the Trinity as the Spirit of Christ. He also equates Spirit’s indwelling work with Christ’s presence in us. The Spirit mediates the presence and purposes of Christ within us.

Third, indwelling is equated with belonging. The Spirit’s presence in our lives communicates divine ownership. When God takes up residence in us by the Spirit we are secure in our adoption. The permanence of his new residence means that God will never leave or forsake us.

Fourth, the Spirit works life and righteousness in us in spite of our sin. The indwelling presence of God is a mighty force working our transformation. Change is inevitable for the person who has become the home of God.

Fifth, the promise of our resurrection is tied to the indwelling Spirit. The text’s logic draws a link between the Spirit who raised Christ from the grave and that same Spirit who dwells in us. If he raised Christ, it is certain, he will raise us as well.

Resurrection, transformation, and belonging, these all flow from the Spirit’s indwelling presence. The Spirit of Christ mediates the purposes and presence of Jesus in our lives. Paul helps us understand that being “in” the Spirit is the same as having the Spirit live within us.

In this text alone we see the significance of indwelling. Our current transformation, our future hope, and our status before God are all dependent upon it. We cannot overstate the importance of the Holy Spirit making his home in us.