In our culture, most history books are written to record events for posterity. Often, great pains are taken to give a balanced, nonpartisan account of those events. Sometimes history books are written with the aim of bolstering a political viewpoint, but largely academic histories are written with the intent to simply tell what happened. This is not the way ancient historians wrote history. From Herodotus to Plutarch and on to the end of the Roman Empire, histories and biographies were written to teach life lessons. A great man’s heroic qualities were held up to be emulated and his failures were studied to be avoided. For some reason all this occurred to me as I was reading David McCullough’s book on the Wright brothers. So I read the book to see what I could learn from it which could be applied to my life.
The Wright brothers were known for their work ethic and their patience. The Wrights were industrious almost to a fault. Before they took it upon themselves to invent aeronautics, they started a newspaper while still in their teens. They started their bike shop, working 10-12 hour days, and then went home to work on renovating their house. When they decided to learn how to fly, they continued to run their bike shop and worked on their flying machines in their spare time. It took better than 10 years before they perfected their flight method.
Not only were the Wrights willing to work hard, but they were patient in the face of numerous setbacks. They first learned to control a glider in flight using a method of wing warping that closely mimicked what birds do to maintain balance in flight. The theory was good, but implementation was an on-going process that involved several minor crashes. They would get up, dust themselves off, repair the damage to their glider and make whatever revisions experience taught them were necessary.
They discovered that the mathematical tables in text-books regarding the shapes wings needed to have to maintain lift were wrong. They set about to re-do the experimental work necessary. They built a small wind tunnel and spent many hours over a period of weeks making their determinations. Once they had a successful powered flight, in 1903, they continued to work, finally showcasing their flyer before the world in 1909. While others had made flights in the interim, the Wrights set and reset every record for length of flight, altitude achieved, and duration of flight while stunning all on-lookers with the complete control they had over their craft. Their patient, steadfast work had borne fruit; they ushered in the age of mechanized flight.
I hope the application to the Christian life is obvious. We are to patiently work for our Lord. Not that our works can earn our salvation, no, but as servants of God, we are to be busily serving Him. A few passages to make this point clear:
2 Tim. 2:15 “Give diligence to present yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”
The word translated “give diligence” in the ASV is defined by Strong’s this way: make effort, be earnest, give diligent, endeavor. The bing internet dictionary defines diligence as “constant and earnest effort”. So, becoming an unashamed workman who can properly handle the word is an on-going struggle. I can’t cram it down in one all-nighter. It takes the patient work of years, overcoming many obstacles along the way, chiefly my own ignorance and arrogance.
But wait, there’s more:
Heb. 4:11 “Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.”
Having just discussed that there awaits for us a more perfect rest (Heaven) than the rest obtained by the Israelites, the Hebrew writer enjoins us to work that patient work to ensure we can enter into that rest. Then there’s
2 Pet. 1:10 “Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never stumble”
Here Peter sums up his discussion of the “Christian virtues” by exhorting us to be diligent in our efforts to acquire those virtues ourselves. Why? So that we “never stumble”. Peter also tells us to be diligent to be found without spot or blemish in the day of the Lord:
2 Pet. 3:14 “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, give diligence that you may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight.”
So, from these few passages we can see that the Christian life involves diligent effort to learn to properly handle God’s word, diligent effort to obtain the virtues all Christians should share, diligent effort to be ready to meet the Lord, and diligent effort to enter into His rest. It seems that the Wright brothers, with their patient and steady effort, make good role models for Christians, the difference being that our triumphant flight through the air won’t be in a bi-wing plane:
1 Thess. 4:17 “then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”