The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

Do You Have True Grit?

Posted on: April 05, 2016

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“True Grit,” is the title of a 1969 Western starring John Wayne, in the role of U. S. Marshall Rooster Coburn, who is hired by a young girl, Mattie Ross, to track down and bring to justice the man who murdered her father…which he does. Mattie hires Coburn because she heard he had “true grit,” which he demonstrates as the plot unfolds. The movie was reprised in 2010.

“Grit” is defined as having determination, perseverance, tenacity, fortitude, courage. It is, simply, the refusal to give up.   It is the spirit that Winston Churchill captured in a speech in 1941 in which he said: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never. Never – in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

In education, the easiest thing to measure is IQ. However, those students with the highest IQ do not always do best in school, and certainly do not always do best in life. Psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth became intrigued with this seeming inconsistency, and set about to understand what it was that most accurately foreshadowed success… both in academics and in life.

She reported in a TED talk1 that she went to West Point to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. She went to the national spelling bee to see if she could predict which students would go the farthest in competition. She studied which rookie teachers in demanding situations would still be there at the end of the school year, and among those, who would be the most effective. She partnered with businesses to see if they could determine which sales people would keep their jobs and which would earn the most money.

In all those varied contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. it wasn’t social intelligence, it wasn’t good looks, it wasn’t physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was, she reported, “grit!” She defined grit as “passion and perseverance for very long term goals. Grit is having stamina; grit is sticking with your future, day in day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Not much is understood about how to develop grit, though one intriguing area of study is called Growth Mindset, a line of study developed at Stanford University by Dr. Carol Dweck.   It is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, but that it can change with your effort. Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenges, they are much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition. They can recover through hard work.2

This idea is closely linked to the concept of motivation that we looked at last week. Grit and motivation are essentially two sides of the same coin… the readiness to keep going no matter what. But this new research tells us that we can encourage grit… that we can motivate grit… by simply helping people believe that they can achieve their goals and encouraging them not to quit.

The Scriptures support the idea that grit is important, and that grit can be encouraged:

Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Be strong, and act like a man. (David’s charge to his son, Solomon, as David was about to die – 1 Kings 2:2)

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

These are a fraction of the verses that can be found when doing a concordance search on the words strong and courage. In addition, a Google search on perseverance in the Bible yields a treasure trove of passages that encourage us to have spiritual grit.

I’m persuaded, from reflecting on my own life as well as observing the lives of many people to whom I’ve ministered over the decades, that the single greatest predictor of spiritual success is “grit!” A predisposition to simply never quit.

One of the greatest lessons the Lord has taught me in the last chapters of my life is what I call:

The Valley Principal 

  1. God will give us a dream of things that he wants us to do in life. (Ephesians 2:10)
  2. Between the giving of the dream and the fulfillment of a dream is often a valley, so long and so dark that we are tempted to believe the dream is not true. (1 Peter 5:7)
  3. The purpose of the valley is not to keep us from the dream, but to prepare us for the dream. (James 1:2-4)
  4. Therefore, those who see their dreams fulfilled are the ones who do not give up on God in the valley. (Galatians 6:9)

Are you in a long dark valley? Don’t give up! Never! Never! Never! Rather, exercise spiritual “True Grit!




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