SERMON: When the going gets tough the tough get going

These tough words have been attributed to different people in our recent history, ranging from Kennedy in 1880’s (father of the USA President John F. Kennedy) to football coach Knute Rockne in 1930’s.

These tough words have been attributed to different people in our recent history, ranging from Kennedy in 1880’s (father of the USA President John F. Kennedy) to football coach Knute Rockne in 1930’s.

Whether they belong to the one or the other, these words have become a proverb which generally reflects the hardest situation in our real world and in our country in a particular way.
 In our life situation, we know well how things can get rough and tough such that one is saved by one’s capacity to make the right decision and stick to it; come what may!

Not only our country, but the whole world is dotted by individuals who are a testimony to this proverb; when a situation is difficult or dangerous, strong people or hard people do not go away, but they get going.

This proverb has a difficult play of words, but it could be rephrased word-for-word as: When the situation becomes hard, strong people start working their way out.

They can not quit because they are instead motivated by the very situation which would demoralise them.

As some people would say, tough times make tough people demonstrate their mettle! And when such happens, then, it is real tough.

If the characteristic of the tough one is in willingness to show one’s mettle or one’s capacity to face hardship resolutely; then this has something to do with the ability to make right decisions in tough times.

And that is the main deficiency in the average person. The ability to make right decisions in tough times is not only an important skill, but it can be a life-saver as well.

Effective decision makers are people who in times of stress or danger, can see past the extraneous details to concentrate on the two or three variables that will dictate the success of a decision.

In other words, they are endowed with the capacity of cutting through the noise in order to concentrate on the melody. And people of that caliber are not only rare to find; they are a race apart!

Many people who read or study the Bible do wonder at how Jesus chose one fisherman, Peter, apparently at random and all of a sudden entrusted him with the heavy responsibility of his Church.

It is through the many Biblical events that one starts to see that Peter was not a common man as he seemed. Jesus being God might have noticed that rare ability in Peter of making right decisions during hard moments.

John tells us of such an event when things seemed hard for all the followers of Jesus. In his teaching, Jesus had begun pointing to himself as the one in whom God chose to reveal himself.

This would mean for his audience that he was the one that the Israelites were waiting for; the one that all the scriptures and all the prophets had announced.

Yet they thought they knew well Mary and Joseph who were his mother and father; in their own neighbourhood.

For the Jews who were waiting for the Messiah this was “a teaching, too tough to swallow.” Cfr Jn 6:60-69. Many of them could not see how they would continue following him, though they had found him to be a great Rabbi or teacher.

It is during this confusion; not knowing what to do next, that the number of the followers of Jesus dwindled from over 5.000 people to only 12 people.

The going was getting tough! Jesus understood their problem, especially so since he knew the type of crowd that was following him.

He turned to Peter and asked the Twelve if thy too wanted to go away.

It is Peter who spoke first and assured Jesus that they could not quit however tough the going would be: “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” 

Here Peter distinguished himself as a tough decision maker. For the Twelve, their following Jesus had become a life commitment long beyond a debatable motion.

They had made a decision to stick to, Peter seemed to say.  

Peter teaches us a life-long lesson when we are to make decisions in such tough times: Keep it simple, a good decision is based more on values and vision other than long deliberations.

Your decision might not be perfect but the mere fact that you make it at the right time might be as important as the decision itself. Peter first listened attentively to the question of Jesus.

Listening is fundamental to good decision making because it requires an undivided attention both from around as well as from within yourself.

Your inner voice might be at times the most accurate insight. In any case, when the going gets tough, we should stand up to be counted among the tough who get going.

It is in such hard moments that we must all learn to motivate ourselves and know how to pick ourselves up and move forward.